Follow Me Foodie to Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
Visiting the Blue Mountain Coffee coffee bean farm, picking coffee beans & Afternoon “Coffeetime” in Jamaica!
The Blue Mountain Coffee’s coffee bean farm in Blue Mountains, 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.
A Blue Mountain coffee plant still in its baby stage. The fruit takes 8 months to ripen.
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.
When it comes to a coffee bean farm, the higher the mountain the better. We were informed that there was a bit of a hike and the anticipation was killing me, but my preview coffee sure helped.
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.
The coffee bean is not the whole berry, but the seeds inside the fruit. There’s two seeds in each fruit and you bet I tried them!
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.
And to top things off… there were “pet” peacocks in his backyard! Forget about chasing chickens…
hahah you chased a peacock lol i don’t know how to trekked up that mountain with those shoes on.. crazy!! you go girl 🙂
wow, the berries of the coffee plant look so pretty, definitely very cranberry like for sure.. great picture of the seeds inside the berry – they look like very pale coffee beans that we have here but i guess they haven’t been roasted yet.. seeds with a thin layer of fruit eh? very interesting 🙂
i’m not really a coffee person although i do like ice coffee and i’m not sure if i’d ever drink just black coffee lol.. is it frowned upon there if you do add sugar and milk? mmm the plantain tarts look yummy but wow, that color is crazy bright – did you ever find out why they used food coloring in them or is it just for prettiness? 🙂
@Linda – if I can hike it them.. cooking in them is no problem 😉 I know! So cool huh? Yes those are raw/fresh coffee beans… they still require a lot of work before they even get to that roasting stage! Adding sugar and milk is not the “true coffee drinker”… but I say enjoy it as you wish! Try it black first and then go from there 🙂 Some coffee is meant to be enjoyed with coffee and milk… like Malaysian Teh Tarik! Jamaica loved food colouring because they love bright colours.. the clothes.. the foot… the culture lol
WOW! The view looks amazing, you are so lucky to have been able to climb to the top and take in the whole coffee experience. Definitely let us know if Blue Mountain coffee ever becomes available here. Where in Vancouver do you like to have coffee?
I am sure if you have seen a banana bush/herb (yes, bananas are NOT grown on trees), chances are they would let it ripe on the tree and not cut it off while still green (usually to export to Europe and North America). If you get a banana while the skin is yellow with barely any spots and eat it, it is an experience of its own. Sweet, slightly mushy… Unlike most bananas you can find here. Ah, makes me want to go back to Panama for tropical fruits! 🙂
Things I learned about coffee in Panama (despite I myself I am not a coffee drinker): Just as you mentioned, it prefers high terrain, though not necessarily in high mountains. It likes rain, as well. Coffee was originally harvested by hand because the picker can separate ripe berries from the still green ones. Nowadays, some plantations harvest them by machine and then have the berries sorted. The green berries are prepared in a different way compared to the ripe berries. It is not until after fermentation, dried and roasted where coffee gets its characteristics. The overall process is not that different from processing cacao: in some places where it is particularly humid, rather than drying the beans outdoors, it might be done indoors using some heating system (for example, a bonfire).
@vivian – hey viv!! Apparently they ship here! But the brewing is key! I heard Rocanini in Steveston might offer it, but I hope they make it right! My places for coffee are Everything Cafe because they serve Stump Town coffee, 49th Parallel, and Elysian! I’m not a hardcore coffee drinker though, but I appreciate a cup once in a while. How bout you? Gene Cafe is not bad as well.
@kimHo – yup.. I’ve had great bananas in Malaysia before. That’s okay… give and take.. we have good cherries, blueberries and strawberries 🙂
Thanks for your additional coffee info!
Not sure whether it’s authentic or not, but La Cuisson in Union Square in Richmond (near the old NCIX store, Richmond Sushi plaza) seems to have it… at $15/ teacup (last time I recall) or $75/lb (if I recall) (location: http://dinehere.ca/richmond/la-cuisson-coffee-shop) – they also seem to have a “Blue Mountain blend” that’s cheaper, so whether it is truly Blue Mountain-authentic, I’m not sure. Maybe you might want to check it out to see if it compares anywhere near to your truly-authentic experience!
@momooinVancouver – yeah unfortunately Blue Mountain Blend doesn’t count… there’s a lots of blends in Jamaica as well, but only the 100% certified Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is valued. It has to have the beans picks from a particular portion of the mountain. It’s almost like Minute Maid’s Pomegranate juice which contains other ingredients like water and sugar versus POM’s 100% pomegranate juice. lol… odd example I know, but I just watched a documentary that highlighted it lol. Thanks fro sharing La Cuisson with me though. Yeah if it’s $15/cup I would rather just buy the real deal off their website. thank you for leaving a thoughtful comment!
I love Rocanini!!! I will definitely make sure to ask for it next time. Thanks!
@vivian – yay!!!! we have the same tastes!!!!!
Heringers meats in steveston has Jamaican blue mountain coffee.6042746328.
@Heringers Meats – Excellent!! Thank you for introducing yourself!
Your site is very informative. We have never sold Jbm before Terreli is our roaster for our other coffee, and he said he was going set me up with something special for Christmas. We have a very limited supply and it is 100% Jbm he even gave me the barrel. I found your site looking for some info on the coffee.ypur face book page is also a great resource thanks for your time talkin about food. Chad.
@Chad – thank you so much! That means a lot and I’m so glad it’s now so easily available! I’ll pay you guys a visit in the new year I hope! Cheers!
look for 100%Blue mountain coffee to come to Canada through us very soon, and yes to Vancouver!!
Through RF Global Management an Ottawa area Management and Distribution Company. Under the Umbrella of Forbes Holdings Management Inc.
See you soon!
@Ricardo – thx ricardo! can’t wait!
Hi, that tour of the mountain is so awesome!! I will be travelling to Jamaica in a month and now that I read your blog, I really feel like visiting as well. Can you please tell me how to get in touch with the coffee factory and how to book a tour? Thank you so much! Andres
@Andres – Hi Andres! I have all the details about the tours/booking etc. written in this post 🙂 You have to contact them directly and arrange privately. You’re going to love it!
saw a twitter reference to this blog post…realize it from a bit ago but thought I would share my blog post about my family there who produces Blue Mountain coffee and some of the behind the scenes insights regarding the market http://www.thrivefarmers.com/origin-of-thrive/
@Michael – thank you for sharing Michael! I had no idea the troubles.
What a beautiful report!! Thank you for the sharing. My husband and I are going to Jamaica(Ocho Rios) next month, and very interested in joing the coffee firm tour!! Which tour company did you use? Can you tell me, please?
this is great . my home town
I’m just wondering if anyone here has been able to find Blue Mountain Coffee in Vancouver and for how much?