Follow Me Foodie to Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
Visiting the Blue Mountain Coffee coffee bean farm, picking coffee beans & Afternoon “Coffeetime” in Jamaica!
“‘Cause baby, there ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you, baby”
– Lyrics from “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Diana Ross
Except that there is. Poop. No not cat poop coffee (the most expensive Indonesian coffee in the word), but I mean “poop” that there are many mountains, valleys, and rivers keeping me from one of the best coffees I’ve ever had. I introduce to you Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Unfortunately we don’t have it in Vancouver, BC and 80-90% of it is exported to Japan, but apparently sharing is caring and things will eventually change. Vancouver has a great independent coffee scene, but I hope to see this Jamaican gift here one day.
I was invited on a culinary tour of Jamaica and the Blue Mountain Coffee farm was one of the foodie destinations. Jamaica is famous for coffee, and this is undoubtedly one of the most highly prized and popular high end coffees there. It’s actually considered as one of the most expensive coffees in the world at about $35/pound due to its high quality and limited quantity.
I was brought right to the source to learn all about this bean. This was actually my first time seeing a coffee bean plant and I couldn’t resist picking one… even though it wasn’t ripe yet.
By the way, this private tour of the Blue Mountain coffee farm can be arranged upon request, so it’s definitely something to plan ahead for if you’re visiting Jamaica. I can say for a fact, you won’t get this experience anywhere else.
I also couldn’t resist a preview of what to expect before getting to the top of the mountain. So we made a pit stop to Cafe Blue, their own coffee shop, which is located about half way up Blue Mountain.
The berries for this coffee are specific, and they can’t be picked from any part of the mountain. They have to be picked from a legally defined area of the Blue Mountains in order to be certified as 100% Blue Mountain Coffee. The very best coffee beans are grown at high altitudes in a climate with a lot of topical rain (the plants need a lot of rain in the earlier stages), so Jamaica is really an ideal place in general. I also learned that a characteristic of a good coffee farm is the sound of birds, which means the crops are healthy… and I can tell you at first hand experience, that they were chirping!
The coffee culture can be very much like the wine culture, but instead of a grape, it is the fruit of a coffee plant. The fruits (also known as cherries or berries) are hand picked at their ripest point which is when they’re bright red like cherries. Seeing all the berries brought me back to the day I visited the blueberry farms at home – see here.
I thought the flavour would be bold, but I was surprised it was quite the reverse. It tasted like seeds with a very thin layer of clear fruit around it. There’s actually very little fruit on it and the fruit layer was the texture of Dragon Eye fruit. It was a bit sweet, slimy and a bit juicy, but I just felt like I was sucking on a seed. It’s a bit honey-ish and floral, and almost like sucking on the juices of a tapioca pearl that was soaking in sugar syrup. I was amazed at the flavour these coffee beans would eventually produce.
They use a wet processing stage which is more time consuming and expensive than a dry processing stage. The wet processing stage is when the beans are removed from their shells, pulped, and soaked in water for 16-18 hours until the fruit on them is completely removed. The pulp is used as fertilizer and the water is recycled, so there is social awareness and responsibility on the farm, which is mandatory in order for them to be part of the Rainforest Alliance anyways. The beans are then cleaned and dried at their coffee bean plantation.
I asked if they were organic and they are only 75% organic because they do spot spray them, which is better than the general mass spraying technique. A pest can wipe out their entire operation so they have to be very careful.
At the very top of the mountain was the owner’s summer house, which is open for employee use. Summer internship anyone? I was pleased to know that the staff is well treated there and I even spoke with them privately to ask! Such a “reporter” I am ;). Anyways we were invited inside for an authentic Jamaican style afternoon tea… or I mean coffee!
For a foodie like me, watching them unwrap each one was like Christmas all over again! The lady in the photo is responsible for all their baked goods, and I forgot to ask if these were available at their Cafe Blue locations. I did see them at the cafe, but I’m not sure if it was the same.
On the table:
- Of course we started off with a freshly brewed cup of 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee!
- Black. It’s how true coffee drinkers drink coffee.
- If you get the coffee from their cafe, Cafe Blue, it’s filtered brewed with Blue Mountain Spring Water!
- I definitely don’t mind black coffee, but it’s got to be a great quality, and this was.
- The flavour was incredible and drinking black coffee has never been so enjoyable and easy.
- It was a medium roast, not bitter and very fruity, which is ideal for my coffee flavour profile.
- It was very mellow, naturally sweet and had a clean finish.
- I tried the coffee at other restaurants that were serving it in Jamaica, and it just wasn’t the same as it was when it was prepared by their baristas.
- There are other high end brands of Jamaican coffee, but every restaurant I ate at serving great coffee was serving this one.
- It’s also available pre-packaged for purchase, but the brewing is key, so if you’re not going to do this tour, at least try and get it at Cafe Blue!
- Enjoying this cup of coffee at the source, at the tip of the mountain, straight from the owner of the farm, definitely had to do with the experience. However, I can tell you for a fact that it doesn’t become internationally recognized as one of “the world’s best coffees” without actually being one.
- For baked goods, it’s almost a Jamaican staple. It may not be “authentic” Jamaican food, but it sure is popular there.
- Jamaica does grow amazing bananas, unlike the ones we get in North America, so I had a slice every chance I got… which ended up being everyday since it was always available at breakfast.
- This was a super moist banana bread and the flavour was almost a bit floral with lots of Jamaican home grown bananas.
- The bananas are sweeter there so although it still had sugar, the flavour was naturally sweet. It was delicious!
- Omg. OMG. This was hands down the best rum cake I’ve ever had in my life.
- Seriously, I have never shoveled so much cake in my mouth at once. I couldn’t be ladylike about it all!
- This rum cake melted in my mouth! I chewed each piece maybe 3 times before it disappeared.
- It was super tender, fluffy, airy and light and in between a spoke cake and a pound cake.
- It was the lightest thing ever and I felt like I was eating air.
- It must have been made with cake flour that was sifted twice or something.
- Of course there was also some good quality rum mixed into the batter, but it was so light and aromatic, caramelized, and not that strong at all.
- Forget about wrapping slices to go, I wanted to wrap that Jamaican lady who made all these desserts to go! She’s amazing!
- This is quite traditional. It was a light, tender, flaky and crumbly tart, similar to a pie crust, filled with plantains.
- The filling was very creamy and it tasted like creamy fibrous smashed potatoes with a bit of tartness.
- The pink colour threw me off and I thought it was strawberry and it almost tasted like a slightly tart strawberry and potato fruit puree.
- It’s funny how changing the colour can play tricks on you.
- The pink was just food colouring… which I could have done without, but it’s a traditional pastry, so I have to take it as is.
- This is another very traditional Jamaican dessert which they call Coconut Gizzada (pinch-me-round).
- The coconut tarts are always presented in this style with pointy crimped edges.
- It’s a bit of a dry tart made with freshly grated coconut, brown sugar, and maybe some nutmeg and ginger. It’s combined and cooked before it’s baked.
- I love coconut and this was made with fresh Jamaican coconuts, so it was still somewhat moist.
- I had this earlier at their coffee shop Cafe Blue half way up the mountain.
- I ordered a cappuccino with a hint of mocha for a chocolaty finish. It’s never too early for coffee and chocolate.
- Again, If you get the coffee from their cafe, Cafe Blue, it’s filtered brewed with Blue Mountain Spring Water!
- I added no sugar and it tasted like caramel because it was so naturally sweet, and of course the chocolate did its thing.
- It was a bit foamy from the steamed milk, mild and mellow, fruity, and just as clean in finish.