Reggae music and beachfront resorts have helped put the island nation of Jamaica on the map, but its coffee earns it a special place in the collective heart of connoisseurs everywhere. But what is it about Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee that merits the hefty sum of $26 to $40 a pound?
Roughly bordered by Kingston to the south and Port Maria to the north, the Blue Mountains of Jamaica rise to 7,500 feet above sea level, making them the highest point in the Caribbean. The rich, dark soil, rainy climate and good drainage make the region excellent for coffee production. While coffee is not native to Jamaica, it is now the chief export of the country.
The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica has designated the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary to grow the appropriate beans and must approve all coffee before it can be called Jamaican Blue Mountain. Only the highest quality coffee can wear the exalted trademark. Not every blend can be called Jamaican Blue Mountain.
The Coffee Industry Regulation Act imposed a specific system of grading beans being considered for the honor. There are three different grades of Jamaican Blue Mountain based on screen size. Screen refers to the dimension of the screen used to separate the beans by size. The philosophy behind this method is that coffee beans grown in higher altitudes are larger and have flavors superior to beans grown in lower altitudes.
The strict regulations of the board prohibit some beans that might be acceptable in other brews. The screening process also helps to eliminate maragogipe (elephant beans). The green, oversized beans are a mutant strain thought to have originated in Brazil, are porous and absorb the characteristics of the soil in which they grow. Opinions about their worth vary widely among experts, but they are considered unfit for Jamaican Blue Mountain.
Specifications for Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee are very rigid. At least 96 percent of the beans must be of a uniform screen and a consistent, bluish-green color. A maximum two percent of beans may deviate slightly from this standard, but black or sour beans and any kind of foreign matter are unacceptable and do not fall under the two-percent rule.
The body, flavor and aroma of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee have made it one of the most sought-after coffees on the market. The supply is limited due to the relatively small geographic location where appropriate beans are developed. Restricted quantity, along with the excellent quality resulting from meticulous cultivation standards, and the celebrated name that demands the attention of hard-core coffee addicts everywhere inspires the demand for this brew, and it is the demand itself that will undoubtedly continue to sustain the high price.
About the Author: Cory Willins contributes to many websites including The Coffee Site where you can read more on gourmet coffee information and resources.
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