Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee: A Legal Buzz From the Land of Wood and Water

Short Order was recently invited to join a diverse group of food bloggers to tour some of the more out of the way places in Jamaica. Today, we'll share a visit to a coffee plantation in part one of a three-part tour of the road less traveled in Jamaica.

We leave Kingston early for the drive to the Clifton Mount Estate in the Blue Mountain Range. The drive up the one road leading to the summit is filled with sharp turns that the small bus can hardly manage. Traveling up the mountain, we pass many small towns, schoolchildren in crisp blue uniforms, and tiny tin-roofed shacks that serve as groceries, bars, and restaurants.

Halfway up the mountain, in Irish Town, we stop at Cafe Blue, a little coffee bar with a huge view. Though lattes are available, the best way to drink Blue Mountain Coffee is black, since this coffee is valued for it's mild, chocolatey taste.

Reaching the summit, we're welcomed by Lawrence and Richard Sharp, owners of the Clifton Mount Estate. Located at 4,300 feet above sea level, this is considered premium coffee growing territory. The estate is beautiful, with about 80 acres of coffee plants and a magnificent view of Blue Mountain Peak, the highest point in the Blue Mountain range.

Coffee cherries are red when ripe.
Richard Sharp gives us a tour of the farm, along with a lesson in coffee

picking. The farm is certified by the Rainforest Alliance and is 75 percent

organic, meaning they spray only isolated crops with pesticides. Arabica Typica beans are planted, per government guidelines, and each plant takes three years to

yield coffee cherries.

Coffee is sorted in water. Cherries that float are rejected.
Coffee cherries are monitored closely for the exact moment of ripeness.

Once hand-picked, they're sorted in a water bath. Cherries that

sink are deemed worthy for roasting. "Floaters" are inferior and will be used for instant


The fruit is then stripped from the beans and used as

fertilizer. Water is recycled after going through a charcoal purification

process. The beans are shipped down the mountain to Kingston where

they'll dry in the sun for up to four weeks before being ready to

roast.Some coffee is roasted for resale, but the bulk of coffee is

shipped green -- ready to be roasted by individual coffee houses.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is heavily regulated by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica,

which assures that only coffee grown in the Blue Mountain range using

specific plant guidelines can use the trademarked "Jamaica Blue

Mountain" designation. That certification commands high prices, with

Blue Mountain coffee selling for $35-50/pound in the U.S.

Stay tuned tomorrow, when we visit a honey farm, an organic restaurant and the Bob Marley Museum.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss