A product native to Reunion Island, Bourbon pointu is not only the best (and one of the most expensive!) coffees in the world: it is the heir to the history of the island. A history that involves Louis XV, Honoré de Balzac, a Japanese man and pastry chef Pierre Hermé... This premium blend coffee is served by leading Michelin-starred chefs.
"A very low caffeine content, a delicate flavour... A floral and fruity aroma with notes of musk, rhubarb, pineapple, rose and spices..." And this is not just anyone singing the praises of the "Bourbon pointu" Reunionese coffee: it is Pierre Hermé, chocolate specialist whose creations have connoisseurs swooning. The Parisian pastry chef is not the first to rave about the aroma and flavour of Bourbon pointu: its fans have included the King of France Louis XV and the writer Honoré de Balzac as well as, more recently, Michelin-starred chefs Thierry Marx and Anne-Sophie Pic! And travel forums give it pride of place...
Its unusual story began in 1715: the coffee plants of the coffee variety Coffea arabica, which originates in Ethiopia, were brought from Yemen to Bourbon Island (Reunion was at the time in the possession of the King of France) to be cultivated there. `the plants thrived so well in the Reunion climate that, little by little, they began to acquire their own identity: Bourbon pointu coffee (Coffea arabica cv. laurina) is in fact the result of the continual mutation of ordinary Bourbon coffee. A more rounded leaf, cherries (fruits) that are pointed, just like the beans, nicely elongated: it is easy to understand how it got its name! In the 18th century the island became one of the main suppliers of coffee to Europe.
Fate appeared to be smiling on Bourbon pointu: however, the sugar cane that occupied the available arable land, followed by a disease of the leaves dealt it a fatal blow. At the beginning of the 1880s, all of the plants were decimated and cultivation abandoned. All? Thankfully not! However, it would have to wait until the beginning of the 2000s before the story took an unexpected turn... Everything is said to have begun with the visit of a Japanese man, Mr Yoshiaki Kawashima, research director at the Ueshima Coffee Company who had but one obsession: to revive the coffee of the King! A strenuous search enabled the identification of 30 authentic Bourbon pointu plants, which had managed to survive in spite of the time passed and the weather conditions. These were carefully extracted and then cultivated in nurseries... The International Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development then launched an appeal encouraging cultivation by Reunionese planters.
An exceptional coffee
Today there are around sixty of these planters to the east and south of the island, working solo or together in collectives to produce this coffee which, like a monarch, requires time and attention: from October to February the plants are inspected on a daily basis, the cherries picked when perfectly ripe, and the husks then carefully removed before harvesting the bean. This then undergoes a process of fermentation and drying, before roasting... and the reward: a simply exceptional coffee, with a low level of bitterness and a low caffeine content, and with complex and charming aromas. So perfect that in 2007, the Speciality Coffee Association in Japan awarded the rare distinction of "premium coffee" to this product "that is entirely without fault". Evidently quality such as this costs and costs dearly, at more than 200 euros per kilo! And at this price, it is worth considering the following: to prepare, use a French press in preference over any other device, with water heated to 94° for 5 minutes... and succumb to this coffee's charm !
The coffee growers of Reunion have formed an association: the Route des caféiers (routedescafeiers.com) provide tours of their coffee plantations, culminating in a tasting session. Mongi and Martine Sliti (fermesliti.wordpress.com) also sell their certified organic coffee directly out of their plantation in Bois de Nèfles Saint-Paul at an altitude of 1000m, as well as at the Saint-Paul market: in any case, you can expect an unforgettable experience...