In the Hardwar Gap of the Blue Mountains, north of Kingston, Jamaica, a handful of local people grow what is considered the best specialty coffee in the world: Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. These gourmet coffee beans are famous for a lack of bitterness and a mild flavor. Not only are Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans used for coffee, but they are also used as the flavor base for Tia Maria Coffee liqueur.
The Blue Mountains, situated between Kingston and Port Maria to the north reach 2,300 meters in some places. The region is cool, misty, and gets plenty of rain. The climate plus the rich soil with excellent drainage is considered perfect for growing coffee. Coffee is not native to Jamaica, but was imported in 1728. The beans did exceptionally well and are now a major Jamaican export. Japan imports 90% of the Blue Mountain Coffee. The taste is said to be clean, sweet, and very smooth. To ensure high standards for Blue Mountain Coffee, the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board oversees production and processing of the beans.
Jamaican Blue Mountain gourmet coffee is mostly commercially grown and roasted by machine before being exported. It has sold for over $50 per pound in New York, and a cup of this specialty coffee in Tokyo will set you back the equivalent of US$10.00. There are only a few independent growers who roast the beans over fires. They sell their harvests to locals, who are lucky enough to get the best coffee in the world as soon as it’s roasted, right from the source.
As for commercially grown Blue Mountain coffee, it has a bluish-green color and intense aroma. There are three grades of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Blue Mountain No. 1 are sorted with a 17/18 size screen with fewer than 2% of the beans showing defects, and fewer than 4% of the beans smaller than this size. Blue Mountain No. 2 are beans sorted by size 16 screen, with defect statistics the same as for Blue Mountain No. 1 coffee beans. Blue Mountain Peaberry is considered a “fetish” coffee in some places and consists of single seed berries sifted with a size 10s screen.
Peaberry coffee is slightly different from regular coffee. Normally a coffee cherry makes two seeds, which grow with their flat faces touching each other. Sometimes, one seed fails to thrive and one round bean fills the space where the two seeds would have developed. These singular beans are called “peaberries.” Though they are, technically speaking, mutants, they are said to have richer and better concentrated flavor than normal beans. Peaberries are rare because they make up only two to five percent of the coffee harvest. Peaberry coffee also costs more than “regular” Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.
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Harvests of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee are small compared to exports from countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil, and Colombia, usually ranging from US$25 million to US$30 million per year. Jamaica earns far more from rum, bauxite, and sugar, but they clearly take as much pride in this superior specialty coffee as in anything else they export.
“Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee” courtesy of your online coffee bean store; Gourmet Coffee Beans