Local High-Quality Brew, International Awareness
Jimmy Thomas is already accomplishing a lot more than most 25 year olds his age. As the owner of the new Third Wave Coffee in Forest, he has a vision for the way we all see our cup of joe—a vision he thought would take him further than 10 minutes from his alma mater.
Thomas was a Global Studies major at Liberty University. He had already developed a love for coffee and that love intensified during trips to China and Rwanda. While visiting China in 2010, he worked at a coffee shop that was also an avenue for missionaries. Thomas decided he wanted that to be his next step. And up until three years ago, he was ready to move there and open up his own shop.
“I’d been there 10 times and had taken Chinese.
Then my health took a turn,” said Thomas. “I went through a long time, about six months or so, going in and out of the hospital. We eventually found out what the disease was and that it was only treatable in the U.S.”
Doctors diagnosed him with autoimmune chronic idiopathic urticaria, or ACIU, and said he would never be able to live in a foreign country. At first, it was hard for Thomas to accept that the life he envisioned wasn’t going to happen.
“During that time, the Lord was working on my heart, getting me to where I needed to be to completely change directions in my life,” said Thomas. “Finally, I had to say to myself…I was doing this for God so the location shouldn’t matter.”
Even during times of sickness, Thomas started working on his next step—opening a specialty coffee shop here in the U.S. He continued to do lots of coffee “research” at home.
“I had a coffee laboratory in my house. I started roasting [coffee beans], first on a small scale,” said Thomas. “I’m really nerdy so I was very
geared towards it. Roasting the same batch over and over again but changing one small variable.”
Then, he drafted a business plan for a high-quality coffee shop in Forest.
“I knew this area needed a shop, a shop of this style,” said Thomas.
His mother and marketing manager, Rhonda Thomas, explains the meaning behind the shop’s name.
“Third Wave is a movement. The first wave of coffee is when coffee came over from Ethiopia. The second wave is coffee as a commodity. The third wave of coffee is taking coffee to the artisanal level. That’s what sets us apart and makes us different,” said Rhonda.
Opening up in late August in the brand new Shoppes at Jefferson Crossing, Third Wave Coffee is already seeing a lot of success for its focus on specialty coffee.
Inside the shop, you’ll notice a few things that you won’t find in Starbucks. A Diedrich Roaster sits in the middle of the room; Thomas uses it to roast fresh coffee on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The menu offers your usual selection: drip coffee, latte, Americana, etc. But you’ll also find options for the newly popular cold brew as well as pour overs, a Japanese brewing method that produces coffee that is so rich in flavor, you should be able to detect specific tastes.
“If you go to any other shop in Lynchburg and order a pour over, it’s going to be hand done. Jimmy’s is digital. It’s all computerized and is exact,” said Rhonda. “The customer picks their country of origin, whether it’s Rwanda or Guatemala, and each [coffee]has flavor notes, such as chocolate, lime or cherry. Those flavor notes tell you what the coffee should taste like.”
Some aesthetic touches also impress customers. All drinks are served in glass mugs unless they are to-go. Baristas specialize in “Latte Art,” creating fun images like hearts or trees by using the steamed milk and espresso as a canvas. Photos on the walls educate customers about coffee farmers in other countries.
“So often we think of coffee as a black drink that wakes us up in the morning. But in reality, it’s a farmer’s life, and some of them don’t even get paid enough to feed their families,” said Thomas.
While his dream of opening a coffee shop in China didn’t happen, Thomas has a plan for Third Wave he hopes will make just as much of a global impact. In the coming years, he wants a team from the shop to travel to other countries, such as Nicaragua, and build relationships with the coffee farmers while sharing the Gospel.
By bringing those stories back to Forest, the shop will serve as a place to raise awareness and money for the people who work hard to bring us those coffee beans—giving us the caffeine we take for granted.
“There are so many cultures and connections and hands behind each cup. That just gets forgotten that’s what we want to emphasize,” said Thomas.
By Shelley Basinger