Date of Thesis

Spring 2024


The rapid development of Lewisburg’s coffee scene demonstrates the social impacts and meanings of coffee. The “three waves” of coffee describe the growing importance of unique flavors and sourcing in order to best satisfy an increasingly sophisticated palate in coffee consumption. These allude to people’s preferences for different kinds of coffee and rely on how an individual’s taste guides them in their choices about what coffee to consume. Each wave emerged as a result of the coffee market’s increased attention towards quality: the first and earliest wave does not rely on origin or tasting profiles in order to sell, but rather on coffee as a mass product that delivers caffeine to its consumers. The second wave relies on chain coffee houses to create more individualized coffee drinks However, they seldom focus on value orientation of the product. Third wave roasters emphasize the importance of traceability with their coffee beans, which in turn adds a level of education that is often referred to as the “coffee geek subculture”. How does Lewisburg’s coffee culture fit into this wave “typology”?

In order to best analyze our town’s relationship to the three waves, I conducted interviews with consumers who live within a thirty mile radius of Lewisburg. During these conversations, I learned about each individual’s own coffee consumption habits and how their taste preferences align with one of the waves. My interlocutors also reflected on various other values that inform their coffee habits, and with this three themes emerged: social, ethical, and economic consumption. In order to best understand the relationship between these new values and one’s taste, I argue that while each interlocutor can be situated within a particular wave due to their taste preferences, the individual is further driven by either their social, ethical, or economic values when deciding which coffee to consume. This analysis challenges current understandings of coffee culture in the United States and explores coffee consumption habits as something more than just a desire for taste.


coffee, culture, waves, value, ethnography, community

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration

Italian Studies

First Advisor

Allen Tran

Second Advisor

Jonathan Scholnick

Third Advisor

Chris Ellis