THE HISTORY OF JAMAICAN COFFEE
JAMAICAN BLUE MOUNTAIN COFFEE HAS A RICH HERITAGE LIKE NO OTHER BEAN
JAMAICAN BLUE MOUNTAIN COFFEE BEANS HAVE A FASCINATING STORY TO TELL AND IT ALL BEGAN IN FRANCE.
LEARN THE REAL HISTORY BEHIND THIS RARE CARIBBEAN SPECIALTY.
Between the busy streets of Kingston and the blissful beaches of Port Antonio, you’ll find Jamaica’s lush Blue Mountains — home to world famous Blue Mountain Coffee. For those who have tasted KIMA’s 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, you know it delivers a luxury experience like no other. But did you know that Blue Mountain Coffee has a long and fascinating history as one of the oldest coffee lineages in the world?
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee was first cultivated in 1728, with centuries or work going into the evolution of flavor. From the Royal Botanical Gardens of France to the mystical haze of the Blue Mountain peaks, read on to discover a fascinating coffee journey like no other.
JAMAICA BLUE MOUNTAIN BEANS - A COFFEE TIMELINE
1700's – A ‘stolen’ sapling
A coffee plant was given to King Louis XIV of France, as a gift. Realising the potential of this little plant, the ‘Sun King’ ensured it flourished in the Royal Botanical Gardens. Legend has it that a French Naval Officer named Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu stole a coffee clipping from the King’s prestigious Garden and smuggled it out of France. Convinced the Caribbean had the perfect climate for cultivating coffee, he risked everything and took it back to the French colony of Martinique on a perilous journey.
1728 – The perfect habitat
The plant grew well and profitable coffee plantations popped up all over Martinique and Haiti. A few years later in 1728, Sir Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica at the time, received this coffee plant as a gift. It was taken to the fertile Mountain land of the Parish of St Andrews, where it grew remarkably. Arabica beans thrive in high altitudes, volcanic soil, cloud coverage and high rain fall. And so by 1800, 686 plantations were in operation. From that single plant, the Jamaican coffee industry was born. The Blue Mountains would work as the perfect habitat for these revered beans that we know and love today as Jamaican Blue Mountain.
Early 1800's – The worldly love affair
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee beans became big export business. By 1814, Jamaica had reached its peak production of about 34 million pounds. Blue Mountain Coffee had earned the reputation globally as “the coffee of Kings and Queens.”
Late 1800's – A drink in decline
The 1890's saw the Jamaican coffee industry waning. The rise and popularity of tea in the UK also hit Jamaica hard as one of their leading import countries. Things came a head in 1943 when Canada refused to buy Jamaican coffee due to poor quality.
1943 – Regulation & rescue
The Jamaican Coffee Industry Board was born to rehabilitate Jamaica’s failing coffee industry. Quality control became the focus for the next fifty years. Like Champagne or Stilton, Blue Mountain Coffee is a luxury product based on geography. The board ensured all Jamaican Blue Mountain export abided to the location. They did an excellent job in maintaining and reviving both the quality and reputation of Jamaican coffee. Thanks to their strict regulations, the industry flourished again.
1950's – Jamaica on the map
Jamaica experienced a tourism boom and glamorous stars became synonymous with the coffee that delivered a taste of the tropics. Royals, actors and dignitaries visited the vibrant Island, including the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe, who famously honeymooned in Jamaica.
1954 – Bond’s drink of choice
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee was author Ian Fleming’s favourite coffee. He credited it in his book, ‘Live and Let Die’, with James Bond declaring it: “the most delicious coffee in the world.” Ian Fleming is also said to have written more than a dozen Bond novels while staying in Jamaica.
1950's – Japan’s obsession
Jamaican coffee was first imported to Japan in the early 1950's after a period of economic growth, post-war. According to DW, back then, Blue Mountain Coffee was promoted as ‘the coffee that the British royal family drank’, and so its popularity soared. By the late 1980s, Japan was importing around 80-90% of the Blue Mountain’s export. In recent times, Japan has officially declared January 9th as ‘Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Day’.
1988 – Hurricane Gilbert
Most plantations were devastated when Hurricane Gilbert hit the Blue Mountains in 1988 and halted production. It was immensely destructive and almost 40% of plants had endured excessive root damage. However, the Japanese government helped out with grants and in the aftermath, coffee plantations sprung up again as farmers switched from traditional crops to coffee.
2018 – The formation of JACRA
In 2018, the Jamaican Coffee Board was merged with other similar organizations to form JACRA, (the Jamaican Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority). Today, all Jamaican coffee is vigorously regulated. Only JACRA can classify beans with the highly regarded ‘Blue Mountain’ seal of approval. Meeting the upmost standards, every barrel of KIMA coffee beans comes with a certificate of authenticity issued by JACRA.
Revered for its smooth, clean and mild taste, coffee experts worldwide agree authentic Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee possesses all of the best characteristics in perfect balance. Today there are roughly 3,600 registered farmers farming 8,000 acres of coffee in the Blue Mountains. Despite the huge demand for such a luxurious drink, Jamaica still produces only a very small amount of coffee, making it both a rarity and a delicacy.
According to Barista Magazine, in 2019, the Blue Mountain region produced just over 400,000 pounds of coffee, while in the same year, Colombia produced over 400 million pounds. Both a new generation of coffee farmers and the Jamaican coffee industry are embracing innovation to meet the high demand.
But because of Japan’s dominant buying patterns, it makes this special drink especially elusive. So if you are lucky enough to experience the soulful flavor of KIMA, be sure to you know you’re tasting something truly special and extremely rare.
Experience it for yourself! Taste the history, flavor and Caribbean soul in every cup of KIMA.