Learn Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
It’s heralded by the lucky few who’ve been fortunate enough to indulge in its delights as one of the finest coffees you’ll ever sip. But finding a 100% authentic bag of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee can prove to be a challenge, and if you do happen upon a retailer that stocks it, be prepared to spend more than you probably ever have before on a bag of beans.
Just why is Jamaican Blue Mountain (JBM) so difficult to find, and why is it so expensive? To better understand the special circumstances surrounding this uncommonly wonderful brew, it helps to have a bit of a background on the bean.
Coffee was introduced to the island of Jamaica in 1728 when the first seeds were planted by then-governor Sir Nicholas Lawes.
Since then, Jamaica has come to be appreciated for sharing many fantastic things with the rest of the world, but when it comes to coffee, the tiny island only ranks #43 on the list of top coffee producing countries. Their crops supply only a meager .01% of the world’s total coffee beans, pretty astounding when you consider just how sought after the Jamaican Blue Mountain product is.
The warm, humid environment makes for a great growing environment for the Arabica Typica bean, which is what is found in Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
It is worth noting, however, that not all Jamaican coffee is considered to be of the Blue Mountain variety, and there are extensive guidelines put in place to differentiate it from other coffee crops grown around the island.
1. The first such rule (and the most obvious), is that Jamaican Blue Mountain beans have to be grown along the beautiful Blue Mountain ridge. Located on the east side of the country, it’s the longest mountain range on the island, and it runs through a number of different parishes. That leads us to the second rule…
2. All Jamaican Blue Mountain must be grown within the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Mary, St. Thomas, or Portland parishes. Coffee beans harvested elsewhere are excluded from the esteemed classification.
3. JBM beans must be grown between altitudes of 3000-5000 feet above sea level. Anything grown at a different elevation doesn’t make the cut.
The flavor of Jamaican Blue Mountain is why coffee lovers go to great lengths to score a bag and trying to explain it simply doesn’t do the brew justice. On the tongue, JBM is very smooth, with a barely-there degree of bitterness. It’s been described as being clean, mild, but also vibrant. There’s a very sweet, floral aroma, and the taste contains hints of nuts, cocoa, spices, and even a bit of creaminess. The taste profile is actually somewhat of a phenomenon, as many of its inherent qualities aren’t commonly found working together in such perfect harmony. But not only do they work together in the case of JBM, but the myriad of flavors also complement each other in ways that have to be enjoyed first-hand to truly understand.
Why It’s So Expensive
Most coffee grown around the world is done so on flat land, but Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is grown on top the Blue Mountain Ridge, which isn’t necessarily the easiest of places to work coffee crops. Thus, the process by which the coffee is harvested and the crops tended to is very laborious, and can even prove to be dangerous. Also, JBM isn’t produced in high numbers, and in doing so, the country is only able to crank out about 4-5 million pounds a year, which really isn’t a lot when you consider that other countries can easily produce ten times that much in a typical growing season. Of what is grown, 80% of that is exported to Japan. The remaining 20% is what’s left for the rest of us to fill our cups with.