The deep smell of an array of freshly roasted coffee beans wafts from the open doors of Right Bean Roasting. When one thinks of High Point Coffee, what comes to mind are the two local coffee shops, located either off of Jackson Ave. W. or nestled in the Historic Downtown Square.
Right Bean Roasting has been supplying a variety of fresh, distinctive roasts to coffee patrons for over 10 years.
The High Point Coffee roastery has been owned and operated by Rich Thomas and his partner, Joel Edlin, ever since the company’s move to Oxford from New Albany, Mississippi, six years ago. A specialty coffee roastery, Right Bean Roasting imports coffee from over 13 different countries, peppered throughout the region between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
“Most of the coffee we buy is from the same region, year in and year out, from small, independent farmers who sell through a co-op, and then it is brought here to the United States,” says Thomas.
The company purchases from the largest coffee producer in the world, Brazil, as well as Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Sumatra, India and Africa. When referencing the distinction of origin of the coffee bean, Thomas said, “It just depends on what particular blend or flavor profile we’re trying to achieve.”
The second largest producer of coffee in the world is Vietnam. However, coffee from Vietnam is a different style of coffee, called Robusta, a much more bitter bean that is predominantly sold in Europe and also used for making instant coffees.
Coffee is grown on a small tree or bush that produces edible fruits called “cherries,” which are hand-picked. The flesh of the “cherry” is stripped away to reveal the coffee bean, which is a seed, but is given the name “bean” because of its close resemblance to that of an actual bean. After being picked, the beans are cleaned.
In India, coffee beans are laid out on cement to be dried by the sun and washed, which is called “Monsooned Malabar” coffee, and in its raw state, almost looks like a peanut. The coffee is then sacked up by the kilo, 34-69 kilos depending on where it’s from, and shipped to the United States. Right Bean Roasting receives their beans from either the Port of New Orleans or the Port of Charleston in South Carolina.
A typical week at Right Bean Roasting is a mere three-man operation and goes as follows: On Monday and Tuesday, they receive the orders from stores and check their inventory. Tuesday and Wednesday, they roast the coffee. Thursday, the roasted beans are packaged for delivery to local stores or shipment via FedEx to out-of-town stores. Friday, is generally clean up and book-keeping day.
The roasting process takes place in a 23 kilo, gas-powered roaster that can roast approximately 50 lbs. of coffee at a time, taking about 12 to 15 minutes per roast, depending on how dark you want the roast to be.
When the gauge reaches a certain temperature, the then green beans are dropped into the roaster where the cylinder spins the coffee around much like a washing machine.
Different beans go through different stages at different times. Generally speaking, Thomas and everyone else in the business make reference to “the crack.” During the roasting process, the bean expands and the moisture begins to escape the bean at about 365- 372 degrees, which is referred to as the “first crack.”
The second crack generally occurs around 420-425 degrees. Most roasts are judged between those two cracks. A light roast occurs somewhere before the “second crack,” whereas a dark roast occurs somewhere after the “second crack,” and the medium roast occurs right around that “second crack.”
Once the beans reach the desired style, they are dropped into the cooling tray, which has a fan beneath it that pulls the smoke away from the product. The beans are then dropped into a carrier and transported to the “weigh and fill” station, where they are packaged into either 5 lb. or 12 lb. bags for resale.
Toward the bottom of the roaster is the “chaff collector,” where all of the excess skin of the coffee bean or “chaff” is sent after sloughing off of the bean during the roasting process. Some companies grind that “chaff” back into the beans, but High Point Coffee is specialty grade, so in this case, the recycling of the chaff is skipped in order to keep the product as pure as possible.
“My whole interest in High Point Coffee has been to build a brand; something that I’m proud of and something that is a good product,” said Edlin.
High Point Coffee is mainly sold here in the state of Mississippi. Besides being distributed to the two licensed stores that most Oxonians are familiar with, High Point Coffee is also sold in some of the better restaurants in the area, throughout the Delta through an office coffee service, as well as in a few independent coffee shops.
“We also ship via the Internet to people all over the country, and we also have shops as far away as Salt Lake City, Utah,” Thomas said.
When asked about future endeavors for the company, Thomas said, “Anytime you’re in a small business, you either grow or wither. So, we need to continue to grow by gaining more customers via both the Internet and the local offices and restaurants.”
When asked what his favorite part about his experience with High Point Coffee was, Thomas said, “Well, I enjoy the independence and the creativity of making something that people enjoy.”
Right Bean Roasting has been supplying High Point Coffee to coffee enthusiasts and caffeine junkies alike for over a decade.