Monday, February 15, 2010

History of coffee in Jamaica

It is said that an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi discovered coffee.  One day the goat herder saw his goats prancing in a field and wondered why they were acting so lively.  Noticing they were eating the berries of tree, he tried one himself.  He found the fruit of this tree to be fairly bland.  After a few minutes he found himself feeling quite lively himself.   Caffeine addiction was born!

(Jamaica's Blue Mountains)

1723 King Louis XV of France sent three coffee plants to his colony, Martinique - an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea.  En route 2 of the plants died and somehow the 3rd surviving one ended up in Jamaica instead of Martinique.  The Governor of Jamaica at that time, Nicholas Lawes, planted the coffee in St. Andrew a parish near Kingston that stretches into the Blue Mountains.  Jamaica's climate was so conducive to coffee production that 1814 there were over 600 coffee plantations!  

* Fun fact, Nicholas Lawes tried many pirates, among them "Calico Jack"!

 There are two main types of Jamaican coffee ­ Jamaica Blue Mountain and Jamaica Prime.  To be known as Jamaica Blue Mountain, coffee must be grown, as its name suggests in the Blue Mountains within the prescribed areas.  The Blue Mountains in Jamaica rise steeply behind the city of Kingston.  The Blue Mountains of Jamaica are immensely fertile cultivating coffee crops between 3,500 and 5,000 feet, thus making it is one of the highest grown coffees in the world. 

Jamaica Prime is cultivated at slightly lower altitudes and comes at a cheaper price to the consumer.


Coffee trees take 3-5 years to produce their fruit.  The cherries are either picked by hand or machine harvested.  Once harvested, the fruit must be removed from the cherry to get to the beans.   Then the workers process the beans either in a "dry" method or "wet" method.   Dry meaning it's a older and slower process and takes longer.  Wet meaning it can be done in a few hours and it's more gentle on the bean.  Then they inspect the beans and toss out any bad ones before shipping them off for the final "roasting" process.

Roasting beans requires an exact science of time and temperature to arrive at the perfect roast.  Roasting is actually cooking the beans to a certain roast.  During the process, the bean splits and the waxy coating  is released and discarded.  The longer the beans are roasted, the more their flavor and fullness are released.

Jamaica's coffee farmers still sell their coffee to the government-run Coffee Industry Board.  There are six authorized coffee roasters in Jamaica who have permission to market Jamaican coffee domestically and internationally.  All commercial shipments are inspected by the Coffee Industry Board, which also issues certificates guaranteeing the authenticity of the coffee.

Today you can buy a pound of this amazing product for around $40 (less if you shop hard). 

Hot coffee facts!

  •   The founding fathers of the U.S. formed their national strategies in coffeehouses.
  •   Japan ranks Number 3 in the world for coffee consumption.
  •   Coffee, as a world commodity, is second only to oil.
  •   The largest coffee-producing nation, Brazil, is responsible for 30 to 40 % of total world output.
  •   The average yield from one tree is the equivalent of one roasted pound of coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this post so thoroughly. I look forward to future posts.
    There are various sea vessels involved in shipping to jamaica. It may include box boats or container ships, bulk carriers, tankers, ferries, cable layers, dredgers and barges.


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