You may or may not be wondering, what is all this First Degree Coffee business Reggie seems to be all about recently?

Well, I’ll tell you.

In all honesty it is an attempt to forge a brand name on a product that doesn’t (yet) exist. But even that is oversimplifying things a bit. For selfish reasons I am disappointed with the overall coffee scene here in Gothenburg. I mean if I’m going to live in a place then I want some serious options for specialty coffee. Not just one. Here’s the thing, though. I am no longer content with sitting back and complaining about what the scene is or is not. I want to do something about it.

Here’s how I’ve calculated it. The coffee business as it exists today has been through a few growth spurts over the last decade or so. Within the industry these growth spurts are referred to as “waves.” Right now, the industry is in the Third Wae although some would say we’re well into the Fourth. Rather than try to explain the differences of these “waves” myself, I’ll let coffee nerd supreme Nick Cho do the talking:

“The first wave is all about consumption. The second wave is about enjoyment and defining specialty, and the third allows the coffee to speak for itself. The third wave appreciates each coffee for what it truly is and takes whatever necessary steps to highlight the amazing, unique character in every coffee.”

The quote is from an article written by another industry role model of mine, Trish Rothgeb of Wrecking Ball Coffee.  In that article, Trish goes on to say the following:

In recent years, specialty coffee has developed into one gigantic thinktank, it seems. Pretty much anyone who has an opinion or an idea is welcomed at the table. Groups, forums and programs have emerged that support this new climate. Perhaps these systems of communication and information have developed as a by-product of the quest for coffee nirvana. Either way, the third wave is all-inclusive and growing.

There will be regular exchanges of knowledge and meetings devoted to coffee . . .

The third wave is, in many ways, a reaction. It is just as much a reply to bad coffee as it is a movement toward good coffee.

I want to focus on both parts of the above statement as they define almost perfectly the entire mission of First Degree Coffee. I’ve made steps to establish the identity of FDC because even without an actual physical location to call home, I like to think that it can still operate as kind of an “entity.” Like the thinktank that Trish mentioned I envision First Degree playing sort of an activist or maybe just a cheerleader for quality coffee here in Gothenburg.

I will be honest, overall Gothenburg’s coffee scene is very much still a First Wave scene. There are tons of very skilled baristas who technically know how to make high quality drinks but what goes in the cup is largely nothing to write home about. What’s odd is the leader of the pack, daMatteo, is a 100% full-blooded Third Wave coffee behemoth. Whether it’s their award winning baristas, ahead of the curve coffee brewing practices (two Clovers, a LaMarzocco in each of their two main café and the city’s ONLY pourover bar in their roastery) everything daMatteo does is centered around the quality of what goes in the cup.

Isn’t it usally the case, then, that if one company leads the pack that others typically follow in their footsteps to one degree or another? Yet not a single one of the city’s so-called “best” shops do anything like what daMatteo does.

This is where I hope I can play a part, for this is the conundrum that drives me crazy as a coffee fanatic: Is that the other shops are playing it safe, doing what they know sells without any sense of professional obligation to keep pace with the changes going on within the indusry on a global scale? OR is it that they sense little to no demand from the customers and are wary of changing the game too much? I mean, truth be told, even daMatteo put their pour over bar in the shop that sees the least amount of traffic. I should say that I understand for the most part that the Swedish tax code doesn’t necessarily make it easy for a small café to do anything more than just exist.

Personally — and maybe this is because I’m American and we do capitalism better than anyone so it’s in my blood but — I still think the responsibility falls solely on the shoulders of the merchants. I’m sure there was minimal customer demand for the Clover here in Sweden yet daMatteo has TWO of them. I know there is little to no demand for a pour over bar but daMatteo’s got one of those too. They have them because the people steering the ship over there are coffee enthusiasts. THEY know that these newfangled gadgets and trinkets are designed to maximize the flavor of the stuff that goes in the cup so they took it upon themselves as most merchants SHOULD do to get this stuff and put it to use in their shops. I mean, they’re roasting their own beans too so I guess part of it is also looking out for their own best interests but I know those guys and I know they care.

Who else cares? I think Kafé Marmelad cares. They use a trustworthy Swedish roaster (Johan & Nyström) and even have their own espresso blend designed by J&N. Linnestaden’s Castellet cares enough to not only use daMatteo’s coffee  but the espresso machine is from daMatteo’s Vallgatan shop.

I want to know who else cares. And I guess to do that the only real option is to just get out there and get into the mix myself.

Enter: First Degree Coffee.

The focus is not merely on using high quality coffee but CARING about it. I have no intention of trying to force people to care about what they do if they don’t already. However, do think I can help sift out those that just might care a little bit more and let them blossom. Conversely, I have no intention of trying to force customers to care more about whey they’re consuming if they don’t already but I know there are many customers who do want a higher quality cup of coffee but perhaps are too — forgive me, but — too Swedish to demand it.

I have some ideas that I think can help positively shake things up a bit within the coffee consumption culture. I will use this blog and other forms of social media to share those in due time. There’s already one idea that I’ve floated out there that I really hope happens. We may even see it begin as early as this spring, stay tuned.

Professional coffee enthusiasts. That’s what First Degree Coffee is all about. Shoot, I may even get business cards made up that say that. First Degree Coffee is about stretching the boundaries of people’s perception about their morning coffee far beyond the ceramic mug that contains it and to the farm where the beans were picked, to the roastery where they were enhanced, to the coffee shop where they found a temporary home and then to the barista that transformed them into the mug of consumable living artwork.

Finally, even if there is no actual physical space to call my coffee shop, I figured who needs an office or café if the main goal is to just promote excellent coffee, challenge talented baristas or exploring the various means of preparation.

This is First Degree Coffee. Forging an existence right smack dab on the parallel principles of professional coffee enthusiasm and enthusiastic coffee professionalism. Hope to see you there too someday.