Aside from the distinct growing regions in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, one of the most Unique things about our coffee is the way we store and ship our green coffee in hand made wooden barrels. Likened to fine wine, our coffee must be treated with the utmost care through exportation and storage of the hand picked green beans. Once we have hand sorted out the black, bora and rotten teeth beans, they are sorted by #1, #2, #3 and triage grades. Since the Coffee industry Board of Jamaica has strict guidelines concerning the acceptable grades to be exported, the #1 beans are the most of what makes the grade. The coffee that does not meet exportation requirements will be consumed and sold on the Island. Once all of that has been sorted out ( no pun intended ~ OK you caught me, there is) the Green coffee is ready to be packaged for exportation.
The Blue Mountains produce 5/100 % of all the worlds coffee around 1000 -1300 metric tons of exportable coffee. That is roughly .1% of the Colombian annual output or another way to look at it would be the amount of coffee Colombia produces in three hours. Of that amount of exportable Coffee nearly 80% goes to the Japanese who have a long standing affinity four Jamaica Blue Mountain. That leaves only 2/100 % for the rest of the world, and 200 tons is a very small amount for those of us in the Western World.
Being Farmers and members of our Co-op, we are next in line for the exportable coffee supply, so rest easy my friends. The folks at Mavis bank have been processing and exporting coffee for years and are and old and revered name on the Island. Unlike other processors that process at sea level, Mavis Bank processes and stores at altitude, an island tradition.
“But you still haven’t told us, why the hand made barrels?” Good to see you’re paying attention. Given the limited resource of our coffee, and the conditions we just discussed, it is necessary to protect every single bean the best we know how. Burlap sacks, the traditional coffee method of storage, have a tendency to rip and wear as they are handled. If you have ever gone to a warehouse where green coffee is stored, all the guys have two hooks in their hands they use to move the sacks with. This of course causes large holes in the sacks and you can imagine the loss that that the holes can cause. The guys will tie them as quick as they can, but if we were to take that risk and lose even 2000 pounds of coffee, that’s 1% of an already small amount. The burlap also leaves the coffee to susceptible elements such as dust, debris, and moisture.
The gap-less wooden slats of the barrel keep all the goodness in and all the elements out. Although they are not completely waterproof, we have barrels outside that will hold water for some time due to the nature of their construction, thus keeping moisture out during storage. We already lose between 15-16% of the beans weight during roasting due to moisture content, so the less we let in the better. They also hold up better during shipping since they are far more sturdy that a sack. Lastly, they are the status symbol by which we are identified. Coffee experts know that if they see a barrel that is marked Jamaica, it must be Certified Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. It has become the trade mark of sorts for our coffee which is often likened to fine wine, Rolls Royce, or as we like to say “Absolutely the Best Coffee in the World”
Cheers! ~ Reggie