Located on the 3rd floor of Western Washington Universities (WWU) Viking Union the Underground Coffeehouse provides a safe haven for students to kick back and unwind from the stresses of college. There is a plethora of comfy couches that take up most of the room within the coffeehouse, but expect to not find an open couch available for the first few minutes you are there. The atmosphere is the most compelling aspect of the underground coffee house due to the laid back atmosphere making any coffee drinker feel right at home.
While I was there, I was served up Tony’s Café Carmelita, a medium roast that Tony’s boasts as Organic and Fair Trade Certified. I’d like to get the idea of Fair-trade out of peoples mind from the start. Fair-trade means that farmers and workers on the coffee farms are getting paid a “fair” deal. In a sense it guarantees that a farmer will receive a certain amount for the coffee that they produce, NO MATTER THE QUALITY OF THE BEANS. Imagine if you will a coffee farmer that has two bags of beans, one of which he knows is a higher quality than the other. The farmer has the decision to either sell it through Fair-trade in which he is guaranteed $2.56 per pound, or take his chances with the market. If the quality bag of beans will sell for $2.75 per pound and the lower quality bag $2.20 in the non fair trade market, which will he choose to use as Fair-trade even though BOTH bags could be considered fair trade? The obvious choice is to give the lower quality bag to Fair-trade and to sell the higher quality in the market because he will receive more money in the end. Because Fair-trade coffee is made up of the words fair trade then we believe that it must be a better deal for the farmers, but in all actuality the farmers will benefit more, sometimes reaching upwards of $30 per pound, if they are paid on the quality of the bean.
Now that I have gotten at least some of the Fair-trade clarification out of the way, I will return the coffee. Tony’s on their site states that Café Carmelita is has cocoa, and caramel notes finishing with a buttery body. My experience from drinking it at the Underground Coffeehouse was anything but the adjectives used to describe it. Now I am not faulting Tony’s Coffee because they do not have control of the coffee once they sell it, however the Underground Coffee house has only one way of doing black, and that is by using a percolator to brew. I feel, and this time included that percolator coffee tastes very similar and it is hard to distinguish flavor note within the coffee. While drinking the coffee I could taste faint hints of brown sugar but just as soon as the sip ensued so did the disappearance of the flavor.
Environment – 20 points
The many couches and performances that go on are the main attractions.
Coffee – 10 points
It lacked in flavor and palatability but did use locally roasted beans from an award winning roaster, although the beans that I had were definitely not an award winning roast.
Cleanliness – 15 points
This was on par with a home, not dirty, not spotless, but got the job done without being a thorn.
Technique – 0 points
There was nothing special about the way that they brewed their coffee over others.
TOTAL – 45 points
Hours: Monday through Friday: 9am – 10pm
Saturday and Sunday: 5pm – 10pm