Last year, while at Coffee Fest, I ran into the guys from Kaldi’s Coffee, who were peddling a new coffee that they were very proud of.
For the first time in four years, Kaldi’s was offering a Mexican coffee. Not because they have anything against the region, but because nothing spectacular, really, comes out of it.
It’s no secret that Mexican coffees, as a whole, are hit-and-miss. For every moderate to good cup you’ll find there, you’ll find a half dozen awful ones. While beans that come from Oaxaca or Chiapas are mostly okay (once in a blue moon you’ll find an exceptional Oaxaca), beans that come from Coatepec or Ayotec are almost always subpar.
The Mexican coffee that Kaldi’s roasted last year was a Coatepec, and it was the exception to the rule. Furthermore, it was an outstanding coffee. A coffee that even made my Best Coffee of 2012 list!
Much to my delight (and because of my high praise of it, surely), Kaldi’s brought back that Coatepec for a second year and it’s garnering the same sort of praises (this time from even higher places) as it did last year as Craft Coffee is currently featuring it for their subscribers. (And I’m sure Craft Coffee can understand my incredulity about how great this coffee truly is, as it’s only the second Mexican coffee they’ve featured in the last two years—for a company that cups as much coffee as they do, being featured is definitely a very high compliment.)
As I mentioned, this coffee comes from the colonial village of Coatepec, Veracruz; the name Coatepec comes from the Nahuatl coatl (“serpent”) and tepetl (“hill”) (“the hill where the snakes are”). As terrifying as that sounds, Coatepec is also referred to as the coffee capital of Mexico.
The coffee is grown and harvested by smallholder growers in the area. What’s unique about their practices is that these growers deliver ripe red cherries to their mill while the rest of the country delivers pergamino (parchment coffee) to the mill. After delivery, the cherries are then removed from the bean in a huge mill at the co-op. Most coffee farmers use a hand-crank mill at their farm to remove the cherry pulp. Using the mill at the co-op ensures a more consistent bean with better quality control.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re a sipping a cup of Mexico Coatepec, from Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, Missouri. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1200-1400 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Typica, Caturra
process: fully washed, patio dried
The Mexico Coatepec’s aroma coming out of the bag is sweet and fragrant, with notes of creamy salted caramel, pears, and green grapes. I’m wary, though, of how this coffee is going to taste after I brew it, because these beans are certainly dark—they look pretty darn close to Full City Plus, and even glisten under my kitchen light because of the surface oils coating the beans.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: These surface oils could well be my fault, as this coffee is just shy of two weeks post-roast)
The first few sips, immediately post-brew, have certainly mellowed my vibe. As I suspected, the coffee does taste pretty roasty; not crazy roasty, but certainly enough to mask its best flavors. There is plenty of caramel here and rich, extra dark chocolate, even a bit of a malic juiciness that swirls over the palate, but it’s hard to get past the carbon.
As it cools, some other flavors present themselves: brown sugar, green grape acidity, pear. There is also an earthiness to this coffee, that, when mixed with the caramel and chocolate flavors up front, resembles a moist, velvety soil.
Full body; earthy mouthfeel; grape acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
I don’t know much about roasting, but I can tell you that even if this is the same incredible Mexican coffee Kaldi’s purchased last year, it is not the same Mexican coffee that ended up in my mug this year. Pretty far from it.
Last year, the Mexico Coatepec from Kaldi’s Coffee was bright and vibrant and lively and effervescent and brimming with flavor; This year, the coffee tastes tired, roasted, and burned out. I suspected, though, that it would taste differently when I opened the bag and saw all beans glistening with surface oils.
Even taking last year’s roast out of the equation, though, this was still a disappointing cup of coffee and I’m wondering if I only have myself to blame. As I mentioned, this coffee was just shy of two week post-roast when I brewed it and that could certainly account for some staleness. It doesn’t, however, explain the carbon.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.