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New Mobile Cafe Brings New Wave of Coffee to NOLA

A special Brigade has recently arrived in New Orleans, and with it, the Third Wave.

No need to panic, however.  In fact, coffee drinkers should rejoice.

Brigade Coffee

“The concept is to bring third wave coffee to New Orleans,” said Brigade Coffee’s Shawn Parsons, co-founder of the new mobile café.  “New Orleans already has a huge history in coffee but currently is lacking a major presence in gourmet coffee, and we’re doing it with our Citroen H Van.”

As for ‘third wave’ coffee, it may be best to start with the ‘first wave,’ when, during the 1910’s and 20’s, companies such as Folger’s started roasting coffee for mass production, explained Parsons.

Starbucks introduced the second wave in the 70’s, starting a gourmet trend with its higher standards of preparation.

“Third wave is something that started when Starbucks and all those companies really...sold out, to be quite honest,” Parsons said.

Think of the third wave as the second wave “reimagined, or revitalized,” said Parsons.  Second wave coffee too often just replicated Italian methods of roasting, which was a much darker roast.

“They were really burning a lot of the coffee, burning a lot of the sugar,” said Parsons, “so you’re getting a really bold flavor, but you weren’t really getting the unique qualities of all the different coffees.”

Third wave gets away from the Italian method of preparation, roasting in a much lighter method, Parsons said, which allows all the complexity of coffee’s flavor to come through.

The method also implies rigorous standards of preparation and use of equipment, Parsons said, and likened what’s happening with coffee to the blossoming of wine culture in the 70’s and craft beer in the 90’s.

“People’s palates across the country now have been and are waking up to a taste in coffee,” he said.

And they’re mobile.

The unusual-looking, semi-militaristic Citroen H Vans were originally designed and built by the French government to rebuild after World War II. Today, they are often used as mobile cafes and are a common sight on the streets of the U.K., the Netherlands and other parts of northern Europe, and are the inspiration for Brigade’s concept, brand name, and aesthetic, said Parsons.

Procuring one, however, wasn’t easy.  There are only about fifty in the U.S., and Brigade shipped theirs in from Belgium, said Parsons.

A native of Alabama, Parsons said that half of Brigade is from his home state and half are from Louisiana.

“It was really just about bringing something really great to the south, to New Orleans, specifically, and strengthening the culture and history of the city at the same time.”

The best way to locate Brigade’s mobile café is to follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@BrigadeCoffee), Parsons said, as they post two or three times a day to each.

Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.