Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee: where to buy (without being ripped off), and a review

If you like smooth coffee with big flavours you’re going to love Blue Mountain coffee. It has a worldwide reputation for excellence with a price tag to match.

But is it all hype, or does this mystical bean live up to its expectations? And if you get hold of some how is it best enjoyed? If you've bought some before: have you falling victim to the blue mountain scam that 80% of unsuspecting consumers fall for when buying it?

This guide will answer all your questions about Blue Mountain coffee.

What is Blue Mountain Coffee?

Simply put: it's coffee grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, which sit at 7500 ft above sea level are found between Kingston (South) and Port Antonio (North). This is the highest mountain range in the Caribbean and it's warm and humid; perfect for cultivating Arabica beans.

True Blue Mountain coffee must come from the parishes of Portland, St Andrew, St Mary or St Thomas and at altitudes of between three and five and half thousand feet. 

TOP PICK: Clifton Mount Estate Beans Coffee (Volcanica)

Clifton mountain blue mountain banner

If you're just looking for some high-quality authentic beans from the blue mountains, we recommend Volcanica coffees Clifton mount estate100% certified Blue Mountain coffee from the best estate. This is an experience for the true coffee connoisseurs bucket list.

Its an Internationally Protected Brand...

The Coffee Industry Regulation Act has preserved Blue Mountain’s identity by giving it a globally protected certification mark, awarded by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica (CIB). Only coffee certified with this mark can be legally sold as 'Blue mountain'

If it doesn’t have that mark? It’s not the real deal.  We show you how to spot the fakes below.

...But There’s No Protection For Blends

There is no internationally recognized criteria for calling something a Blue Mountain blend. These may contain less than 10% true Jamaican genius so always check the packaging. And Blue Mountain coffee is not ideal in blends anyway. But people blend it with the other Jamaican coffee to lower the price or with something higher in acidity to round out the flavor profile.

Where the best blue mountain coffee comes from in Jamaica - a map

Why Is Blue Mountain Coffee So Expensive?

The two main reasons are: limited supply, and the actions required to keep the quality high. Heres a little more context:

  • 80% of it is exported to Japan - the remaining 20% is left for the rest of the world.
  • Limited growing region - these beans come from a small island and they need to specifically come from one of just a few different locations on the island to be certified JBM beans.
  • Time consuming to grow - take roughly ten months to mature; twice as long as typical coffee (1), making them even more difficult to produce on a large scale.
  • Difficulty in harvesting -  coffee trees are grow in small groups (often on steep mountains), where workers need to take great pains to access them.
  • Quality control - every single bean is hand-inspected through a painstaking system that treats their product like gold, weeding out defects and making sure that only the best coffee (most uniform beans) make it into the bags.

With all this in mind, it’s important to keep perspective. These beans are genuinely made with painstaking effort, and buyers should keep this in mind when shopping. These workers deserve their hard-earned wages. They’ve gone above and beyond for that cuppa you’re craving!

Map of Jamaica and Japan

What Does Blue Mountain coffee Taste Like?

Jamaicas tropical climate provides the sunshine and water that ideal for coffee plantations. This perfect combination isn’t found in many places in the world, which is what makes Blue Mountain one of the world best tasting coffees.

The smooth, clean taste of Blue Mountain coffee has given it a worldwide reputation for excellence. Its not uncommon to hear that blue-mountain beans are on a coffee lovers bucket list.

Expect these flavours:

  • Mild, polished flavor.
  • Smooth but vibrant acidity.
  • Clean taste with very little bitterness.
  • Aroma: Sweet herbs and florals, with overtones of nuts.

Where To Buy Blue Mountain Coffee

The important thing with Blue Mountain is to make sure that you’re getting the real deal. Although you will find Blue Mountain available on eBay and Amazon, it’s not a route we’d recommend you take when buying your beans. They may not be fresh roasted, and you will have a hard time checking up on the certification.

