Jamaica’s coffee production began in 1728 when the governor of Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, imported 8 seedlings from Martinique which he then planted on his property at Temple Hall in St Andrew. It’s said that this was the first-time coffee was ever cultivated in Jamaica.
Over the next 10 years, the coffee industry continued to expand with the importation of seedlings becoming more commonplace and farmers began to set up their own plantations. The end of the 18th century saw the Haitian revolution occur and with it, the country saw an influx of refugees who brought valuable coffee processing knowledge to Jamaica.
Over the next few decades, the gourmet coffee that arose out of the country took the world by storm and soon earned Jamaican coffee the reputation of being some of the best around the globe.
Today, Jamaica has one of the most ideal growing conditions for coffee in the whole world. This is thanks to the fertile, volcanic soil that’s rich in nitrogen and phosphorous that has everything coffee plants need to thrive. Additionally, the climate features regular rainfall and cloud cover from the burning sun.
When it comes to Jamaican coffee beans, they all have to be carefully handpicked as they’re grown at such high altitudes, but this also allows for quality control at the place of harvesting . Once they’re picked, the beans are removed from the cherry, dried, cured and sorted, a process that takes around 8 weeks as the beans need to be dried for 6 weeks.
Thanks to the establishment of The Coffee Industry Board, all coffee grown in Jamaica is highly regulated for quality, so it’s very unlikely you’ll ever sample a bad batch.
Jamaican coffee is highly prized for its flavour and it’s said to be sweet with a full body and mild acidity.
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is widely considered some of the best in the world. Grown high up in the Blue Mountain (hence the name), in order to be considered this type it must be grown at heights between 3,000 and 5,500ft and be produced in the parishes of Portland, St. Andrew, St. Tomas or St. Mary. Coffee grown between 1,500 - 3,000ft is called Jamaican High Mountain, whereas coffee grown below 1,500ft is known as Jamaica Lowlands or Jamaica Supreme. The highest point of the Blue Mountain is 7,500ft, but no coffee is grown beyond 5,500ft.
Jamaican Blue Mountain plant cultivation is extremely strict and The Coffee Industry Regulation Act is responsible for deciding what coffee fits the requirements and uses the Blue Mountain Label. The Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Authority also restricts the use of the Blue Mountain trademark.
Interestingly, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is the only coffee in the world that’s packed and shipped in wooden barrels. This is due to the long-lost tradition from the 18th century when coffee would be shipped to Europe in wooden barrels.
The flavour of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is smooth and without bitterness. It’s sweet tasting with a fruity and floral aroma and possesses notes of nuts, cocoa, spices and a slight creaminess.