Jun 20, 2011
I recently had the pleasure of touring PJ’s roasting facility on North Peters, just outside of the French Quarter, and sitting down and talking to Roastmaster Felton Jones. I asked him about the title and he first chuckled, but then turned serious. “You know,” he said, “People are experts about a lot things. You have the Brewmaster with beer, and really the process behind roasting coffee is no less intensive, so I think the name works.”
Felton’s passion for coffee was obvious right from the start. He told me he has worked with coffee for 17 years, 15 of which have been with PJ’s. He started out as a delivery driver, thinking he was simply he was taking a job and not something that could become a career. He credits Phyllis Jordan (PJ) with instilling her knowledge and love of coffee in him. “PJ always had a way of making the process behind the cup of coffee interesting,” he said, “Always sharing her joy and passion for coffee, both with her employees and the customers.”
At the beginning of June, PJ’s introduced their new flavor, Southern Wedding Cake. True to its name, Felton explained that it starts off with a vanilla flavor, and finishes with almond. The story behind the new flavor is one that displays PJ’s’ dedication to its customers. It started with a “suggestion box” of sorts, where anyone could go and suggest a new flavor on their Facebook page. Felton said that there were a lot of great ideas, but also some bizarre ones. He and the other great people at PJ’s narrowed it down
to five finalists, and again, let the people vote. “We have great coffee-loving customers, and they got it right. I think part of what keeps them coming back to us is that we always offer a great cup of coffee, and they showed their knowledge by choosing this flavor.”
He also tried to dispel the negative reputation flavored coffees can carry: “I know there is a stigma out there about flavored coffees, and I used to be a little bit of a flavored coffee snob myself, but I can honestly say that, as a coffee drinker, I enjoy a cup of Southern Wedding Cake.”
I concluded my visit to the roasting facility with a tour. I saw the green (raw/unroasted) coffee beans, the roaster, the flavor-roaster, and the packaging machines. Felton walked me through the process, explaining that all the coffee served at all PJ’s comes through this facility. He showed me the different beans from different countries, and explained their purposes “Brazilian beans tend to be milder, better for flavored coffee.” He showed me the packaging they use, with a small vent on it. “Freshly roasted coffee beans emit gases. If we didn’t put this vent on here, the bag would explode.” When I asked about vacuum-sealed coffee, Felton laughed and said, “I’m not trying to speak badly about any of our competitors, but if you have vacuum-sealed coffee, it is not fresh.”
Out of this experience, aside from tasting the delicious Wedding Cake coffee, I learned a lot about coffee from a man who clearly has a passion for it. My final question for Felton was what the future holds for PJ’s coffee. He smiled one last time and said, in addition to keeping the coffee great, and a potential new variety, that I’ll “Just have to wait and see.” After my visit, my future coffee drinking plans have me exclusively at PJ’s.