The New Black is indicative of the increasing move to consider coffee as an engineered or designed food material that can be enhanced using exacting technology, a turn away from the typical craft approach of artisanal hipster coffee culture. Rather than treating coffee as an untouchable black gold that has woken up the world for centuries and therefore shouldn’t be tampered with, this fourth wave is deconstructing our morning fix. At the one extreme is an explosion of start-ups pedalling a class of Frankenstein coffees infused with everything from vitamins and probiotics to the cancer-preventing glucoraphanin molecule found in broccoli. On the other side of the spectrum, coffee as a warm beverage is being reinvented as cold-brewed soda, craft beer and wine, mocktails, and even beauty products.
Karlsson says that his biggest coffee inspiration comes from Tim Wendelboe, widely known for developing the Noma coffee experience in Copenhagen. What René Redzepi has done for Noma’s crockery, Wendelboe has done with the design of the coffee cups, having created a bespoke set in collaboration with Kristin Hærnes Ihlen from Physical Design and por- celain brand Figgjo Oslo. The three different cup types can be used with the various sorts of coffee to enhance or suppress the particular aromas and flavours. And he promotes playing with the cups to trick your guests. Even more ground-breaking, however, is the close relationship Wendelboe has developed with the farms where he sources his beans.
For skilled coffee cuppers, as with wine tasters, all of these factors can be discerned in the tast- ing. It’s not just the bean, though. After all, 98% of the drink is water – its quality and purity, but also its temperature, not to mention the myriad brewing techniques, each contribute to what the cupper experiences when loudly slurping their coffee. That’s right, slurping. After swirling and sniffing the brew, the recommended method for extracting the maximum flavour and aroma is exaggerated slurping, which essentially sprays the coffee across the palate.
As for the fifth wave of coffee, some have argued that it is Wendelboe’s return to the farm and to developing a more sustainable coffee industry. Certainly, returning to the farm factors into it – Starbucks too is launching an immersive visitor centre on its Costa Rica plantation (due to open in 2018), while its flagship stores increasingly look more like pubs, with cold-brew served on tap. But sustainability is a long way off.
Taking a sideways-glance at the revolution in craft beer or even 3D printing, the ‘next wave’ was starter kits. When everyone goes home and begins experimenting, making mistakes, and stumbling across aspects they really like, not only are new things discovered but consumers also become highly knowledgeable connoisseurs. Learning the sensory lexicon of cupping becomes effortless when you are able to stand in your own kitchen, making and tasting every option on a daily basis. This is the game changer that fully automatic espresso machines like Gaggenau’s new 400 series proposes. Precision controls for setting strength levels, water temperature, coffee-to-milk ratio and cup size, as well as interchangeable bean containers, make emulating the masters as easy as pressing a button. Perhaps this is the next wave for coffee, going from the café back to the home, where everyone is his or her own barista and flavour prospector.
* Over the past six years, The London Coffee Festival (held in April) has grown into the largest coffee and artisanal food event in the UK; in 2017, it welcomed over 30,000 visitors. Aside from cutting-edge roasteries and cafés plying their wares, 20 baristas compete in the global Coffee MastersTM tournament, evaluating their prowess at cupping, brewing, latte art, and bean blending, as well as making a signature drink, producing 10 different e resso-based drinks in nine minutes, and identifying the origins of the bean.