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Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee: Rich Tradition, Richer Beans

Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Ocho Rios

The Eclectic History of One of the World’s Most Exclusive Coffee Beans

Unless you are a hardcore coffee connoisseur, or at the very least a barista with an uncommon knowledge of your craft, you might not know much about Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Why should you? It’s nowhere near among the most popular coffees in the world. But, like usual, quantity is not quality.

Grown in the mountain range of the same name just north of Kingston, the unique conditions produce a coffee bean with no equal, according to many coffee experts around the world.

Here are some fascinating things worth knowing about the renowned and rare beans.

Getting High Makes Blue Mountain Coffee Special

Forget plateaus, valleys or even rolling hills, part of what makes Blue Mountain Coffee so special is that it only grows on steep mountainsides between 3,000 and 5,000 feet. The humidity of the mountain range, its favorable drainage and other uncommon conditions produce a denser bean, which equates to better quality.

Less is More When it Comes to Blue Mountain

Jamaica produces only 4 to 5 million pounds of coffee every year – a tiny amount compared to even modest coffee-producing countries like Honduras, which produces more than 4 times that amount. At the other end of the spectrum is Brazil, the largest coffee producing country in the world, with 5.7 billion (with a “b”) pounds.

Government Sanctioned Quality Control

In 1950, after worldwide demand for the region’s coffee beans led to a production race that temporarily reduced the quality of the beans, the government stepped in and created The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica (CIB). Since then, CIB monitors all aspects of the industry and enforces strict regulations on production, sorting, tasting and quality control to maintain its standing.

Blue Mountain for Adults

The richness and smooth flavor of the famous Blue Mountain beans are not just confined to good old cups of coffee. Tia Maria dark liqueur – Jamaica’s answer to Kahlúa – is made with Blue Mountain coffee beans, and increasingly the beans are used in a variety of cocktails.

At Island Coffees Café in Ocho Rios, they feature a full menu of coffee cocktails in addition to serving up Blue Mountain Coffee hot for locals and visitors. Among the most popular are Mountain Toddy, made with Blue Mountain Coffee, Blackwell Rum and full cream, and Coffee Blue, made with Curacao and coffee.

Most Blue Mountain Ends Up Half the World Away

Blue Mountain Coffee’s reputation often precedes it when visitors come to Jamaica, a fact that ensures high-end hotels and resorts will make it readily available to them. “It’s quite popular among our guests,” says social concierge Kemarlo Clarke at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, “Our coffee-drinking guests usually ask about Blue Mountain coffee and request it at our restaurants and coffee shops.”

Still, Clarke admitted that the exclusivity of the brand makes it most popular among the middle and upper classes in the local population. Half a world away, in Japan, however, they are consuming it in large quantities. The Japanese’s love affair with Blue Mountain means they take up to 80 percent of the crop every year.