For those who know, this rare coffee is one of the most sought-after in the world – and also one of the most expensive.
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If you want to learn more about Blue Mountain Coffee production before reading the article, check out this short documentary that gives a great introduction to this exclusive coffee.
What is Blue Mountain and why is it so expensive?
Before we talk about how you can lay your hands on some of these legendary beans, let’s talk about what Blue Mountain coffee is, what makes it so special – and why it is so expensive (1).
Coffee is grown around the world in what is known as the “coffee belt”, the strip of land that circles the globe between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer.
There are two types of coffee that are grown commercially, arabica and robusta. Of the two, robusta is more tolerant of varying growing conditions while arabica produces a superior, more refined drink.
Jamaica Blue Mountain is a type of arabica that is grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, specifically in the parishes of Portland, St Andrew, St Thomas and St Mary.
The coffee is grown at elevations of between 3,000ft and 5,500ft, and the volcanic soils of the mountains impart the smooth and delicate flavor that is so highly prized among coffee enthusiasts.
However, since the land available for cultivating this coffee is limited, only small amounts are produced each year.
Furthermore, due to the high altitude and the relatively poor quality of the soil, these beans take far longer to mature than some coffees grown in more productive areas.
Harvesting the bean is also a painstaking and labor-intensive undertaking. The slopes where the beans grow are steep and often wet and the cherries ripen at different rates, meaning they have to be harvested by hand throughout the year, all of which adds to the cost of growing and processing.
Finally, the beans are subjected to strict quality control measures to ensure a superior final product. Only beans approved by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica are allowed to be called Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
What is the Blue Mountain coffee scam and how can you avoid it?
Since true Blue Mountain beans can fetch such high prices and since the genuine article is so rare, it is not at all surprising that more unscrupulous growers or roasters have sometimes tried to cash in on the famous name while selling an inferior product.
This means there are a few tricks – as well as downright scams – you need to be aware of to avoid buying coffee that is not true Blue Mountain.
First, all Blue Mountain that has been approved by the Jamaican Board carries the official seal. This is the first thing you need to look for since if there is no seal, it’s not the real thing.
Next, you should look out for coffee sold as “Blue Mountain blend”. While true 100% Blue Mountain is protected, no such rules apply to Blue Mountain beans blended with inferior coffees. If you buy a blend, the actual Blue Mountain content could be as low as 10%.
While there is nothing wrong with buying a blend – some blends can be decent coffees in their own right – you need to be aware that a blend is not a true Blue Mountain coffee.
Another thing to look out for is where the coffee was roasted or packaged. Most Blue Mountain is grown, roasted and packaged in Jamaica (except for beans exported to be sold as green beans), and if you see that it has been packaged in Europe or the US, it’s a sure sign that something is amiss.
That said, some artisanal roasters do import green beans and roast them themselves.
Finally, remember that Blue Mountain is not produced in great quantities – and 80% of what is grown finds its way to Japan. If someone claims to have a large supply, you might begin to suspect that something somewhere does not add up.
In the end, if you are buying from an artisanal roaster or supplier, if they have nothing to hide, they will usually be happy to show you the paperwork proving the origin of the coffee so don’t be afraid to ask.
Check out this video about a visit to the Wallenford Estate, one of the best-known Blue Mountain estates.
The best Jamaican blue mountain coffee on the market of 2020
While there are plenty of artisanal roasters and suppliers out there selling their own products, the easiest way to buy Blue Mountain is to shop online.
Here are our suggestions for some of the best Blue Mountain beans you might want to try.
1. Volcanica Coffee
Volcanica is a well-known importer and retailer of gourmet coffee.
Their Blue Mountain, which they call the “Rolls Royce of coffee”, is a 100% pure Blue Mountain from the Clydesdale Estate.
This popular luxury coffee is well-balanced with fruit flavor, balanced acidity and a strong, intense aroma.
2. Coffee Roasters of Jamaica
Coffee Roasters of Jamaica offer a 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain product.
Their beans are roasted before shipping and are vacuum packed to preserve their freshness.
They are packaged in an attractive burlap bag, making this an ideal gift for the coffee lover in your life.
3. Magnum Jamaican Blue Mountain Blend Coffee (Our Top Recommended)
If you want to try some Jamaican Blue Mountain but are unwilling to pay the sky-high prices, this might be a good…