You can smell it a mile away. That warm, fresh smell of roasted heaven. And the array of flavors, like a well-orchestrated science experiment, will have you wondering, "What is this? And where did it come from?"

Coffee has been a popular drink for many years, and like its alcoholic counterpart beer, it has gone through an exciting transformation since it was first discovered in Ethiopia in the 1400s.

A revolutionary

By the 1700s, coffee had been passed around Europe and Asia, and it finally came to the Americas in 1720 through the Caribbean. Coffee made its way to North America during the Colonial period, though it wasn't as popular as it was in Europe.

Thanks to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, many Americans switched to coffee as tea was now deemed unpatriotic. The demand for coffee rose through the Revolutionary War, and Americans' taste for the drink continued to grow after the War of 1812.

A community

Coffeehouses were established and grew in popularity through the 17th century. America saw its first coffeehouse in 1676 thanks to John Sparry of Boston. During this time coffee, tea and beer were often sold together at places that functioned both as a coffeehouse and tavern.

Over 200 years later, the first espresso machine was invented in Milan. These machines spread all over Europe and America, providing an alternative to plain black coffee. The first espresso bar was established in 1952 in the Soho area of London. Cappuccinos became popular in England, but in the U.S. espresso remained the craze.

Coffeehouses became places of entertainment in the late 1950s and 1960s, bringing together folk singers/songwriters and Beat Generation poets to express themselves, especially concerned with the politics of the time. They were also used as a place of outreach for many churches and individuals through the mid-1980s.

A counterculture

In 1966, Peet's Coffee & Tea was opened in Berkeley, California, by Dutch native Alfred Peet. He focused on roasting coffee with fresher, higher-quality beans than was the usual at the time.

Peet trained and supplied the founders of Starbucks, who in 1971 began roasting and selling high-quality coffee beans in Seattle. Though Starbucks later standardized and mainstreamed the espresso bar model, Seattle was known for its thriving countercultural coffeehouse scene that paved the way for specialty coffee.

Not to be confused with "gourmet" or "premium" coffee — marketing terms with no defined standards — "specialty coffee" was first used in 1974 by Erna Knutsen to describe beans with quality flavor and produced in special microclimates. These ideal climates provide soil with special characters and composition that bring out the unique flavors and tastes of the beans. It's the full cup taste and little to no defects that make specialty coffee distinctive.

The countries responsible or producing most of the specialty coffee in the world are Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Panama. Market shares for this portion of the coffee industry over the past 25 years have grown from 1 percent to 20 percent, and the demand is growing still.

An artisanal appreciation

Craft coffee is not just about those aromatic flavors and tastes. It's about the quality of the life cycle of the beans from planting/harvesting bushes at generations-old farms, to buying quality green coffee beans, to carefully roasting those beans, to finally brewing that perfect cup to savor.

Consumers are becoming more aware and interested in the origin of the products and services they buy. Coffee is no exception. Once thought of as just a commodity, coffee can now be seen as more of an artisanal foodstuff. This coffee connoisseurship involves continual improvements at all stages of production, including building strong relationships with farmers (not countries), traders and roasters.

Conceived in 2002 by Trish Rothgeb of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in San Francisco, the "third wave" of the industry strives to be the highest form of appreciation of coffee, celebrating the subtleties of flavor, varietals and region.

Interested in being a part of the celebration?

Find a coffeehouse that includes these distinct features: buys and sells direct-trade coffee; high-quality, single-origin beans (as opposed to blends); offers light roasts; latte art; and has an array of alternative preparation methods such as vacuum or "siphon" coffee and pour-over brewing devices, like the Chemex and Hario V60.

No matter what we're interested in, there is always room for improvement. We strive to take things to the next level, and the craft movement of beer and coffee is doing just that.

Those involved are consistently looking for ways to bring science and creativity together for the quality sake of the products they offer to their customers. They work hard to bring a level of appreciation to the table that allows us to discover something new or enjoy a twist on the old. And most importantly, they dig deep to build strong, lasting relationships.