Jamaican coffee, known for its smooth, sweet taste and low caffeine content, is beloved by coffee connoisseurs, but you won’t find it in any hipster coffee shop in the city. Instead, you’ll experience the island’s coffee culture where you might least expect it—in small, local coffee shops with unassuming exteriors. However, take note that the coffee culture here isn’t one that’s entirely embraced by the locals—they usually prefer tea. For the coffee-loving traveler, though, Jamaica serves it up hot.
Want to experience Jamaican coffee culture for yourself? Read on for the best way to enjoy a premium cup of joe in paradise.
History of Coffee in Jamaica
Jamaica’s coffee culture stretches back to 1728, when the British governor introduced the plant to the island. Coffee grew in popularity, but particularly coffee from the Blue Mountain region, as it was found to be of a superior quality thanks to the unique growing conditions. By 1800, there were nearly 700 coffee plantations in operation in Jamaica but as the 1800s went on, the industry declined following the abolition of slavery, leading to the closure of 500 plantations.
Now, Jamaica produces about 0.1% of the world’s coffee. The export employs a large portion of the country’s rural population with heavy monitoring by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. Blue Mountain coffee still reigns supreme and the single-origin coffee requires strict adherence to receive authentication. For example, the beans must be grown at altitudes of 2,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level and must pass certain criteria for both color and size.
Coffee Tours in Jamaica
Tour provider Moon Jamaica offers several different coffee-centric tours. The Express Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Tour caters to those on a tight schedule, with a 1.5-hour tour of the UCC Creighton Coffee Estate (a centuries-old plantation home once housing dignitaries). Half-day tours from Moon Jamaica feature the same, but with added culinary experiences. A full-day experience includes all this, plus a visit to the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, Jamaica’s largest coffee processing plant.
If you’re staying at the luxury Strawberry Hill Hotel you can book the Blue Mountain Coffee Estate Tour, a five-hour exploration with visits to the Clifton Mount Coffee Estate and Heritage Gardens of Cold Spring, as well as a bean-to-cup experience
Last year, the Tourism Ministry launched the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour, which includes 15 different eateries and cafes, for a mix of coffee and the country’s overarching culinary culture.
Pro tip: if you take a tour and visit one of the coffee estates, buy your coffee there to save you money in the long run. Buying Blue Mountain Coffee in the city shops or airport is more expenisve as pricesa are inflated.
Blue Mountain Coffee Festival
If you’re lucky, you can also catch next year’s Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival. The 2018 fest was the inaugural event and offered three days of food, coffee, history, handicrafts, music and more.
Whichever way you choose to experience Jamaican coffee culture, it all guarantees fantastic coffee in a setting that’s spectacular. The Blue Mountains are filled with lush vegetation and views of the surrounding region and, even if you’re not a fan of the brew, the area is a can’t-miss experience for travelers headed to beautiful Jamaica.