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Travel Photo Thursday: Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee

Famous internationally since the 18th century, Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee, which gets its name from the location where it is grown, is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. The rich soil and cool climate of the mountain, make it the ideal location for coffee growing. It is strictly regulated.

Jamaica's Blue Mountain

Jamaica's Blue Mountain

Only coffees grown in the higher elevations — between 3,000-5,500 feet — can bear the Blue Mountain label. Between 1,500-3,000 feet, it is known as Jamaica High Mountain, and below 1,500 feet, Jamaica Low Mountain or Supreme.

Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee

Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee

After I took this photo, I heard voices and looked in the direction where the sound was coming from. There were at least two people, each wearing floppy hats with bags strapped around their waists. As they released the berries from the trees, they dropped them into their bags. I watched for a few minutes, fascinated at how adroitly they navigated the side of the mountain without falling. Did I say how steep the mountain is? At this point, we’re about 4,000 feet. It’s almost a vertical drop.

Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee

Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee

Following handpicking, the berries are then floated in water to remove those that are underdeveloped or have been damaged by insects. They are inspected then washed again, to remove the sugary substance on the outer section of the beans, and dried. Following the drying process, the beans are bagged and warehoused for at least 10 weeks.

Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee beans

Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee

They are then hulled to reveal the bean which are polished and sorted according to size. They are also tested for taste, body and color. The last step is an inspection by hand to check each bean for defects.

1737, Jamaica exported over 83,000 pounds of coffee.

Approximately 7,000 farmers cultivate coffee in Blue Mountains, about 40% of them are women.

Japan was the largest importer of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee however, since the economic downturn, they no longer take the bulk of the crop, approximately 80%.

Average price of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee:

In the US – $48

In Japan – $62

Average payment to a farmer for a 60-pound box of berries: J$3,000 or about US$35.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

Comments

  1. You mention the price a farmer receives for 60 pounds of berries. How much on average does a picker (assuming they are different from the farmer) earn?
    Bob R recently posted..Five Long Exposures Inside Shanghai’s Bund Tourist TunnelMy Profile

  2. I visited a coffee plantation in Costa Rica last year. Would love to see this one as well, and see if there were significant differences in how they do things.
    Sophie recently posted..Where in the worldMy Profile

  3. Just curious Marcia – is the coffee considered to be fair trade and shade grown? I’m getting fussy, especially after reading The Silence of the Songbirds and one of the biggest things we can all do is drink shade grown coffee to help the birds.
    I’m a coffee fanatic and would love try a cup of this expensive brew.
    Leigh recently posted..Scenes from the Dingle Way in western IrelandMy Profile

  4. Wow, that is expensive coffee alright! Love the views!
    Sabrina recently posted..My Seven Super ShotsMy Profile

  5. From what I could see, Leigh, most of the trees grow on the side of the mountains with little shade. Also, based on the conversations I had with a few growers and from what I read, I doubt it’s considered fair trade. Will check with the Coffee Industry Board. Wish you were close by, I could send you a pound. It costs much less here.

  6. There are several plantations in the BM as well a well known processing plant at Mavis Bank. I didn’t get a chance to visit it but I have it on my list for my next trip.

  7. One question I forgot to ask, Bob! I suspect they are sometimes different and that it’d be much less.

  8. I’m a coffee addicted..probably because I lived in Italy for quite a long time so. I heard about Jamaican coffee, but never tasted it! Is coffè one of the main trade products in Jamaica?
    Goody recently posted..Africa’s Travel PlanningMy Profile

  9. Yup, it’s pretty expensive, Sabrina. We can get a pound at duty free for about $20, which is still expensive.

  10. Such an informative post – I wasn’t even aware that Jamaica had a coffee crop. I imagine that picking coffee beans on the side of that mountain is a very difficult life. The pictures of the coffee beans are beautiful!
    Lisa recently posted..A D-Day Tour of Normandy with KidsMy Profile

  11. Cathy Sweeney
    Twitter:
    says:

    Blue Mountain coffee is wonderful. I remember bringing some home from a trip to Jamaica many years ago. Love the photos of the berries and hillside.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Moody San FranciscoMy Profile

