Jamaica Blue Mountain; Why are these beans so expensive?

Every little thing is gonna be alright…

Let’s take a quick little vacation to Jamaica’s Blue Mountain range. It is here, if one scales the vaulting peaks of this volcanic range that one may find the coffee farms that produce some of the world’s most expensive coffee beans. And while some may point out that Panamanian Geisha beans can sell for around $1000 bucks PER POUND, that doesn’t count out Jamaica Blue Mountain which can also fetch some hefty prices. When you opt for Jamaica Blue Mountain you aren’t getting a can of Folgers, nor are you getting some mass produced factory farm quality first wave coffee caliber beans. You are being treated to some imperial level artisanal beans. And after checking out all the wonderful quest these beans undergo to end up in your cup, you will want to grab a bag (or three) from Custom Roasts, too!

What makes great beans?

There are some cool things to keep in mind when thinking about coffee beans. Besides what type of delicious and caffeine packed brew you’d like to turn them into, it’s important to consider where your beans come from and how they grew. To get some really out of this world beans there are a few factors all the big name and big flavor beans all sort of have in common.

First, Arabica plants produce pretty much all of the good beans. While Robusta plants can produce some choice beans if they are cultivated very well, Arabica beans are king just about 9 times out of 10. Next, Arabica plants grow the best when they are high up. That’s right, a couple thousand feet and the higher you go, usually the tastier the beans get. But the higher you go the higher the price for your beans gets too. This is because of factors like the dangers of farming way up high on considerably less land! Next, what Arabica plants love is a tropical climate, but one that is tempered by lots of moisture, rain and cloud coverage. While Arabica plants love the tropics they still prefer it a bit cooler, this lets the plants and their coffee cherries grow and develop much slower. The slower growth rate allows them to get rich in flavor and character.

Okay so let’s pretend we have all these check marks down, an Arabica plant, high up on a mountain in the tropics in a humid place where the clouds keep them safe from being scorched by the sun and gives them all the water they can drink! Now for our next piece of the amazing coffee checklist; soil with good drainage. Lots of rain means you need lots of drainage. Otherwise your plants drown! But what kind of soil offers amazing drainage? Why, volcanic soil does! Growing Arabica plants in volcanic soil offers them a ton of acidic soil filled with vitamins and minerals that nourish the plants as well as offer great drainage because lava rock is so very porous.

But enough geology and horticulture! What does this have to do with the delectable Jamaica Blue Mountain beans?! Because they check every box on our list!

Produced from Arabica coffee plants.

Grown in a tropical region and climate.

Produced on farms located at very high altitudes (at least 3,000 feet up!).

Located in a place with high humidity offering tons of rainfall, cool air and cloud coverage.

The Blue Mountains are volcanic, which provides soil superb for drainage and loaded with great minerals for the plants.

How do they make Jamaica Blue Mountain?

We have laid out the setting for the epic tale that is Jamaica Blue Mountain. But once we detail some of the criteria that must be met in order for any beans to even start to qualify as Jamaica Blue Mountain it will be easy to see why these beans drive a high price!

First, beans must be cultivated within the parishes of Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland and Saint Mary within the Blue Mountain range in Jamaica. Within this relatively minute area, the beans must be cultivated at least 3,000 feet up. If the beans meet this criterion then they are on their way to begin qualifying as official Jamaica Blue Mountain.

Now that the plants are growing within the designated place, only the fully ripe and red coffee cherries are picked. They are all picked by hand. Many of the other steps in the process of preparing Jamaica Blue Mountain beans involves human labor, another reason why Blue Mountain is more expensive, and that’s a good thing because high prices mean high wages for the workers. After only the reddest cherries are picked, they are floated in water and discarded if they are underdeveloped or have had a few too many nasty insect bites. The beans that aren’t chucked out are brought to a collection station where they are floated in water again. Coffee cherries are then pulped, which is a type of washed processing method for the beans. This removes most of the pulp from the coffee cherry surrounding those precious little beans.

The remaining beans are set out to dry for up to five days. During this time the beans are still undergoing regular inspections. Beans that aren’t good enough do not make the cut while their superior brethren are bagged up in sacks and sent to a warehouse to dry for ten weeks or so. This process allows Jamaica Blue Mountain bean’s unique character to develop and manifest as they dry in this unusual way. After this step, the beans have their outer shells removed and the remaining green coffee beans are sorted by their sizes. I, II, III and a special Peaberry grade bean category.

For those wondering what a Peaberry is, imagine a normal coffee bean. It has one rounded side and one flatter side, right? This is because two beans develop inside of one cherry. The flat side is the side of the bean that presses up against the other bean inside the cherry. Now, imagine if there was only one bean instead of two developing inside the cherry. Ah! It would come out round, like a rugby ball! That’s a Peaberry! Other types of coffee beans exhibit Peaberries from time to time, but especially Blue Mountain and certain types of Ethiopian beans.

Okay now that the beans have been sorted into their size categories, they undergo another inspection, also done by hand and the human eye. No machines. No scanners. Just a human, one who can discriminate between subpar bean and extraordinary bean. Sorry AI, but no automation for the tough task of scrutinizing Jamaica Blue Mountain beans!

After this inspection the beans are loaded into barrels made from Aspen wood which further enhances the flavor and aroma, and brought to the Coffee Board of Jamaica. This is the final inspection. If the beans pass, they are given the award of being recognized as official Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans. Then usually they are shipped abroad, with more than half the total stock usually sent to specialty buyers in Japan. More often known for green tea, in Japan, coffee is a serious and artisanal business, and so only the best beans are used.

A long, strange, but tasty, trip

To be recognized as official Jamaica Blue Mountain beans, the plants have to run a true gauntlet of quality control and specific requirements. With tests almost as difficult as getting into MIT! But now it makes all the more sense as to why you’re paying a hefty sum to get a bag of beans. These aren’t just ANY beans, these are Jamaica Blue Mountain beans! Luxurious beans come at a price, but certainly one worth the price tag. Now that we have taken a quick little tour of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Range and its wondrous coffee crops and what exactly makes them so wondrous, don’t forget to bring some home with you courtesy of Custom Roasts. We have Jamaica Blue Mountain among our other legendary beans.

Sources:
“Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Jan. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Blue_Mountain_Coffee.

“Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Jan. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Blue_Mountain_Coffee.

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