Monday, September 6, 2010

Alterra Coffehouse Review

The Atlantic?  The Pacific?
Guess really fast because I'm about to tell you.
Greetings all!  You should all be very impressed with me because this is the second post I've posted (and the third written) since being on vacation!  I'm writing to you today from Wisconsin, where the husband and I are spending a long Labor Day weekend visiting my in-laws.  That's right, the "ocean" pictured above is actually Lake Michigan.  It's hard to believe that it's a lake, especially when you wake up on an airplane only able to see water in all directions and can only assume that the pilot has taken a wrong turn.

But this post isn't about lakes masquerading as oceans or confused travelers.  It's about soy chai lattes, which have been sorely lacking from the blog for awhile now.  More specifically, it's about the soy chai latte I had today at Alterra Coffee, a small and locally-owned chain of coffeehouses in the Milwaukee area.  Alterra has ten locations - in downtown Milwaukee, on the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee campus, at the local airport, at local malls, and more - it's essentially the local Starbucks.  On both of my trips to Alterra, I've gone to the UWM campus location (located a few steps from the lake), which is a big two-story free-standing building with fun-colored seating outside and an artsy, rustic sort of vibe inside.  It has seating upstairs and down and feels cozy and welcoming, unlike many of its larger competitors.
As the name implies, Alterra specializes in coffee, strong coffee to be precise, but that doesn't stop me from ordering my standard chai in an attempt to find the ultimate brew.  Amazingly, Alterra has not one, but two chai choices, which makes for a very happy Jennifer.  On my first trip a year and a half ago, I had the African Red Chai.  I remember liking it but knowing that I wouldn't switch off of the traditional Indian chai, which is richer and spicier.  Today I tried their Indian Masala, which seems to be their own brew (or at least not the Tazo or Oregon Chai concentrate that you usually find when you're out).  Oh my GOD.  This stuff is amazing.  It was perfectly spicy, with a slightly different than normal note to the flavor that I can't describe but was just wonderful.  The balance of chai to soy was absolutely perfect (which is a nod to the barista, because the person making your chai can make all the difference) and either the tea was unusually dark or it was blended really well because the foam on top was a lovely shade of tan.  And can we talk about the foam?  There was foam!  So often when I get chai lattes out, there's barely a smidgen of foam on top, as though I'd ordered a cup of chai tea with lots of soy milk.  NO.  It's called a latte for a reason and the people at Alterra know what that reason is andohmygodit'ssogoodIwantmorenow.
The husband - isn't he pretty?!  Okay, maybe not so much in this picture.
Eating brownies does not normally cause him face-altering pain.
My sister-in-law, Saralyn. Yes they
did pose in the exact same chair.
For those who are interested, the husband declares Alterra's coffee (he thinks it was a Columbian brew) to be "zesty, sharp, poignant; it stings the nostrils and punches the taste buds."  In case you can't tell, that means it's good.  Saralyn, my sister-in-law, had a white chocolate mocha, which she found to be "yummy, white-y, and mocha-y."  (Lame!)  Also, "better than Starbucks and it's called a Mocha Blanca.  I'm not good with words.  It was good and I didn't get jittery afterwards."  However, the husband found his brownie to be quite underwhelming so you may want to stick to the beverages.  I also bought a tin of Alterra's Blueberry Rooiboos tea, which sounds and smells amazing and comes in a cute tin that seems to have been hand-packed.  I wanted to taste and review it for this post but it's loose and I don't travel with my tea ball so that will have to wait.

After posing for pictures in their garden, we took our drinks over to Bradley beach to shiver barefoot in the wet sand and wind while some romping bedraggled dogs twisted their leashes around our ankles and windsurfers flew about.  It was nice.  Happy Labor Day, all.


  1. It's Bradford Beach, not Bradley. Learn yo' Milwaukee landmarks.

    And I demand that all cower in fear of my neck vein.

  2. Those great lakes are freakin' impressive, aren't they?

    Wow. That brownie looks painful. Not all brownies cause face-altering pain - it must be really good! :D

    Foamy coffee! Oh man. Now I want foamy coffee but I have a rule that states that I shall not have coffee after dinner. It gives me nightmares. Anyway, do you have an aerolatte? That stuff makes the foamiest foam ever! I'm doing an aerolatte post soon complete with video and all :)

  3. I have a handheld Aerolatte. It worked well for awhile but lately it's just been doing a lot of splashing and not making any foam. I think that I may have loved it too much.