  12. That is expensive coffee! I do enjoy coffee but am not so picky to try something quite that expensive. Enjoyed learning more about the coffee plantation and how its grown, picked etc.
    Debbie Beardsley recently posted..Wiesbaden- Worth A Second Look?My Profile

  13. Sherry
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh, my! I wish I can afford this coffee.

    I’m always fascinated when I see how things look like before they make it to the market. This almost reminds me of the cocoa beans. Truly weird to see them in this form. I’m curious as to why they are so much more expensive if they are cultivated from higher elevations.
    Sherry recently posted..“Greenery at Queen Elizabeth Park”My Profile

  14. Wow! Talk about price markups!

  15. I love how much I’m learning about Jamaica from you, Marcia =) While not a coffee drinker, I have heard of the Blue Mountain brand but really surprised by how much they cost. I like visiting working farms and plantations and this sounds like a great place to visit with some scenic views too. Great shots!
    Mary recently posted..Touring Aruba: Cacti and BeachesMy Profile

  16. It must be a big area to support 7000 farmers.

    Hmmm, the ethics of coffee and unfair trade. I have thought of growing my own coffee tree.

    Your Blue Mountains is very different to our Blue Mountains (where I live).
    Narelle recently posted..some reflections on belonging & connectionMy Profile

  17. How cool – I have never seen a coffee bean plant up close like that!!
    Have a great weekend! Would love to have you link up with us over at R We There Yet Mom’s Friday Daydreamin’ if you have a chance!
    Becca recently posted..Friday Daydreamin’: Readers’ ChoiceMy Profile

  18. I didn’t realize that coffee was grown in Jamaica, but I’m with Leigh and am trying to only buy shade grown coffee.
    Laurel recently posted..Snowshoeing on the Baltic Sea near Oulu, FinlandMy Profile

  19. I like your taste! I’ve heard of how special Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is but haven’t had a chance to try it. It sounds marvelous. I also was enticed by the Spicy Double Chocolate Biscotti recipe. I’m sure it also pairs well with hot coffee.
    Alexa recently posted..Cable View OnlineMy Profile

  20. A nice post about one of my favorite things, Marcia. 🙂 I consider myself something of a coffee connoisseur, but have to admit that I’ve never tried Blue Mountain coffee. It sounds wonderful and I hope to try some soon!
    Andi at The Particular Traveler recently posted..My Hotel Room "Fix-It" KitMy Profile

  21. What an interesting experience that must have been! I’ve never been to a coffee plantation before. Great shots too!
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Announcing StruxTravel: The AgencyMy Profile

  22. So this is from where all my high pressure comes !! Just kidding – I love coffee!
    Cindy recently posted..Free Cinema TicketsMy Profile

  23. totsymae1011
    Twitter:
    says:

    That must be some good-tasting coffee. I’ve heard of Blue Mountain too. Would be cool if they had something like a Starbucks with the Blue Mountain name.
    totsymae1011 recently posted..For Adult Play and FunMy Profile

  24. wow awesome… looks beautiful. This coffee tastes great.. I wasn’t aware that labels are based on elevation of mountain where plants grow. Thanks for sharing the info. Something new I’ve learned today.

  25. I have heard much about blue mountain coffee but have yet to try it myself. I LOVE coffee, so its a must for me to do. One day soon for sure!
    Anwar recently posted..Friday Photo: DC Cherry BlossomsMy Profile

  26. They make truly fantastic coffee and I’m surprised they don’t earn more for the product… What happened to fair trade?
    ElizOF recently posted..Inspiration: A Shift In Perspective…My Profile

  27. Jackie Smith
    Twitter:
    says:

    Amazing series and post. As usual, I always learn something new when visiting you! See you again this Thursday.
    Jackie Smith recently posted..In the “Spirit” of Spring Break ~ American-styleMy Profile

  28. Thanks, Jackie. I’m learning a lot too.
    See you on Thursday!

  29. Don’t think it’s arrived here yet.

  30. You should, Anwar, especially since you’re a coffee lover.

  31. Thanks for visiting.
    Yes, they do have different labels depending on where the coffee’s grown. It’s something I learned recently as well.

  32. I’m not a coffee drinker so unfortunately, I have no idea how it tastes. But I’ve heard from others that it’s really good.
    It’s probably too expensive for Starbucks but then again, a producer could probably strike a deal with them.

