Jamaica's Blue Mountain Coffee - A Peek Inside This Celebrated Brew

By Joe Maldonado

Jamaican Blue Mountain ranks among the best and is probably the most celebrated coffee in the world. To protect the natural habitats of rare and indigenous wild life, the government has designated vast areas of these mountains as National Parks for cultivation of this hidden treasure.

The result is that the production area for this coffee is forever limited. Moreover, the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica regulates the evaluation of the coffee in a central grading and sorting facility in Kingston. Of course, the coffee itself provides a reliable source of revenue for the country so farmers are inclined to take good care to nurture their crops and ensure ongoing support for their families.

Estate-produced coffees that grow over 3,000 feet in the Blue Mountain Range are deemed authentic Blue Mountain, and of those produced, Wallenford Estate is the best. There are many impostors on both sides; those that sell "Jamaican Coffee" that isn't actually grown in the Blue Mountain region and roasters who sell "Jamaican Blue Mountain style" blends that may have characteristics of Blue Mountain, but have no Blue Mountain in the blend at all.

The truth about this very special coffee is that the cooler microclimate resulting from the altitude and frequent cloud cover means that the beans are harvested after 10 months on the bush, instead of every 5 or 6 months. The coffee cherry ripens more slowly and produces a larger, harder cherry with a more concentrated flavor.

This is a great tasting coffee. Not just a coffee exhibiting good body and aroma, but true acidity which enhances overall flavor and enjoyment.

This ensures that buyers get their money's worth when buying the quality gourmet coffee they expect. Most Jamaican coffee grows on the once forested lower slopes of the Blue Mountains. Coffee harvested at 3,000 to 5,000 feet in altitude is Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Coffee harvested at 1,500 to 3,000 feet is certified as Jamaica High Mountain Coffee. Coffee harvested at 1,500 feet and below is certified as Jamaica Supreme or Jamaica Low Mountain Coffee.

The two largest coffee producers in Jamaica are Wallenford Estate and the Moy Hall Cooperative. At one time, Wallenford Estate was one of the most celebrated and best of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffees. Nowadays, the term Wallenford Estate refers to any Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee from Wallensford mill. The Moy Hall Cooperative has about 1,500 small coffee farmers supplying beans to the Moy Hall Coffee Factory in Cedar Valley. The staff members, many of them coffee farmers, jealously follow the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board standards in order to maintain the prized certification labels for their coffee. This, in turn, translates into higher prices for their crops. The coffee reaping, selection, floating, re-floating, measurement, drying, grading, picking and sorting before export are very involved but necessary processes that guarantees coffee quality from crop to cup. This flavorful coffee is a favorite worldwide as 90% of all Jamaican coffee production is exported to Japan, the US and Europe.

Obviously, many of us are away from the island and not able to plan a back-road coffee adventure. So, get ready to give yourself a classy coffee treat right in the comfort of your own home. Purchase some freshly roasted Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee from your favorite coffee of the month club or specialty roaster nearby.

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