We have devised a method to select galaxies that are isolated in their dark matter halo (N = 1 systems) and galaxies that reside in a group of exactly two (N=2 systems). Our N=2 systems are widely separated (up to ~200 h-1 kpc), where close galaxy-galaxy interactions are not dominant. We apply our selection criteria to two volume-limited samples of galaxies from Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 6 (SDSS DR6) with Mr - 5 log10 h ≤ -19 and -20 to study the effects of the environment of very sparse groups on galaxy colour. For satellite galaxies in a group of two, we find a red excess attributed to star formation quenching of 0.15 ± 0.01 and 0.14 ± 0.01 for the -19 and -20 samples, respectively, relative to isolated galaxies of the same stellar mass. Assuming N = 1 systems are the progenitors of N = 2 systems, an immediate-rapid star formation quenching scenario is inconsistent with these observations. A delayed-then-rapid star formation quenching scenario with a delay time of 3.3 and 3.7 Gyr for the -19 and -20 samples, respectively, yields a red excess prediction in agreement with the observations. The observations also reveal that central galaxies in a group of two have a slight blue excess of 0.06 ± 0.02 and 0.02 ± 0.01 for the -19 and -20 samples, respectively, relative to N = 1 populations of the same stellar mass. Our results demonstrate that even the environment of very sparse groups of luminous galaxies influence galaxy evolution and in-depth studies of these simple systems are an essential step towards understanding galaxy evolution in general. © 2013 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.