A New Orleans flavor
Jul 17, 2014 - New Orleans Roast
NEW ORLEANS — Floating just over the
smell of the mighty Mississippi and diesel, there’s a scent that lets
you know this is no ordinary New Orleans riverfront warehouse.
between the tangy notes of oil and waterborne commerce, is the rich,
deep smell of coffee, a smell that resonates like a ship’s foghorn from
the PJ’s Coffee roasting facility in Faubourg Marigny.
Jones is the man behind that smell. He’s PJ’s roastmaster, a title he
takes most seriously, and one earned through time, effort, science and a
constant coffee education. The roasting plant, run by PJ’s, bags the
specialty-grade coffee sold in PJ’s stores and cafes as well as a new
line, New Orleans Roast Coffee, that can be found in hotels, restaurants
and grocery stores throughout the Gulf Coast.
“It started with
the goats,” said Jones, a native New Orleanian, picking up coffee’s
history at the very beginning, when it is said that African farmers
noticed that after their goats ate a certain bean, they had much more
Since then, the process has evolved somewhat, leaving hoof
stock behind and picking up a complicated scientific and artistic
process Jones designs to bring out the best taste in each bean PJ’s
buys. The company buys beans from all over the world, and each growing
region produces beans that have a unique flavor profile. Those unique
profiles mean each bean must be roasted differently depending on the
drying process used, moisture content and the final desired flavor of
In addition to Jones’ taste buds and expertise, PJ’s
uses a roaster that’s a drum roaster but uses an indirect heat. The drum
roaster provides a higher capacity and the indirect heat provides a
more consistent taste, Jones said. When running at speed, the roaster
can churn out 1,000 pounds of roasted coffee in an hour.
Which explains the persistent smell.
relies on scientific measures like temperature to tell him when the
beans are done, but he also looks at the color and cracking of the
beans, running his fingers through vast mounds of beans whole and ground
to check for texture and color.
“It’s kinda the same way as baking a cake,” he said. “It can seem done outside but not be done inside.”
Unlike other roasters, Jones also tries to go easy on the heat.
“When you go so dark, all the beans taste the same,” Jones said.
prefers the coffee he produces to have a more complex, varied taste.
“If you go to a restaurant and you order a steak well done, it doesn’t
matter if it was sirloin or black Angus,” he said.
Jones also debunked the myth that darker coffee packs more of a punch than lighter roasts.
medium roast coffee has more caffeine than espresso,” he said, adding
that he drinks about three to four cups of medium roast a day, down from
When it comes to how to make the perfect cup, though, he
politely declined to get involved in the sometimes vicious fight over
the method of brewing.
“The best way for you to enjoy a coffee is
the way that you enjoy it,” he said. The ratio of coffee to water
“really depends on the type of coffee pot you have.”
himself, he enjoys the “homegrown roots” of New Orleans’ coffee and
chicory. Unlike some companies, Jones said, his coffees use chicory as a
flavoring instead of the historic use as a filler.
“I can guarantee you back in the 1970s anything ‘naturally New Orleans’ was coffee and chicory,” he said.
he hopes to make sure that New Orleans’ strong coffee tradition shows
through in every bag he roasts, even the ones without chicory.“
goal with PJ’s and New Orleans Roast is to make sure our customers
enjoy a cup with a clean finish,” he said, meaning that, when properly
prepared, his coffee won’t leave a bitter aftertaste in a drinker’s
While Jones’ taste buds craft bags consumers can buy in
stores, he also makes special blends of coffees for more exclusive
clubs, like the New Orleans Saints’ Black and Gold blend and for many
New Orleans hotels.
Making blends for a particular client allows both Jones and the company to “open ourselves up a little bit” to new tastes.
company has experienced a growth spurt in the past few years, tripling
the amount of coffee it roasts to around a million pounds per year. But
Jones, a 20-year veteran of the coffee industry, remains the single man
responsible for the roast of PJ’s coffees and intends to keep his post
at the roaster.
“I love drinking it,” he said. “And I never stop learning about it.”Visit Web site
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