Updated: Dec 7, 2019
Jamaica Blue Mountain® Coffee is the registered trade mark for the coffee grown in the deep rural Blue Mountains of Jamaica. This coffee is sought after world-wide for its distinctive aroma and subtle taste. The Blue Mountains of Jamaica are named for the blue mists that continually shroud them. The mountain ranges across the eastern section of Jamaica, 28 miles long and 12 miles wide. The Blue Mountains are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean, rising to 7,420 feet. Covered with rich soil having excellent drainage, the blue mountain region is perfect for growing coffee. Blue Mountain® coffee goes through several processes before being brought to the market. After reaping, the coffee is pulped, washed, dried, cured, hulled, graded by size then separated by density. The coffee is then roasted, vacuum-packed in high-quality foil bags with one-way valves giving the coffee maximum protection. Remember that the time between roasting and brewing will affect flavor - the shorter the better!
The Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Label
To be called Jamaica Blue Mountain, coffee needs to have been grown at an elevation between 3,000 ft (910 meters) and 5,500 ft (1,670 metres). Anything above 5,500 ft in Jamaica is forest preserve and the law forbids for coffee to be grown.
Even though coffee can be grown on the same mountains, the elevation plays a major role in the final quality of the beans. Anything grown under 1,500 ft (410 metres) is called Jamaica Supreme or Jamaica Low Mountain. It will produce a decent cup of coffee, but it will taste bitter, especially when compared to authentic Blue Mountain coffee. The beans that are grown at an elevation between 1,500 ft (410 metres) and 3,000 ft (910 metres) are called Jamaica High Mountain. They are more abundant then Blue Mountain beans, cheaper to buy, and generally do not taste as smooth.
The legally defined Blue Mountain range is between 3,000 ft and 5,500. So, anything grown in that range is authentic.
The Blue Mountain range itself is located on the Eastern end of the island and it consists of hilly and rugged terrain. The range covers 3 of 14 parishes and has Northern and Southern slopes.
Certifying Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
First, coffee is only collected once it is completely red, or cherry ripe. Each farm takes care of its own collection and it is mostly done by manual labor. Next, the beans are floated in water to remove the damaged underdeveloped ones. All Blue Mountain coffee is processed at the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory (MBCF). Once the farmers bring their selected coffee beans to the factory, the floating process is repeated. Next, collectors come in and collect it daily for pulping. During this process, the coffee is further inspected and washed to remove the mucilage. The final product is known as the wet parchment.
Drying the wet parchment can take up to 5 days, depending on weather conditions. Often times factories use mechanical driers to get the moisture of the beans to specific levels.
Beans need resting too. If the above sounds like a tiring process to you, that is because it is. The next phase of getting the coffee ready for distribution is called the resting period. This period takes around 10 weeks and is critical to how good the beans will turn out to be. Only after the resting period is over, can the hulling of the beans begin.
The green bean only emerges once the outer shell (husk) has been removed. The bean is then polished to remove excessive silver skin, and is finally ready for sorting.
Sorting is the final phase done by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (old name - the Coffee Industry Board). It involves a process of grading beans based on size and color. This is to eliminate beans, determine the quality and set future price.