Like many Southwest Louisianans, Mike Richard, Jr. and his wife, Yao, love coffee. In fact, the Richards like it so much that they decided to create their own brand – Orange Island Coffee – a throwback to Jefferson Island’s former name. In the 19th century, extensive citrus groves were planted on the island to feed Civil War Troops, leading to the moniker “Orange Island.”
Back in 2017, the Richards used to purchase coffee from a friend who had a coffee subscription business. Then, they decided to purchase a small machine to ground premium beans at home. Once the Richards started creating small batches for themselves, their friends tasted them, and liked them so much that they decided to buy the exotic coffees from the Richards. Eventually, the couple purchased a commercial machine and industrial equipment to purchase more varieties.
In March 2018, the Richards officially launched Orange Island Coffee. The coffees are sourced from premium beans originating in coffee-producing countries worldwide, and roasted on Jefferson Island about a mile from Rip Van Winkle Gardens across Lake Peigneur. “Our coffee is carefully roasted in micro batches to order ensuring freshness and maximum flavor,” according to the website.
Coffee lovers can also peruse and purchase Orange Island’s unique brands online at www.orangeisland.com. There, you’ll find new arrivals from areas around the world, including Ethiopia, where coffee originated; Burundi, Kenya, Colombia, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Java and Sumatra. “We have ten varieties now,” Mike Richard says. “It just depends on what’s available or not available all year. We just keep sampling new types.” Online, you can also buy the coffee beans whole or ground for $12.00 per pound. Flavors change regularly on the website, so be sure to stay up to date.
The Richards enjoy traveling, sampling coffees everywhere they go. “We’ve tried coffees from Texas to Thailand,” Richard explains. They recently returned from Thailand, his wife’s home country, tasting indigenous coffees along the way. “We’d like to start importing from Thailand at some point, but not now,” he says.
Orange Island’s coffees are “not mainstream.” The beans all come from different countries and have unique tastes. And, unlike the brands you find on grocery store shelves, Orange Island’s coffees are fresh and retain their original flavors. “It’s different than the coffee you get in stores,” Richard says. “You lose a lot of flavors in the first two weeks in a store. When these coffees get old, they get acidic and bitter. But, if you have really good coffee, you can enjoy it black on its own.”
Personally, Richard’s favorites change all the time. “I like rotating through different flavors,” he says. “There are thousands of them to try. I keep getting new samples every day.”
Why did the Richards decide to get into such a niche area? “We love coffee,” Richard shares. “That’s the really the main reasons we are in the business.”
Richard emphasizes that the nothing is added to any of the coffees Orange Island offers. “Just coffee and no added flavor,” he says.
Through Orange Island Coffee, the Richards’ goal is “just to produce really good, small batch coffees,” and “to keep quality high and prices low. We are offering something that highlights different flavors than people are accustomed to.”