So, this time I’m going to start this story with a little bit of a ‘silly’ fact: did you know that Jamaican Blue Mountain beans are the base of the Tia Maria coffee liqueur? Apparently yes and I think I’ll take that! 😊
GEOGRAPHY, CLIMATE and HISTORY
For over a hundred years, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee has been the world’s most prized coffee, fetching extremely high prices, in fact the highest.
Coffee was introduced to Jamaica in the early 1700s and what makes it authentic (and authenticity is something I will go into more detail later) is the specific area within the region in which it is grown. The region is the small area of the Blue Mountains on the eastern side of the island. The Blue Mountains are located between Kingston to the south and Port Antonio to the north. The mountains are some of the highest in the Caribbean rising to 2,256 masl.
It is then without doubt that the climate and the soil is perfect for growing coffee. The cool mountain temperatures, the volcanic soil with its excellent drainage and the abundant mist and rain is what gives this coffee its flavour.
So, as mentioned above, coffee arrived in Jamaica in the early 1700s and this is how the story goes:
Specifically, coffee was introduced in the country in 1728 when the first seeds were planted by the Governor at the time, Sir Nicholas Lawes. The seeds were introduced form Hispaniola, now Haiti in the parish of St. Andrew. Sir Nicholas Lawes was gifted the plant from the Governor of Martinique. Sir Lawes was already experimenting with crops and cultivation in the region and so he planted his gift, and the rest is history as they say!
Well…kind of…the natural conditions did prove to be favourable and the product was found to be of high quality. Cultivation expanded quickly and by the 1800s there were close to 686 plantations in operations and in 1838 the exports reached 15,000 tons. By 1850 only 186 plantations in operation with exports falling to just over 1,000 tons. One of the main reasons for the short-lived boom, had to do with the abolishment of the slave trade and therefore the lack of hand labour. Changes to the colonial trade agreements with Britain and awfully managed plantations also played a key role in the decline.
The good news? Things gradually picked up and in 1950 the Jamaican Coffee Board was set up. The Board was to address the issues arising in relation to quality within Jamaica’s coffee yields. This set up helped put Jamaica truly on the coffee map and has been able to give Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee the status it deserves with the processes put in place by the Board for quality control of the beans at every stage.
As mentioned, authentic Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the word because of its scarcity and because of this, it is also one that has been and still is ‘imitated’ so to speak, all around the world. This is hugely sad and unfortunately it is quite often that Jamaica Blue Mountain beans are put in a blend and mixed with others. More often than not, the companies doing this are quite upfront about what is included in the blend, however, the percentage of Blue Mountain coffee within the blend is – obviously – minimal.
THE MARK MATTERS
The Jamaica Commodities Regulatory Authority – previously known as the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica aka CIB – is the body which certifies Blue Jamaican Coffee as authentic. The seal of approval?
As plenty have and do still try to imitate the coffee with cheaper versions, these appalling practices obviously create confusion in the marketplace and harm the name of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. The Board therefore requires all 100% authentic Jamaican Blue Mountain to carry a mark of certification indicating that the product is indeed authentic.
AN INTERNATIONALLY PROTECTED BRAND
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee that is certified by the CIB and has the mark, wasn’t quite enough to protect it. The Coffee Industry Regulation Act has helped preserve Blue Mountain’s identity. How? By giving it a globally protected certification mark.
(yup! The one that is on our bag of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee! We are of course very proud of this!)
SPOTTING A FAKE!
Unfortunately, there is no way of avoiding the issue of calling something a Blue Mountain Blend and hence there is no protection for this, and this is where things seem to get muddled! These blends may contain a small percent – usually below 10% - of the authentic Blue Mountain coffee and this is where the confusion may lie in terms of the consumer. It’s a bit like most things in the food and drink industry whereby you can call something and claim an ingredient as long as it contains the minimum amount of that ingredient required in order to claim it is contained. Confused? Have a little search on the subject and you will see what I mean! You will be surprised!
So, we have established there is no protection on blends, so the best way to go is to try and spot the authentic rather than the fake! Much easier this way round, believe me:
- PRICE – although many fakes try and replicate the price tag, most don’t so this is your first clue. If its cheap, it’s not real!
- BLENDS – it’s in the name – if it’s a blend it means it’s made up of various coffees which means that its mixed with other beans NOT Jamaican Blue Mountain. If its authentic, it’s not a blend!
- SEAL of APPROVAL – does the package have the certification logo? Yes? You’re good to go! It’s been approved so its authentic! You can trust the stamp!
- LOCATION – its fair to say that if your beans come from one of these Estates, then you can be sure you’re in good hands:
- Wallenford Estate
- Clifton Mount Estate – the oldest plantation still in operation – more info below! Yes, you guessed it, our coffee comes from here!
- Flamstead Estate coffee
- Greenwich Estate coffee
OUR COFFEE – CLIFTON MOUNT ESTATE
We have managed to source not only the authentic Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee but managed to bring you one that comes from one of the oldest coffee plantations in Jamaica (smug smile and just grown a few inches out of pride - Hee-hee).
The Estate is located in the heart of Blue Mountains and sits on the cool and misty slopes of St. Catherine’s Peak in the Newcastle region. Clifton Mount has been producing beans of a rare quality and aroma since the 1790’s! In 2004 John Martinez encouraged the Estate and so a mill was built within the Estate. This meant the coffee was processed on the property and this is why the coffee could then be offered as an estate coffee fitting with the elegant Great House.
The coffee here grows at an altitude of 2200 masl. and is prepared using a washed process – I guess the mill being built is a clue there! The beans undergo quite a stringent series of checks as part of the certification process, before they are loaded into barrels (yes, barrels not the usual jute sacks)
These barrels are made from Aspen wood and they are then taken to the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board who will inspect and label them as 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee beans ready for export to those who are licensed to purchase and distribute them.