First, credit must be given to the Arabians for their part in the discovery, use and promotion of the Jamaican coffee bean and drink at the dawn of time. From as far back as A.D. 575, it is believed that Arabia is the first place to have a record of the plant’s cultivation. But how did the plant get to Jamaica?
Looking back to 1723, it is believed that King Louis XV sent over coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique – an island just 1,900 km southwest of Jamaica. Five years later the Governor of Jamaica received a plant from the Governor of Martinique. It was, of course, a hit and by the 1800s there were over 500 coffee bean plantations. But coffee production required a lot of attention; handpicking and much more work afterwards.
The 1890s saw the Jamaican coffee industry in shambles which lead the government to pass a legislation to provide “instruction in the art of cultivation and curing by sending certain districts, competent instructors”.
This lead, naturally to the decline of the product in the 1900s. So much so, that farmers began taking on other provisions that didn’t need as much work to produce. That is where the Jamaican Coffee Industry Board comes in. Their role was to manage the industry.
In fact, quality control became the focus for fifty years, in the 1900s. Two main events that sparked the most improvements were the establishment of a Central Clearing Coffee Operation in 1944 and the creation of the Jamaican Coffee Industry (JCIB) in 1950. Both organizations were created to ensure and maintain the quality and reputation of Jamaican coffee.
In 2018, JCIB was merged with other similar organizations to form JACRA, the Jamaican Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority.
Today, the country produces some of the world’s top brands. These include Jamaica Prime, Jamaica Select, High Mountain Supreme and Blue Mountain Coffee.
Most people will more readily recognize the popular brand, the Blue Mountain Coffee which is grown in the heights of the Blue Mountain. All Jamaican coffee is highly regulated and only the Coffee Board of Jamaica can label the country’s coffee accordingly.
Development of Jamaican coffee
For the coffee known and loved around the world, there are many factors that contribute to its flavor. Even before the picking process, the land itself gives the plant much to thrive off, which also gives the coffee its signature. In the fertile, volcanic soil, rich with nitrogen and phosphorous, the plant grows to get regular rainfall and cloud cover from the burning sun. All this culminates in a coffee with exceptional sweetness and aroma, rich flavor and full body with mild acidity.
Thanks to the trend of showing off latte art, the coffee industry has become much of what it is today. But, with that, comes some moral and ecological dilemmas. This has, in turn, forced the International Coffee Organization (ICO), to make efforts in promoting transparency of the coffee market. However, with doubts of the sustainability of the industry looming, a new market for ethically sourced products has developed – this may lead to misleading products trying to cash in on the hype.
ICO, created in 1963 by the United Nations, has made efforts into a more multifaceted look into coffee, coffee producers and production. This brings us to the regulation practices of Jamaica to ensure that customers are getting the coffee they have paid for.
Regulations of Jamaican coffee
In Jamaica, there is the Ministry of Agriculture and its subordinate office, the Jamaica Agriculture Commodities Authority (JACRA Coffee Industry Board). These entities are responsible for the activities of the coffee sector. Furthermore, the Coffee Industry Development Company (CIDCO) is directly responsible for coffee production; giving assistance to farmers owning 1 hectare or 2.5 acres or more of dedicated land for coffee production.
The main qualifications of Blue Mountain coffee are, growing the plant at altitudes of up to 1,800 meters and production coming from the parishes of Portland, St. Andrew, St. Thomas and St. Mary.
Much like France’s strict control of its wine grapes, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee plant cultivation is just as strict. Therefore, the Coffee Industry Regulation Act specifies which coffee uses the Blue Mountain label and restricts the use of the trademark to produce authorized by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Authority.
Production of Jamaican coffee
Despite its popularity, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee actually makes up about 0.1% of the world’s total coffee production. On top of that, 80% of the country’s coffee is exported to Japan. Leaving the remaining 20% for the rest of the world to fight over. But before the beans can get to stores across the globe, it has to be hand-picked, removed from the cherry, dried, cured and then sorted. This can take up to 8 weeks as the beans are dried for 6.
Nevertheless, the result is the high-grade quality Jamaican coffee that so many desires. Another notch in the exclusivity of this coffee is that Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is the only coffee in the world packed in wooden barrels instead of bags.
Classification and Taste of Jamaican coffee
As for the taste, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee comes off very smooth with no bitterness. It has also been described as sweet, having a fruity and floral aroma with hints of nut, cocoa, spices and some creaminess. This proves as quite the phenomenon since many of these flavors aren’t found together nor do a lot of them usually complement each other the way they do in the case of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. But it has to be first-hand tried to be understood.
As previously mentioned, the coffee produced in St. Mary, St. Thomas, St. Andrew and Portland are the only products labelled Blue Mountain Coffee. However, more specifically, Blue Mountain Coffee is grown at heights between 3000 and 5500 feet, while coffee grown at heights between 1500 to 3000 feet are called Jamaica High Mountain and coffee grown at below 1500 feet is called Jamaica Lowlands or Jamaica Supreme. Though the highest point of the mountain is 7500 feet, there is no coffee grown beyond 5500 feet.
Having the coffee grown at such high altitudes can prove not only laborious but dangerous as well. Considering that the country doesn’t produce nearly as much coffee as many other countries around the world, a lot of care needs to be taken.
This also leads to a lot of copycat products made to capitalize on the brand’s exclusivity. Some of these dupes aren’t even doing anything wrong by industry standards. They will sell mixed blends and advertise them as such, but the amount of Blue Mountain coffee isn’t always enough to represent genuine Jamaica Blue Mountain. Luckily, there are steps to take when looking for the perfect cup of coffee.
- ALWAYS Check The Packaging – Remember that Jamaican Blue Mountain is produced completely in Jamaica. From growing, roasting, all the way to packaging, EVERYTHING is done on the island. If your bag of Blue Mountain says it was packed in Europe or the USA, there is a high chance it is not authentic.
