Bold roasting, no boasting

Third Wave Coffee offers unique flavor blends inspired by a heart for missions

Jimmy Thomas always wanted to spend his life doing missions work, but after meeting a missionary couple in China who used their coffee shop as a way to minister to the people there, he was inspired to do the same.

“Originally, I was really interested in going to China for missions, and basically, in order to go to China, since it’s a closed access country, you have to either do business missions or be an English teacher, and I didn’t want to be an English teacher,” Thomas said.

But after three visits to the intensive care unit, 24 EpiPen injections, 20 episodes of anaphylaxis and countless doctor’s visits, Thomas had to reevaluate where his life was headed and what God was calling him to do.

Thomas had contracted an autoimmune disease commonly known as ACIU, which causes the immune system to attack itself.

CAFFEINATE — Third Wave Coffee offers distinctive drink blends and roasts from ethically-sourced locations. Photo credit: Caroline Sellers

CAFFEINATE — Third Wave Coffee offers distinctive drink blends and roasts from ethically-sourced locations. Photo credit: Caroline Sellers

“I was at UVA, and these are some of the best doctors in the world,” Thomas said. “I’m in the ICU, but they still don’t know. When you are stripped of everything you have and you’re stripped of all your power, that’s the time when you either question and get angry at God, or you say, ‘No, I trust in your plan.’”

Because of his disease, he was no longer physically able to go to China, but he still wanted to do something with coffee. After seeking counsel from his mentors and praying for God to reveal his will, he began the process of planning and preparing to open a coffee shop here in Lynchburg.

Third Wave Coffee, the first shop of its kind in this area, opened Aug. 22 at 16955 Forest Road and holds its coffee to a higher standard than a typical Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, attempting to bring the coffee scene of a city such as Portland or Seattle here.

Thomas explained that the shop is named after a movement of coffee that began in 2007 called the “third wave” of coffee. It is a shift in the way roasters make coffee that focuses on bringing out more flavors than are typically found in commodity coffee.

“I started realizing that there’s other kinds of flavor notes like citrus notes or having a nice acidity to it instead of just being some bitter, carbonated drink,” Thomas said.

The modern shop features a variety of pour-over roasts including Costa Rican, Colombian and Guatemalan.

Their Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Gedeo is one of Thomas’ favorites. It combines floral and citrus flavor notes to create what one of the employees described as a blueberry flavor — the same flavor of coffee that inspired Thomas to open Third Wave.

Third Wave sources all its coffee from small farmers, who they feature on their website and in photos in the shop. Thomas said that from the start, they wanted to support farmers in countries such as Ethiopia and Guatemala.

“Even if the coffee costs us twice or three times as much money, which it does, that’s okay because we’re going to make sure that these farmers are paid well enough to feed their families,” Thomas said.

Adding to Third Wave’s missional focus, they are currently working on getting into the Forest Farmer’s Market to hand out free coffee samples and pray with people.

“In America, everyone knows about God, they have an opinion about God, so you don’t just go and say, ‘Oh, let me tell you about God,’” Thomas said. “But if you build a relationship with them, that’s a huge part of showing them love and showing them kindness.”

Forrest Navarre, general manager of Third Wave, said he and Thomas have been friends for years and worked together at a different coffee shop before opening Third Wave.

“Immediately upon hiring you could just tell this kid had a passion for coffee,” Navarre said. “He always strived to bring that quality to the coffee there. The more you talk to somebody, the more you realize their passions. You can see that this is something he enjoys. He’s researching, studying and perfecting the art.”

Navarre said it was a privilege to be able to see one his best friend’s dreams come to fruition.

“He’s going to do what he has to from a business aspect, but his heart is in the coffee,” Navarre said. “If he could, he would let me take care of all the business stuff and he would just spend his time roasting.”

Gee is a copy editor.

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