  33. Hahahaha, I guess it does!

  34. Thanks, Andi. I hope you do, then you can write a follow-up post.

  35. Thanks, Alexa!
    Hope you get a chance to try it soon.

  36. I hear you, Laurel.

  37. Yes, it is pretty cool.
    Thanks for asking, Becca. I’ll definitely try for this week.

  38. It is a pretty large area — but I suspect that some of the farms are small. It’d be very cool to grow your own coffee.
    Another Aussie said that your Blue Mountains also have eucalyptus trees like ours though I doubt is the same quantity.

  39. Thanks, Mary. It’s an educational experience all around. Yes, the Blue Mountains are really worth a visit and re-visit for me as I barely saw enough of it.

  40. Oh yeah!

  41. Hmmm, if you’ll meet in the middle — say NYC and I’ll bring you a pound, Sherry.
    My guess is the work it takes to get to the higher elevations.

  42. It’s definitely for those who don’t mind the cost, that’s for sure. They do a brisk trade at the duty free shops here, where the price is considerably lower.

  43. Ahhh, good to know someone’s had it. I don’t drink coffee so I have no idea how it tastes or compares to other coffees.
    Glad you like the photos, Cathy!

  44. Thanks, Lisa. It is a difficult job no matter how you look at it.

  45. Yes, it is one of our main products.

  46. It sure was, Michael, and I’m ready to go back.
    It’s cool to see how things are made, how they arrive at our tables.
    Glad you like the photos.

  47. Okay! 🙂 I had to come and tell you that I haven’t stopped laughing over your reply!!! 😆
    ElizOF recently posted..Reflections: The Kids Advantage…My Profile

  48. Sherry
    Twitter:
    says:

    Uh, oh! I may just take you up on that offer 🙂

  49. You have eucalypts as well? Are they native or introduced?

    The eucalypts are the reason for our Blue Mountains being named Blue. The oil in the leaves evaporates and mixes with other stuff in the air and a blue haze is created.

    Here is some more info on our Blue Mountains http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Mountains_(New_South_Wales). All of the green in the photos on this site is eucalypts.

    No coffee crop on our Blueys.
    Narelle recently posted..some reflections on belonging & connectionMy Profile

  50. Hahahahahaha, I had to go back to look at what I wrote. Then I started laughing too!!!

  51. No problem. I’ll let you know and you can send me your address – cheaper than buying a ticket.

  52. Yes, we do have eucalyptus as well. I’m not sure if they’re native, they might be. But nowhere in the research I’ve done has anyone connected them to the blue haze over our Blue Mountains. All they say is that there is a blue haze and it’s from that the mountain got its name.
    Thanks for the link. I didn’t realize your Blue Mountains have been inhabited for so long. It’s so beautiful, Narelle, would love to see it.

  53. It is so beautiful.

    Our Indigenous culture is the oldest living culture in the world. Just down the road, relics from the Indigenous culture have been found and dated as 50,000 years old. How they survived on this land for so long is incredible to me because the bush tucker isn’t that tasty. It’s such a shame that a lot of the culture has been lost.
    Narelle recently posted..one little wordMy Profile

  54. That is a very long time! They clearly adapted well to the bush tucker, which to our more refined palate must taste like cardboard. These had to have been very hardy people — that terrain looks very unforgiving and treacherous. I agree, it is a shame that so much has been lost but you’ve learned a lot from what remains. It is very beautiful there, Narelle.

  55. Very interesting name, Blue Mountain!!
    And the coffee seems to be very rich, would love to have it someday.
    Arti recently posted..Yamuna River: Ghats of Mathura – Vishram GhatMy Profile

  56. Hey Arti, thanks for stopping by. I’m not a coffee fan but friends tell me it has a very lovely flavor.
    Not sure how you can get some there without paying an arm and a leg.

  57. Oh! So this is the place where most expensive coffee can be found. I wonder what the taste like. It must taste delicious and mouth-watering than the famous Starbucks.
    Olga Torres recently posted..Implementation SpecialistMy Profile

  58. Yes, it is! Unfortunately, I’m not a coffee drinker but people I’ve talked to say it’s a lovely coffee. Definitely better than Starbucks!

  59. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Olga!