The peaks of Jamaica Blue Mountains are raised 7,402 feet above sea level, it is the highest spot in Jamaica. It is also the fifth highest mountain in the Caribbean. The lush vegetation gives the peak a greenish blue hue. The mountains rise up above the Kingston and overlook the eastern part of Jamaica. It is within these mountains that the world’s finest and best known, single origin coffee grows.
In the world of coffee, very few coffee drinkers have ever tasted any single origin or estate coffee. Most coffee drinkers consume blended coffee or better known as graded coffee. A very lucky few have tried Jamaica Blue Mountain or Hawaiian Kona coffee and knows that the coffee’s origin makes a world of difference.
So why is Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee so great? There are several factors, Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is exported by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. They certify what is called Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee actually comes from the legally designed growing area for the coffee. They also inspect each barrel for quality, checking the bean size and color. Qualified professional tasters roast a small samples and “cup” the coffee to certify it was properly processed and has the aroma and taste that distinguishes Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
But it is the exclusive location and microclimate that makes the coffee great. The area where Blue Mountain coffee is grown is high in the mountains. The mountains are mostly covered in forest, which provides shade in which to grow the coffee. The area in which Blue Mountain coffee is grown because of the altitude, climate, and forest cover provides the best conditions for growing the finest coffee in the world.
All of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is grown from the Arabica species of coffee. Many of the Arabica trees are descendants from the first trees imported from Martinique, where coffee was first introduced into the Caribbean. There have been some planters starting to experiment with some new varietals, but Arabica is far away the most planted coffee tree.
The elevation is one of the most critical aspects to be certified as Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. All Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee must be cultivated at an elevation between 1,800 and 5,500 feet. The higher elevations makes significant differences in the quality of the coffee. The higher the altitudes produce a denser bean, which makes a richer cup of coffee.
Jamaica Blue Mountains climate is cooler than the rest of Jamaica, the Blue Mountains are located on the Eastern end of Jamaica. Which exposes the mountains to moisture laden North East trade winds. These winds hit the coast and rise up into the mountains, generating significant cloud cover and mist as they hit the cooler air of the higher elevations. Due to the cloud cover it slows down the development of the coffee cherries. The long ripening has a very positive effect on the aroma and taste of the coffee produced from these trees.
Jamaica has some of the richest and most fruitful soil in the Caribbean, but not in the Blue Mountains. The soil there is lacking from both metamorphic and igneous rocks and is quite porous and prone to leaching. The soil in the Blue Mountains is very low in many of the nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen. The coffee trees grow slowly and the production is lower than any other coffee producing area of Jamaica or the world. It is not known why the soil in which Blue Mountain coffee is grown, has produced an exceptional tasting coffee, but maybe it has to do with the extra stress from growing in soil with little to no nutrients.
All the factors combine has created a very rich, smooth cup of coffee. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is generally low in acid.