by Al Liu – VP of Coffee
This week marks the return of our Mexico Kulaktik - Organic/Fair Trade as a Session Coffee™ which is very exciting, given that we’ve been sourcing from Kulaktik for 18 years. It’s not only our oldest producer relationship but it’s how many of our customers first heard of us.
Colectivo was introduced to the co-op through Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Parish on the East Side of Milwaukee as it had a sister parish in the Municipality of Tenejapa in the Los Altos (Highlands) region of Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico. The people in this area are Tzeltal-speaking Mayans who depend on farming both to feed themselves and to earn cash. Coffee has been a major crop in Chiapas since it first was introduced in the late 19th century, and the Los Altos region is home to a number of indigenous co-ops like Kulaktik that now carry both Fair Trade and organic certifications.
There’s a funny story about how Colectivo first became acquainted with this coffee. Our contact at Sts. Peter & Paul, Mary Pat Clasen, had secured a large bag of green coffee directly from Kulaktik and brought a sample to the Prospect Ave. cafe (HQ back then!). Co-owner Lincoln Fowler took one look and told her that he couldn’t roast it because the parchment was still on it and would start a fire in the roaster. Mary Pat and her family then used a kitchen countertop blender to “mill” some of the parchment and broke several blender blades in the process, but co-owner Ward Fowler (Lincoln’s brother) pronounced the coffee to be of good quality and worth consideration.
Ward visited Kulaktik with Mary Pat in 1998 and began purchasing the coffee shortly thereafter. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a couple of stories about our relationship with the co-op, and since this was prior to digital media a lot of people saw the print articles and discovered Colectivo. As many of our longtime customers can attest, there was quite a following for Kulaktik, and for a couple of years we weren’t able to offer it year-round. The co-op was devastated by the roya (coffee leaf rust)
plague that hit Mexico and Central America during the 2012-13 harvest, and wasn’t until last year that we could resume offering their coffee.
This year Colectivo was able to secure two containers of Mexico Kulaktik, and we are excited to reinstate it as a Session Coffee™. It offers notes of dark chocolate, purple plum, and graham cracker with a medium body and a pleasing grapefruit finish. It’s fruitier than the traditional Kulaktik profile, but has an additional complexity we think our customers will enjoy. Also, since October is National Fair Trade Month we think it’s only appropriate that Kulaktik kicks it off!