Taste is perhaps the most subjective of the senses, highly variable from one individual to the next. This is why there aren’t many coffee varieties out there that a whole lot of experts can agree are better than any other. Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is the exception.
Its origin can be traced back to three coffee plants sent as a gift from King Louis XV to the French colony of Martinique, 1,900 miles south-east of Jamaica in the Caribbean in 1723. Five years later the Governor of Jamaica, then under British rule, received a gift of one plant from the then Governor of Martinique and the rest as they say is history.
From that one single Arabica Typica plant, nurtured in the majestic Blue Mountains around Kingston, one of the most extraordinary coffees was introduced to the world. The unique climate of the Blue and John Crow Mountains is responsible for a range considered to be of “Outstanding Universal Value” in terms of cultural and natural heritage. As one of the 78 most irreplaceable protected areas for the conservation of the world’s amphibian, bird and mammal species the region was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2015.
Out of that same climate, 3,000 feet above sea level, with regular rainfall and misty cloud cover, combined with fertile, nitrogen and phosphorus-rich volcanic soil, comes a full-bodied coffee with exceptional sweetness, aroma, and exquisite flavour. Regarded by many as the best in the world, Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is the first true speciality coffee and has been in production for over 200 years. The cultivation area is relatively small and exportable annual production varying between 400 to 1,000 metric tonnes is tiny by world standards, equivalent to 0.1 % of Colombian production. Highlighting its scarcity and exclusivity is the fact that Jamaica Blue Mountain is virtually the only coffee in the world to be packed in iconic wooden barrels, instead of bags.
Jamaica’s coffee industry is one of the most structured, governed by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) who issues licences to all relevant stakeholders, from farmers, exporters, importers and brand owners who wish to market their coffee as Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee ™. JACRA sets strict standards for the growing, harvesting, processing and marketing of the coffee, making sure that the end result is nothing short of perfection. Every barrel of coffee must go through JACRA for quality control where the coffee is rigorously inspected before it is exported, quality is paramount and strictly controlled, ensuring that all Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee leaving Jamaica is of the highest quality.
Peaberry is a mutation that naturally occurs in around 5% of JBM coffee beans, where a cherry contains just one seed instead of two. These beans are denser and have a rounder, larger shape than your common beans. This results in a unique taste that many coffee drinkers argue is often more balanced than normal coffee, sweet, bold, and intensely aromatic. This coffee is super-rich, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most sought-after beans in the world.
Here are some of the best tasting JBM coffee brands available today;
Disclaimer: This list is not in any hierarchical order and is by no means exhaustive
With all high-end luxury brands, there is a high incidence of counterfeiting by unscrupulous persons and unfortunately, Blue Mountain Coffee has also been subjected to this type of fraud or in some cases excessively blended with inferior quality beans. Always be sure that the coffee you are purchasing has the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Seal. Sherwood Forest Estate is one innovator in the industry that has begun to use blockchain technology as a means of safeguarding against counterfeiters offering traceability throughout the entire supply chain from farm to cup.
January 9, is celebrated around the world as Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Day.