The Story of The Rare Jamaica Blue Mountain® Coffee
Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is reputed to be one of the best-tasting coffees in the world. Although best-tasting is subjective, its unique flavor due to its growing conditions, strict industry regulations and small amount produced yearly means a flavorful cup of coffee.
Why Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is the Best
Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after crude oil.
Jamaica is well down on the list of coffee producers, producing approximately 13 to 14 million pounds per year. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best Arabica coffees in the world.
The Jamaican coffee industry has strict geographical boundaries, which define the coffee classified as Jamaica Blue Mountain. It is certified by rigid inspection by the Jamaican Coffee Industry Board that certifies cultivating, production and exportation.
Growing Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee in Jamaica
Blue Mountain Coffee is grown at elevations above 3000 ft. in the mountains close to Kingston which is a small geographical area as compared to other coffee growing countries.
Coffee plants need to be well-watered, well-drained and experience periodic coolness during some stages of development. The periodic coolness of the mists of the Blue Mountains and unusual volcanic soil give it its unique taste. Blue Mountain Coffee is sweet, aromatic, rich in flavour and full bodied with mild acidity.
Coffee trees are planted in small groups as the terrain can be as steep as 70 degrees making planting and cultivation a challenge. Trees grow up to 10 metres high, though they are kept at 3 meters to ease picking. Additionally, due to this geography the farms are small. Blue Mountain Jamaica coffee is cultivated, picked and the beans are sorted by hand. making it extremely labour intensive. Due to cool mountain conditions, Jamaican coffee takes about twice as long to grow or about 10 months in comparison to other countries.
This and the fact that up to 70% is shipped to Japan make Blue Mt. Coffee scarce and therefore more expensive. The Japanese market share has fallen from 95 per cent 25 years ago with both the United States and Europe growing over the period.
The Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association is rebuilding the brand in the Japanese market and market it to a younger generation of coffee consumers. With reduced demand for coffee in all markets currently, the JCEA is trying a multipronged strategy. A similar approach will be taken for the United States and Europe.
A Brief History
King Louis of France sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique. Five years later in 1728 Sir Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica, received a gift of one coffee plant from Martinique. And from that one plant the Jamaican coffee industry had its start.
The Haitian Revolution brought coffee-growing Haitians to Jamaica. Once emancipation took place however, many slaves left the coffee plantation to grow food, and coffee production became a much smaller peasant crop. The industry decline came to a head when Canada, in 1943 refused to buy Jamaican coffee due to its poor quality. Government then stepped in to rehabilitate the coffee industry and the Coffee Industry Board was born, now called the The Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority, Coffee Division.
Thanks to this highly regulated board, the Jamaican coffee industry has flourished and Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is treasured world-wide.
The question now must be answered in cold, empirical terms. Is it truly the world’s best coffee? Any answer is subjective but there are many who have stood tall and declared their allegiance. Among the champions was author Ian Fleming. Fleming, who lived part time in Jamaica, would not allow his literary hero (and man of taste), James Bond, to drink any other. As Bond sits down for breakfast in a page of “Live and Let Die,” Fleming declares outright: “Blue Mountain® coffee, the most delicious in the world…”
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Jacqueline Cameron is a writer with decades of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. She is a trained engineer and musician and loves to see people transformed through her work.