As you probably have heard, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is one of world's most expensive and rarest, but why?
First, a few facts:
The maturity period of this coffee beans is twice as long as the other varieties in the world.
The high altitude and steep grade of the Blue Mountain growing region make the coffee difficult and expensive to harvest.
Every single coffee bean is hand inspected.
Blue Mountains provide around 0.1% of the world’s coffee and the demand is relatively high.
80% of the coffee is shipped to Japan. The rest of the world, including Jamaica itself, shares the remaining 20%.
Then, a bit of history
Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee can claim its origins from a decision taken by a French King in the 18th Century. In 1723, King Louis XV sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique - another lush, fertile island 1,900 kilometres south-west of Jamaica. Five years later in 1728, Sir Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica, received a gift of one coffee plant from the Governor of Martinique.
From that one coffee plant, an exquisite coffee was introduced to the world. This one plant was nurtured, and a plantation grown. Within nine years, the first coffee was exported, and the Jamaican coffee industry was born.
The bean and the mountain
Arabica coffee loves the nitrogen and phosphorus-rich soil of Jamaica and nowhere else better than the steep elevations of the Blue Mountains. An incredible mix of rich soil, cool and misty conditions, high rainfall and good soil drainage combined with expert care and stringent quality control grows the smoothest, richest and best coffee in the world.
Due to this geography Blue Mountain farms are small, having the trees planted in small groups in a terrain that can be as steep as 70 degrees. These trees would grow up to 10 metres high but are kept at 3 meters to ease picking.
Jamaican coffee takes about twice as long to grow within the mountain conditions and when ripe it is handpicked and manually sorted making the process extremely labour intensive. Only the perfect beans are roasted and then go through a rigorous inspection before being approved by the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board.
Thanks to this highly regulated and strict process, the Jamaican coffee industry has flourished and is treasured around the world.