Mello Joy Coffee Company has created a custom-blend Ragin' CajunsTM French Roast Coffee in partnership with the University of Louisiana.
The aromatic coffee is made with Arabica beans grown in Central America and South America. Widely considered to be some of the finest beans in the world, they're roasted and ground in New Orleans by Decatur Street Services and delivered to Mello Joy in Lafayette the same day for immediate packaging.
"We're in love with this custom blend," said Greg Elmore, Mello Joy general manager.
The new coffee was introduced at three Rouses Supermarkets in Lafayette and one in Morgan City, and in Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns Store. The custom blend will be stocked in other retail outlets, including Albertson's, Drug Emporium and Associated Grocers stores, after Feb. 21.
Elmore said the plan is to expand statewide availability in coming months.
"Our goal is to get bigger and bigger. This is a brand we plan to stand behind," Elmore said.
The new coffee joins other consumable products developed in partnership with the University of Louisiana. Others include Louisiana Ragin' CajunsTM Genuine Louisiana Ale; Louisiana Ragin' CajunsTM Genuine Louisiana Lager; Ragin' Red, a blend of spices; and the Ragin' Cajun Burger, which is sold at Sonic Drive-Ins during football season.
The products are licensed through Collegiate Licensing Company. Proceeds from the coffee sales will be used to support the University of Louisiana's academic, research and athletics programs.
Curtis Ball, roast master and manager at Decatur Street Services, collaborated with Louisiana and Mello Joy representatives to come up with its distinctive flavor.
Ball is one of only about 3,500 Q Graders in the world, coffee connoisseurs who have been certified by the non-profit Coffee Quality Institute. The designation requires extensive training, knowledge and industry experience.
Ball, who describes his occupation as akin to that of a sommelier, led a series of cuppings, or coffee tastings, while developing the custom blend. Much like wine, coffee is tested for quality, flavor and aroma by smelling and sipping samples.
An integral part of the process requires letting coffee – brewed to predetermined dark roast specifications – steep for several minutes, or long enough to form a "crust." The term refers to coffee grounds that rise to the top of the liquid. Once the crust is "broken" by jostling the cup, the coffee's aroma is released.
The biggest release of aromas occurs at about four minutes, according to Ball.
He describes Ragin' Cajuns French Roast Coffee as "a dark roast with a lot of body, and a sweetness, a chocolaty flavor."
Courtney Jeffries, assistant director of Creative Services for the University of Louisiana's Office of Communications and Marketing, designed the new coffee's bag. It features a vintage porcelain pot and two cups brimming with coffee.
She painted the original image by dipping a brush into coffee. She rendered contrasting hues on the predominantly brown package using a variety of techniques.
"The bag is like nothing else on the shelves. It looks like the table you grew up sitting around," Elmore said.
Ragin' CajunsTM French Roast Coffee signals the continuation of a partnership between Louisiana and Mello Joy that began in 2014. That's when the Ragin' Cajuns Strong Championship Blend was introduced as a novelty coffee. It celebrated multiple Sun Belt Conference Championships that had been won by University athletic teams.
The championship blend was packaged in a small, commemorative bag that featured the University's colors and its athletics logo. The package was emblazoned with photos of coaches who had guided University teams to recent SBC Championships.
Elmore said the new, custom blend – and the bag that holds it – were produced to occupy a permanent space in the marketplace.