alterra mexico kulaktikWhile I was checking out the features of the Evzdrop app last week, I wanted to revisit some shops that I haven’t been to in a while. One of those shops is just a few blocks away from my office at Northwestern University—The Unicorn Cafe, in Evanston, Illinois.

About a year ago, as I mentioned in my review of the cafe, Unicorn switched from Chicago coffee staple Metropolis Coffee Company to Milwaukee-based Alterra Coffee Roasters, becoming one of only a handful of Chicago-area shops to provide that brand.

They always have the standard Alterra house blend, Blue Heeler, on tap, but they always carry a lighter roast along with it. Having had Blue Heeler too many times, I opted for the alternative.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of The Unicorn Cafe. Today we are sipping a mug of Mexico Kulaktik from Alterra Coffee Roasters, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Kulaktik Cooperative is a Fair Trade-certified cooperative comprising indigenous Mayan farmers in southern Mexico. It was founded in 1992 and counts 167 members in 22 communities. Since 1998 the cooperative exports their coffee directly to the USA.

We at Alterra take pride not only in sourcing great coffees but also in cultivating and maintaining relationships with the growers of those coffees. This commitment is exemplified by our partnership with the Kulaktik cooperative in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Amidst the tension following a well-publicized peasant rebellion, Alterra became connected to a group of coffee growers through Sts. Peter & Paul Congregation in Milwaukee. This special relationship allows them to directly purchase coffee from the cooperative without going through intermediaries, thereby guaranteeing that the growers receive a much higher price for their product.

In addition, they give $.25 from every pound we sell back to the cooperative, which it uses for infrastructure developments.

Representing their longest direct sourcing relationship, Alterra has worked with the Kulaktik cooperative in Chiapas since 1999. Going beyond fair trade, Alterra provides a “give-back” premium per pound sold that helps the farmer-members fund maintenance and improvements, from new coffee plants to cooperative infrastructure.

the basics:

origin: Kulaktik, Tenejapa, Chiapas, Mexico
farm: Kulaktik Cooperative
elevation: 1600 meters above sea level
cultivars: N/A
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Organic, Fair Trade

the coffee:

The aroma is—how do I describe it… “Classic.” It has that “classic” coffee fragrance. It’s roasty toasty with scents of butterscotch, roasted almonds, and citrus.

The flavor isn’t all that different, really.

The Kulaktik starts off with that roastiness, even a wisp of smoky aromatics; but it also has hints of cedar that I’m not sure if I like or not—it provides a nice spice, but it also makes the flavor… woodsy. It has a buttery mouthfeel, that slips and slides over the palate, carrying along with notes of creamy caramel, toffee, ginger, raw cocoa, and a spicy cinnamon that tingles the tip of the tongue, each sip finishing off with a smack of salted cashews.

As it cools off, some mildly fruity flavors pop up—apricots, apples, and green grapes, most notably. Meanwhile, a very soft, mellow citrus acidity rounds out the bottom of the cup.

Medium body; buttery mouthfeel; mellow citrus acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

The Mexico Kulaktik, from Alterra Coffee Roasters, is, in a word, underwhelming.

It’s a pretty mild coffee—maybe even a little too mild. There’s not much about that grabs my attention, and nothing about it that holds my attention. It has some nice flavors in there—caramel, spice, nuts, some fruitiness, and a mellow citrus acidity—and it’s enjoyable enough to casually sip while staring out the window of a cafe on a rainy day.

Ultimately, though, this is a pretty forgettable cup of coffee.

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