Coffee is the world’s most popular hot drink, prepared from roasted coffee beans. According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil, with consumption listed at half a trillion cups per year. Humans have been drinking coffee for its stimulant properties for over one thousand years. Coffee beans were first introduced to Jamaica in 1728, and since then has had a long and intricate relationship with Jamaica’s culture and economy. Today we take a look at Jamaica’s coffee industry and figure out if Jamaican coffee is worth the hype or not.
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History of Coffee in Jamaica
The first coffee beans were brought to Jamaica in 1728, and planted in the hills of St. Andrew where conditions were the most favourable. The Jamaica Blue Mountains span four parishes: namely St. Andrew, St. Mary, St. Thomas and Portland. These tall rugged mountains receive Jamaica’s highest rainfall each year and are covered in a light mist throughout most of the day, which gives them their bluish hue and name. These cool wet conditions are ideal for coffee cultivation, and as such, Jamaica’s coffee was found to be of very high quality.
Coffee cultivation expanded rapidly and by 1800, 686 plantations were in operation. These plantations moved westward from the Blue Mountains to involve other central hilly regions of Jamaica such St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth. These premium Jamaica coffee grades grown outside of the Blue Mountain range are termed High Mountain coffee. In 1814, exports totaled 15,199 tons. However, coffee production sharply declined after the abolition of slavery in 1838 with the loss of a free labour force. By 1850, only 186 plantations were in operation and exports had fallen to 1,486 tons.
Let’s fast forward one hundred years later. In the 1940s, there were mounting international concerns regarding the consistency and quality of Jamaica’s coffee. This led to the formation of a Coffee Industry Board in 1953. This governing body led to the strict regulation and quality control standardization which Jamaica’s coffee desperately needed to restore its good name. What Jamaica lacks in land size to mass produce coffee, it makes up for by producing a reliable product which has garnered Jamaican coffee a global reputation for being among the world’s finest coffees.
The improvement in Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee product coincided with Japan’s post World War II recovery efforts. Japanese roasters marketed Jamaica’s smooth aromatic Blue Mountain coffee as the coffee drunk by royalty, which led to a massive demand for the product. As a result, 60-85% of Jamaica’s annual coffee product is shipped to Japan. The rest of the world has to make do with the remaining percentage, but thankfully authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee and JBM blends can be bought online on websites such as the JA Coffee online store.
Now, Is Blue Mountain Coffee Worth the Hype?
My answer is a resounding yes. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is worth the hype because of its mild smooth taste, sweet rich aroma and lack of bitterness. Blue Mountain coffee is the only coffee I’ve enjoyed so far without any additives. In fact, dare I say– it’s best enjoyed that way. No milk, no sugar, just plain black coffee. That’s when the rich complexities of Blue Mountain coffee’s flavour and aroma are best appreciated.
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark, meaning that only coffee certified by the Jamaica Commodities Regulatory Authority can be labelled as such. Blue Mountain coffee comes from Arabica beans which must be grown in the unique Blue Mountains terroir at elevations between 910 metres (3,000 feet) and 1,700 metres (5,500 feet). If you visit one of these coffee farms, you’ll realize that the steep inhospitable hillsides on which Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans are planted will always remain a rate-limiting step in expanding Jamaica’s coffee production. This relatively low supply for the high demand of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee drives the price up. This allows our coffee farmers to earn livable wages and maintain sustainable agricultural practices, so I’d say it’s worth the price. Also, Blue Mountain coffee beans are sorted many times by hand for grain defect, broken beans, size and insect damages. The official allowed defect rate for Blue Mountain coffee is under 2%.
Where to Get Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
If you haven’t already had Blue Mountain coffee, I hope by now you’re interested. You can get Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee in select supermarkets across Jamaica, as well as in local souvenir shops. Always read the labels to ensure that what you’re buying is authentic Blue Mountain Coffee. You can enjoy a Blue Mountain brew while touring a Blue Mountain coffee farm, or at some of these cafes in Kingston, Jamaica. Outside of Jamaica though, it gets a bit more difficult.
JA Coffee was founded in 2018 to fill the niche for authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain® Coffee in Canada. Its founders undertook the challenge of representing two of Jamaica’s best coffee estates. Their journey in the coffee industry has allowed them to learn, appreciate, and understand the nuances behind a great cup of coffee and the supply chain’s intricacies that support it.
JA Coffee buys green coffee beans from farms and cooperatives which give back to their communities through social programs, fair salaries, optimal working conditions and sustainable farming practices. Over time, JA Coffee has expanded their offerings to include other award-winning exotic green and roasted coffee beans from around the world, including Haiti– one of Jamaica’s nearest neighbours. Today, JA Coffee ships all over the world and offers wholesale pricing for commercial coffee roasteries. You can also purchase Jamaican artisan chocolate bars enriched with Blue Mountain coffee from their website.
I hope you enjoyed this look at Jamaica’s coffee industry. I feel privileged to come from an island which is renowned for producing some of the world’s best coffee beans. Have you had Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee before? If so, did you like it? Let me know in the comments below. Remember to subscribe for new posts each week.
Here’s how you can enjoy premium Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee at a discount!
Use my coupon code ADVENTURE10 to get 10% off your coffee ☕ purchases from jacoffee.ca. The discount is available from now until the 31st of January 2023. Orders ship WORLDWIDE.
Find JA Coffee on:
‘Til next time.