Most people don’t realize how much effort goes into a cup of our Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. It is taken for granted these days as most think that waiting for an entire pot or a French Press Coffee is considered work. Do you know it takes a newly planted coffee tree 5 years before it produces quality coffee? It is a time consuming process from soil to cup…
To begin with the distinction that most of the better Arabica Coffees are grown at high elevations in a tropical rain forest climates, it means that the coffee plants are planted, harvested, and maintained by hand since the neither the quality of the coffee nor the mountainous slopes would warrant using machinery. The harvest is done by hand, usually in two passes; the first to get all the ripe cherries, leaving the nearly ripe behind to be picked on the second pass. This conserves our precious fruit so none gets picked too early, or is left to over-ripen. When you are working with a crop that produces small volume of a high demand coffee, it is essential every cherry is ripened and harvested properly.
The next step is to get the cherries to the Processor. Jamaica has about 80 processing stations throughout the Blue Mountains where Farmers will bring their boxes of cherries to be floated. Floating the cherries leaves the ripe cherries at the bottom, and any unsatisfactory cherries will float to the top from either an unripened bean or insect damage. The cherries are then brought to the processing house where they are once again floated, and begin the processing stages. They are first soaked, then de-hulled and the wet parchment is left in the sun for six to ten days depending on the sunlight; until the moisture content reaches approximately 12 percent. Then it is off to storage for several weeks while the sugars inside the beans develop further, bringing out the bean’s flavor.
From there the cherries are sent to The Coffee Industry Board for inspection, cupping, and the ultimate seal of approval – Certification as Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. The beans are sorted by hand into #1, #2, Peaberry, and #3 & 4 known as Triage, which does not get exported. Only #1, #2, & Peaberry are worthy of exportation after certification. After sorting, the beans are polished, removing most of the excess outer hull left after processing. This “skin” is known as Chaff to Coffee Roasters, and the extra care used in Jamaica’s Coffee processing eliminates a large part of the Chaff from the bean before Roasting, leaving the roaster with less chaff in the canister after the roast. This also gives the beans a beautiful shine not found on many other green coffee beans. It is said that a perfectly processed bean will have a blueish hue to it; know only to Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. The beans are then placed in 15, 30, or 70 Kilo hand made Aspen Wood barrels for shipping. These air tight barrels protect the coffee from any outside elements such as moisture or foreign odors.
It is a geo-political fact that the best coffees in the world are produced in economically challenged regions of the coffee producing belt. Jamaica and regions of Central and South America, along with the Pacific Rim and Africa are prime examples. The life of the coffee farmer like that of any farmer in the developing world, is subject to the forces of nature. Tropical rain falls, the equatorial sun, pollinating allies of the animal world, the creatures of the soil, are all partners in a process that we as the consumer, sitting in our favorite cafes, or in our homes, surrounded by the perks of our first world economy, are rarely cognizant of! Rising up with the sun, planting the trees, tilling the soil, and harvesting by hand through the hot tropical sun, we navigate on hilly terrains every day to bring this rare delicacy to your cup. Farmers by name, but by heart we are the small businessmen and women of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. Every day we work diligently to provide for our families through the physical labor of working the soil, pruning the trees, balancing shade and sunshine, and working with the elements. We all know Jamaica to be a paradise, and this is true! But with all the good that we are blessed with, we are susceptible to what the fates may bring. Droughts, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes are all some of the damaging elements we face, along with the health and well being of ourselves and our families as we work our farms. What we reap from our crops is always dependent on Mother Nature. Having survived these sometimes catastrophic challenges, we must now hope for a fair price for the eventual crop, and when a fair trade price is realized, it provides for the basic necessities of life, and maybe a few “luxuries”. There is no health insurance, no life or disability insurance, no pension plan. What we do we do for Love. Love for our families, our Farms, and our coffee.