Coffee Sourcing & Cupping
Every coffee received in our warehouse has been extensively tested. Green coffee samples are received by our quality control department every day. They are first tested for moisture content to ensure the coffee is fresh and well processed. Then, a sampling of the coffee is roasted to a light color on our 100 gram sample roaster to develop its full spectrum of flavors. A coffee’s qualities are more apparent in a light roast since a darker roast can mask the defects.
After sample roasting, all coffees are cupped in our quality control lab. Three cups of each coffee are tasted to ensure consistency. Six ounces of hot water is poured over six grams of ground coffee and left to steep for five minutes. After five minutes, a crust of emulsified solids will form on the top of the cup.
The first step of cupping is to break that crust and smell the coffee. This is the first and possibly most important signifier of a good or bad coffee. The crust is then scooped off of the cup and the tasting begins. When tasting, a cupper looks for aroma, acidity, body, and mouthfeel. Acidity, the sign of a good, high-grown Arabica coffee, is tasted on the sides of the tongue. Body, which many consider important for a heavy, flavorful coffee, is tasted on the centre of the tongue. Mouthfeel is an overall sensation in the mouth that is evident in well-balanced coffees and good blends.
Any coffees that do not meet our quality standards are rejected after cupping. Our professional coffee buyers have a combined experienced of over 50 years. They consider only beans from the top 5% of the world’s production. Through our careful cupping process, we are able to select the very best from this small percentage of top-grade coffees.
The roasting process is the most sensitive step in the coffee production process. Before it is roasted, coffee is completely unpalatable and unusable. It is in our roasters that the flavor oils of the coffee are brought to the surface and that all flavor and aroma is developed. Our coffees are roasted in small batches for 14-16 minutes at temperatures ranging from 350-475°F.
Once the coffee has reached the optimum roast color, the flame in the roaster is shut off and the coffee is quenched with water, to add moisture back into the coffee and stop the cooking process. The coffee is then emptied into a cooling drum where it is stirred while cool air flows through it until it has reached a temperature that is optimal for packaging.
Packaging & Grinding
All of Reunion Island’s coffee are available in whole bean, while our most popular coffees are also available in pre-ground packages.
Our whole bean coffees are packed in 1 kg or 5 lb bags with one-way valves. After the roasting process, coffee releases a gas—called “degassing.” By using a valve, we are able to pack whole bean coffees immediately and preserve their freshly roasted flavor. At the same time, the valve prevents any air from entering the bag, as oxygen is one of main factors that cause coffee to stale.
If coffee is to be ground, it will be done directly from the roaster, after it has cooled off. The coffee is ground on industrial grinders and is then transferred into a silo, where it will de-gas for a minimum of 12 hours to prevent packages from bursting (there are no valves on pre-ground coffee packages). Our pre-ground coffee packages are nitrogen-flushed to bring oxygen content within each package below 5% and preserve the coffee’s freshness.
Quality assurance is paramount at Reunion Island. Each coffee is checked at every step along the way to ensure that it adheres to our strict standards without exception. The coffee is first tested as green before its is purchased. All incoming shipments are sampled to ensure that the coffee matches the initial samples. Roasted coffee is checked for both color and moisture content.
Roast colors are check on an Agtron—a device that measures reflectance. The lighter the coffee, the higher the reading will be on the Agtron. We generally roast to four major Agtron colors:
• Full City 54-58
• Viennese 44-48
• Continental 34-38
• French 24-28
Coffees are checked on the Agtron immediately after roasting and later during the packaging process.
All ground coffees are analyzed for grind size. By ensuring the size of the grind is to spec, the amount of flavor extracted from the coffee when it is brewed can be maximized.
Once coffees are packaged, their color, weight, and oxygen content are tested again. A handheld monitor tells our production staff if the oxygen content inside packages is within our target range. Packaging integrity is also tested and verified.