Across the city of San Antonio, the smell of freshly roasted beans drifts lazily from many corner coffeeshops. Gone are the days where Folger’s embodied the ideal morning cup. Widespread distribution of stale coffee in grocery stores made up the so-called ‘first wave’ of coffee. Starbucks coffee broke new ground as a higher quality ‘second wave’. But the widespread supply chain of Starbucks calls for the burning of beans in order to offer a uniform product. Even Starbucks offers a subpar comparison to the new era of this morning beverage: craft coffee. This ‘third wave’ of coffee represents the highest quality yet and few cups compare to those brewed by Merit Roasting Co.
With the food scene in San Antonio, it should be no surprise that the same city prioritizes a chef-like quality in its morning beverages. Merit Roasting is the buzz behind Local Coffee, an upscale chain that now boasts 6 locations just in San Antonio alone, all brewing premium cups. As of this week, Local is celebrating 10 years of being in the bean business. It all started at the flagship location in Stone Oak where Local Coffee has been helping locals stay caffeinated one cup of coffee at a time.
So why all the hype around premium coffee? Is there really a difference? We are glad you asked. Rather than mass production, third wave coffee roasters are obsessed with quality.These coffee beans are roasted in small batches to ensure consistency and quality. Similar to the process of identifying tasting notes in fine wines, each batch is then sampled to identify each order’s unique experience through descriptive words such as smooth, bold, full-bodied and adjectives describing the primary and secondary flavors experienced in each sip.
Often times such roasters advertise their coffee with terms such as ‘single origin’ or ‘direct trade’. Rather than importing from large international collectives, these roasters work directly with farmers to identify the growers of the highest quality beans available. As a result, smaller scale roasters often have ethical supply chains, interacting directly with growers and often compensating above fair-trade prices.
Many roasters go beyond coffee that simply tastes good and provides coffee that also DOES good. Local San Antonio business, Fainting Goat Roaster, is one such example. Not only does this roaster operate directly with farmers to ensure fair compensation, but every coffee purchase helps fund the purchase of goats to sustainably fight hunger in Africa. With this business model, Fainting Goat Roaster plans to go beyond fair prices to partner with farmers in the fight against poverty and food insecurity in coffee growing communities. Such innovative business plans represent a wave of for-profit companies that are on mission for both quality and impact.
Beyond caffeination, craft coffee is providing a platform for world change.