This is by far the best-tasting coffee in the world. Jamaican Blue Mountain is also amongst the most expensive coffee beans available on the market. So, you must be extra careful if purchasing any, because not all Jamaican coffee is cultivated in the same way.
NOTE: 80% of consumers end up buying fake Blue Mountain coffee. Read our guide, reviews, and recommendations so you do NOT fall into the same scam!
Grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, this coffee is best known for its mild flavor and almost complete lack of bitterness.
- 80% of Blue Mountain Coffee is exported to Japan
- Besides for brewing, the coffee beans are used in Tia Maria – an original Jamaican liqueur.
- Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is globally protected by the Coffee Industry Regulation Act.
- Coffee is the second largest agricultural earner in Jamaica, accounting for 49% of earnings. Mind you, Jamaica only grows 0.1% of the world’s coffee.
- There are 9,500 Blue Mountain Coffee registered farmers.
In order to experience the true taste of Blue Mountain, you need to make sure you get the real thing. You do NOT want to end up with a blend and pay full price for it. So, here is how to distinguish the authentic Jamaican coffee.
How to Spot Fake Blue Mountain
In order to assure quality, Blue Mountains maintains a premium price. If you thought Starbucks blends are expensive, wait until you get your hands on some authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
Check the Seal
The Coffee Industry Board has created a trademark seal that needs to be present on all authentic Blue Mountain products. Simply check the package for the seal, and make sure it is not a variation of it.
Under the CIB, all Jamaica Blue Mountains is grown, collected, cultivated and packaged on the island. There are no other countries allowed to purchase and package the coffee themselves. If you purchase a bag of Blue Mountain that says it was packaged anywhere else, but in Jamaica, chances are it is either fake or a very weak blend that consists less than 10% of the magical bean.
Speaking of Blends
Anything that is labeled as a “blend” is not 100% Blue Mountain. There is no regulation and standard for blends. So, they can contain as little as 1% Blue Mountain coffee.
Ask First, Buy Later
Do not be afraid to ask questions. Anyone authentic Blue Mountain seller and distributor will readily present their authenticating paperwork.
The Blue Mountain Terrain
Hot lowlands giving way to cooler mountains and North East winds laden with moisture reach the coastal areas of Portland, Jamaica first and then rise up the slopes of the Blue Mountains. But, enough with the romantic descriptions.
To be called Jamaica Blue Mountain, coffee needs to have been gown at an elevation between 3,000 ft (910 meters) and 5,500 ft meters metres). Anything above 5,500 ft in Jamaica is considered forest preserve and the law forbids for coffee to be grown.
Even though coffee can be grown on the same mountains, the elevation plays a major role in the final quality of the beans. Anything grown under 1,500 ft (410 metres) is called Jamaica Supreme or Jamaica Low Mountain. It will produce a decent cup of coffee, but it will taste bitter. Especially when compared to authentic Blue Mountain coffee.
The beans that are grown at an elevation between 1,500 ft (410 metres) and 3,000 ft (910 metres) are called Jamaica High Mountain. They are more abundant then Blue Mountain beans, cheaper to purchase, and generally do not taste as smooth.
The legally defined Blue Mountain range is between 3,000 ft and 5,500. So, anything grown in that range is considered authentic.
The Blue Mountain range itself is located on the Eastern end of the island and it consists of hilly and rugged terrain. The range covers 3 of 14 parishes and has Northern and Southern slopes.
The geological history itself is quite complex because it exhibits igneous and marine influences where volcanic, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are all present.
- Derived from metamorphic and igneous rocks.
- Highly porous and subject to heavy leaching.
- Low nutrient content, especially of nitrogen and phosphorous.
Why is it called Blue Mountain?
When looked from a distance, there are several steep-sided valleys that give a blue appearance.
Globally Protected Brand
The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica (CIB) has taken the extra step of authenticating Blue Mountain Coffee by awarding it a globally recognized certification mark and trademark. If it does not have the trademark image on the package, it is not authentic.
The certification mark indicated geographic origin of the goods, materials used, quality, a method of manufacturing, and accuracy.
Unfortunately, there are no criteria for what goes around as “Blue Mountain Blends”. If you end up purchasing a product that claims to be a blend, there is no assurance what percentage of the blend will actually be Blue Mountain Coffee. In most cases, it is less than 10%.
Blue Mountain Coffee Cultivation
There is a long period of cultivation and inspection before even one coffee bean is reached 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain and reaches licensed sellers and distributors.
First, coffee is only collected once it is completely red, or cherry ripe. Each farm takes care of its own collection and it is mostly done by manual labor. Next, the beans are floated in water in order to remove the damaged underdeveloped ones.
All Blue Mountain coffee is processed at the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory (MBCF). Once the farmers bring their selected coffee beans to the factory, the floating process is repeated.
Once the coffee has been floated by the MBFC, collectors come in and collect it daily for pulping. During this process, the coffee is further inspected and washed in order to remove the mucilage. The final product is known as the wet parchment.
Drying the wet parchment can take up to 5 days, it really depends on the weather conditions. Often times factories tend to use mechanical driers in order to help get the moisture of the beans to specific levels.
Beans need resting too. If the above sounds like a tiring process to you, that is because it is. So, the next phase of getting the coffee ready for distribution is actually called the resting period.
This period takes around 10 weeks and is critical to how good the beans will turn out to be. Only after the resting period is over, can the hulling of the beans begin.
The green bean only emerges once the outer shell (husk) has been removed. The bean is then polished in order to remove excessive silver skin, and finally ready for sorting.
Sorting is the final phase and it is done by the Coffee Industry Board. It involves a process of grading beans based on size and color. This is done in order to eliminate beans, as well as to determine the quality and set future price.
How to Brew Blue Mountain Coffee
So, you’ve managed to get a hold of some of this majestic bean. Good for you, now you need to light the fires of Mordor in order to brew it like a true coffee wizard.
Watching Frodo travel for 3 long movies to the fires of Mordor was really not fulfilling. So, let’s find a better solution for brewing.
For best results, you must use immersion technique, such as drip pot, French Press or a percolator. Using this method will help you get every scrap of flavor out of the ground coffee.
Immersion is known to be every coffee connoisseur’s favorite method of brewing because it allows the hot water to pull out the oil better than any other method.
The perfect sizing is 2 level tablespoon of Blue Mountain Coffee per 8oz serving. Do not wait until the coffee is boiling, and for best taste, try to consume it within 45 minutes.
What is the Best Way to Store the Coffee
Contrary to popular belief, storing coffee in your freezer is not the best choice. Actually, it is not a good choice at all. Especially for coffee that does not cost $5.
Storing coffee, be it beans or ground, in a cold environment, slowly and steadily robs the natural moisture from the product.
Instead, the best way to store your coffee is by using an air tight container that has a degassing valve. Alternatively, most Blue Mountain Coffee bags come equipped with this valve.
The container should then be stored in a dry and room temperature environment, not in the fridge or freezer.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.