Coffee trends come in waves

But the children of the percolator generation did not want to be trapped in our parents' provincial, percolating ways.

In college, when we weren't downing gallons of dining hall acid from giant metal vats, some of us bought little metal Turkish pots and drank our sludge with international pretensions.

In that same rebellious era, we were fond of the new Cafe au Lait, a groundbreaking coffee beverage made from sugar, instant coffee, nondairy creamer and other horrors mentioned in fine print on the can.

A couple of heaping spoonfuls. A spot of boiling water. And voila! A trip to Paris.

Then along came Mr. Coffee. Even fans of the French press or the Melitta filter turned into slobs happy to punch the button on their automatic coffee machine and be done with it.

The percolator was dead for good.

We all know the rest of the history. The Starbucks revolution. The birth of bad lattes in every fast-food joint. The exotic became mundane, and coffee, that restless creature, needed another change.

So now comes what's called the third wave of coffee. For the time being, it's mostly confined to smallish, independent enterprises serious about beans and dedicated to technique in pursuit of coffee perfection.

Intelligentsia is the big daddy of the wave.

But will New Yorkers embrace their new Chicago brew bar?

One online site that heralded Intelligentsia's arrival, calling it "the insanely popular Chicago coffee chain," drew sniffs from some commenters.

"Midwest swill," said one. "Posers," said another. Someone bemoaned the invasion of chains.

Intelligentsia actually makes excellent coffee —generally worth the money and the patience required for a good brew — but even if it scores big in New York, sooner or later, there will be a fourth coffee wave. The human need for novelty guarantees it.

And I predict it will involve the return of the percolator.

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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