Japan’s Crave for Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
June 26 - 2021
Coffee Geography Magazine
As director of Japanese coffee importer Ataka Trading Co, Kamiyoshiwara has visited Jamaica's coffee plantations in person. But Blue Mountain Coffee means so much even to Japanese fans who are unlikely ever to visit Jamaica that they have set aside a day, January 9, in its honor.
"Jamaican coffee was first imported to Japan in the early 1950s, at the very start of the economic recovery after the war years and as some people finally had enough money again to buy premium coffee," he said.
"In those days, Blue Mountain Coffee was promoted by small-scale roasters in Japan as the coffee that the British royal family drank, so it was the one that everyone hoped to be able to have," Kamiyoshiwara added.
"But it was also important as we associate Jamaican coffee with a high-quality import that was available again and meant that the worst years after the war were behind us."
Initially, imports had to come from the UK and it was not until 1952 that the first shipment direct from Jamaica was unloaded in Japan. Its popularity soon caught on and imports grew steadily for the next 30-plus years until, by the late 1980s, Japan was importing fully 90% of the coffee bearing the Blue Mountain logo.
Despite its popularity in Japan, the Jamaican coffee industry has experienced a number of major setbacks in recent decades. Most plantations were devastated in a huge hurricane that hit the Blue Mountains in 1988 and crippled production.
Ataka Trading is one of six Japanese companies that make up the Association of Japanese Importers of Jamaican Coffee and were instrumental in the 2018 naming of January 9 as Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Day in Japan.
The date is significant, Kamiyoshiwara said, as it was the day on which a cargo ship left Kingston port carrying 1,400 bags of Jamaican coffee, more than 60% of the entire 1967 crop. It was such a significant deal — for both countries — that it was the lead story in Jamaican newspapers the next day.
A Jamaican newspaper in 1967 reported (top right) about the shipment of 1,400 bags of Jamaican coffee
Norman Grant, president of the Jamaica Coffee Exporters' Association, praised the efforts of 5,000 coffee farmers and 102,000 coffee plantation families for their hard work in a year that has proved significantly more challenging because of the coronavirus pandemic and called on them to redouble their efforts in the year ahead.
"Let's sip and share a cup of the world's best coffee, the King of Coffees, and experience this sophisticated coffee experience," he said. "Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, the winning bean and a coffee of unmatched quality."