- Avoid most blends – Honestly, many blends could have the famous bean among the bunch. Where this falls short, though, is that there is no minimum of Blue Mountain coffee required. At least make sure the blend is one you are of and can verify.
- Look For The Seal Of Certification – This is important. The Jamaican Coffee Industry Board stamp is shown on all genuine Blue Mountain beans. It’s a blue circle, inside of which is an image of a mountain, the island map, a barrel, and a coffee bean plant. This is a trusted seal of approval. Below is an image.
Additionally, if the more detailed aspect is of interest, there are three general grade types for the jamaican coffee and this is ranked by size and defects. The largest and most desired beans with the least defects are categorized as number 1 beans; number 2 and 3 beans gradually get smaller with more defects. Separately, there are peaberry beans; even smaller beans with a rugby ball shape as opposed to the usual flat bean.
The following is a list of different brands of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee with descriptions and the prices for each.
Jamaican Blue Mountain Blend Coffee
Medium roast; 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain blend; whole beans; 2 lbs; fresh, strong taste; price: $27.99
This coffee boasts a full-bodied taste that is rich yet incredibly smooth. Not to mention the ton of flavours of Jamaica. The whole beans, medium roast, freshly brewed strong cup of coffee will leave a nice, rich, and smooth flavour lingering for a moment with each sip. The medium roast creates the perfect balance of sweet aromas, moderate brightness, and a really rich taste. Unfortunately, there will never be enough.
Volcanica Coffee Company
Medium roast; 100% Pure Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee; whole bean; 16 oz; fruit flavor; freshly roasted; price: $99.99
From this brand, you get the taste of the best variety of coffee found in volcanic mountain elevations above 3,000 feet. Another coffee with a bold taste, Volcanica Coffee Company delivers a high-quality single-origin coffee considered by some to be the BEST coffee in the world. What stands out for this coffee brand are the sweet tones and the very delicate orange aroma complemented by floral and some buttery notes. Extra flavor notes include chocolate with the ending note being a slight mint-like experience as it cools down.
Cameron’s Coffee Roasted Ground Coffee
Medium-dark roast; 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain blend; grounded; 10 oz; organic, top 10% of Arabica coffee beans in the world, hand-crafted, sustainably sourced; price: $5.44
A speciality grade of the Arabica bean, Cameron’s boasts a smooth Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee that delivers complex flavors without the bitterness of over-roasting. Luckily, this flavourful experience can be created at home.
Authentic Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Bean by Plantation Blue
Medium roast; 100% Fresh Blue Mountain Coffee; whole bean; 16 oz; certified, vacuum packed; price: $66.97
This is a coffee designed for coffee lovers and newbies alike. You won’t be disappointed by the delicious mild, long-lasting flavour. This Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee medium roast is exceptional for its great taste and natural aromas. It is loaded with antioxidants, nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. There’s no need for adding anything else while drinking this coffee. You will, however, need to play around with the recipe to find your perfect taste. The coffee can easily come across bold for some.
Cameron’s Coffee Jamaica Blue Mountain Pods
Medium-dark roast; 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain; comes in pods; 3.91 oz; easy to make, flavorful, a box of twelve, real filter in the pods; price: $35.99
If you are one of those people who loves keeping things simple, then here is your perfect match! Loaded with rich flavor, smoothness, and delicate spiciness, this superior taste is brewed in a real coffee filter – not plastic. Each cup is always smooth and has the signature absence of bitterness. These are good for the environment and better for the Earth overall. Easy to make at home or even at the office, great for on the go. These are just perfect for the simplicity that they deliver with a lot of taste and very little work.
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee by Green Coffee Traders
Medium roast; 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain; whole bean; 1 lb.; authentic product, from an experienced roaster; price: $38.00
You will experience the deep flavors of this medium roast in each brewed cup. Wonderful aromas with very low acidity, it’s pure indulgence from the first sip. They produce some of the world’s best Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee with meticulous care and the finest packaging available today. They only source and stock the finest coffees in the world – making their quality superior. Each person will certainly experience something different with each sip.
San Francisco Bay Jamaican Blue Mountain Blend
Medium roast; pure; k-cups; 3.23 lbs.; Kosher; pack of eighty pods; compostable; price: $46.99
These individual pods give you the long-lasting effects of the perfect brew. If you enjoy a little sweetness and nutty flavors combined, then this is definitely worth a try. Its medium body gives just enough punch without the lingering bitterness or high acidity. Besides the convenience they offer, their packaging is also environmentally compostable. This family-owned business takes coffee sourcing very seriously and you can experience that in every cup of their premium coffee that has actually been perfected over three decades. This coffee has a nice balance of sweetness and nutty combined together in each serving. It’s processed with techniques that result in the highest possible quality coffee bean and freshness is guaranteed. The taste is consistent in each serving.
Coffee Traders Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
Medium roast; 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee; grounded; 8 oz; has a certificate of origin; genuine; price: $25.99
The climate conditions of the Blue Mountains are perfect to help make this one of the best and smoothest Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffees available today. It would be easy to describe this coffee as a perfect balance, but going one step further – it delivers on the highest note of authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Beans. It has this incredible aroma that fills your home. It opens all your senses while enjoying a cup of this perfection with no bitter flavor at all.
Coffee has been around for a long time. Somehow Jamaica has come through as its shining exemplar. Jamaica Coffee of all kinds prides itself on its rich taste with little bitter notes as well as its consistent quality throughout all brands. If you ever feel a little lost looking for the true Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee experience, trust the seal. Though expensive, the price is representative of the hard work and dedication put into delivering quality to every cup. With many types of coffee to choose from you are guaranteed to find your favorite taste.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.