Some of our customers will have been treated to a taste of Jamaican Blue Coffee on visiting our unit – and while it tastes fantastic, you may wonder what it is that makes this smooth, delicious coffee so special and among the most expensive in world (and not on our normal coffee menu).
We’re often asked, so we thought we’d share a bit more information.
Where is Jamaican Blue Mountain Grown?
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is only grown on the slopes of the Blue Mountain range in Jamaica. The Blue Mountains are only able to supply 0.1% of the coffee sold around the world – and make no mistake, this coffee is in demand.
What is special about the taste of Blue Mountain Coffee?
The location’s high altitudes means that the coffee beans become hardier and more dense than most coffee., resulting in a more mellow, full-bodied, flavour and a fruity finish with faint hazelnut, herbs and spices notes, and a low level of acidity which is unusual in coffees with a similar taste.
A unique property is it’s low (perceived) acidity, which is rare for coffee with a similar taste profile.
There is a truly discernable difference in taste, it is hugely expensive and for this reason, like Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, it is usually found only in specialist outlets.
Why it Blue Mountain Coffee more expensive – and why is it so smooth?
Blue mountain coffee is grown in a micro-climate at a very high altitude and in a unique setting in the Blue Mountains, between Kingston and Antonio Bay on the west side of the mountain range.
While the Blue Mountains are the longest mountain range in Jamaica and the highest in the Caribbean, coffee is only grown in a small area.
Altitude and Cooler Temperatures
The Blue Mountains offer significantly cooler temperatures because of the altitude when compared to other coffee growing regions. This makes the growth cycle almost twice as long – while some coffee growing areas can complete the cycle from bloom to harvest in just 5 months, Blue Mountain Coffee typically takes 10 months.
Compared to the rest of the world, it’s very hard to cultivate coffee here because, as you can see above, the steep slopes make it challenging to access the crops. In other parts of the world, flat areas make for an easy harvest across a wide area, but here growers plant in small areas where the terrain allows, making harvesting this delicious coffee a challenge and very manual process.
Temperate, Consistent climate
The Blue Mountains region is located in a temperate part of the world where the climate is very consistent with predictable rainfall and constant mist, leading to humidity without direct sunlight.
The soil in this region is volcanic. Volcanic soil is extremely high in nutrients, enabling the coffee plants to thrive.
The Blue Mountain ranges have built a flawless reputation and are said to produce the finest coffee in the World – as you can imagine, this is a reputation that local farmers want to protect.
Jamaican farmers harvest all their coffee beans by hand, using traditional methods, and anything less than perfect is discarded.
Many other regions have introduced automation which reduces the high cost of wages, but obviously with such a high degree of manual production, comes a price premium.
Finally, the CIB (Coffee Industry Board) are very protective over what gets called Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, the board even do blind taste tests before allowing any to be named and exported – so the quality control in this region is second to none.
Is all Blue Mountain, actually Blue Mountain?
In short, not always.
Some of the Blue Mountain coffee available on the high street and online will be a Blue Mountain blend – which means only some of the coffee in the tin will be genuine Blue Mountain coffee. That doesn’t mean it won’t taste nice, but it won’t be 100% and you often won’t know what percentage is Blue Mountain.
As with any premium product, like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, there are also plenty of fakes – just coffee grown elsewhere with a Blue Mountain label.
Finally, some suppliers grow Coffee near the Blue Mountains – but it needs to be grown at the very high altitude to produce the unique taste. Some suppliers will list their coffee as ‘at the foothills of’ or ‘close to’. It simply isn’t the same product and we’d recommend giving these pretenders a wide berth and just buying a good normal coffee instead.
Our guide is, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.
So How Expensive is it?
Like a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, where the growing territory for such a high quality product is limited, demand will outstrip supply and the premium needs to cover the high production costs.
Typically, Blue Mountain coffee is 10 times the price of normal coffee, hard to get hold of and for Argies customers who want to stock it, you’d have to buy by the case and it’s only available by special order.
However, our M.D. loves it and when he has some for himself, he likes to give customers a taste (a great excuse to pop in and see our new Barista School taking shape!).
We hope this has given you an insight into one of the world’s rarest and most expensive coffees – we’ve certainly enjoyed sharing more about it with you!