The best place to buy Jamaican blue mountain coffee is from a renowned plantation 

If your beans come from one of the following plantations, you'll be in good hands. Although there isn’t much difference in location or growing conditions, each has some subtle differences.

  • Wallenford Estate - This estate was bought in 2013 by a philanthropic businessman (2) with the aim to revive the company and continue to product some of the best Blue Mountain gourmet coffee in the world.
  • Clifton Mountain Estate - is the oldest plantation still in operation in Jamaica. Sitting at 5000 ft. on the eastern slope of St. Catherine’s Peak, and often considered the Rolls Royce of Coffee.
  • Flamstead Estate coffee - is grown at 3,300 ft and provides a coffee with an aroma that is described by reviewers as ‘incredible’.
  • Greenwich Estate coffee - is hand-picked, pulped and parchment fermented to give it an incredibly rounded flavor and great mouth-feel.

How to Spot Fake Blue Mountain Coffee

Because of the premium price, dishonest coffee sellers may use the name to sell other products. Even in Jamaica itself, unwitting tourists bring home bags of beans that are not what they say they are (3).

The most common traps are being sold what you think are blue mountain beans, but in reality are just low quality Jamaican beans, or a bl4)

"A lot of coffee sold as Jamaican is not true Jamaica Blue Mountain, or is blended. If you pay $15 per Lb. for Jamaica coffee, it cannot be true Blue Mountain" - Sweet Marias

That being said, here are a few pointers to help you avoid the scams:

ALWAYS Check The Packaging - Jamaican Blue Mountain is grown, roasted and packaged on the island. If you’re holding a pre-packaged bag of Blue Mountain that says it was packed in Europe or the USA, the chances are it’s not what it says it is.

Avoid most blends - If you buy a blend be aware that there’s no minimum amount of Blue Mountain that has to be included; it could be as low as 10%. Only buy a blend if you're aware of how much blue mountain is within.

Look For The Seal Of Certification - the coffee industry board stamp is shown on all genuine Blue Mountain beans. It’s a blue circle, inside is an image of a mountain, an island map, a barrel and coffee beans. This is certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica (CIB) so you can trust this stamp.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions - anyone who has real Blue Mountain will be proud of that fact. It’s not easy to come by, so there will be a paperwork trail. They shouldn’t be offended if you ask to see some documentation, in fact they’ll probably make you a brew and tell you how this deal came to be.

How to identify real Jamaican blue mountain coffee

Best Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee beans (reviews)

Here are a few highly recommended providers of 100% authentic blue mountain coffee beans:

1. Blue Mountain Peaberry Coffee (Wallenford Estate)

blue mountain peaberry banner

Specifications:

  • Brand: Volcanica coffee
  • 100% Certified peaberry blue mountain
  • Roast: medium
  • Estate: Wallenford 

100% Blue Mountain certified beans from the ​​Wallenford estate – one of the handful of estates that are specifically certified to grow legitimate, pure Blue Mountain Coffee. Peaberry coffee is a rarity in the coffee world, comprising only 5% of a crop, which makes this coffee the top 5% of the best coffee in the world.

2. Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee (Clifton Mount Estate)

Blue mountain coffee clifton mountain estate brand

Specifications:

  • Brand: Volcanica coffee
  • 100% Certified Blue mountain beans
  • Rainforest Alliance certified
  • Estate: Clifton Mountain

This Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee comes from Clifton Mount Estate. Nestled in the Blue Mountains on the slopes of Catherine’s Peak, it is one of the oldest plantations in Jamaica. Expect rich and overflowing with fruity, floral, and chocolate notesthese single estate beans are the definition of elite. They are even Rainforest Alliance Certified; meaning they have been produced with the utmost ethical standards in mind.

3. Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend - volcanica coffee

a jamaican blue mountain blend

Specifications:

  • Brand: Volcanica coffee
  • 30% Blue Mountain blend
  •  Approved by the Jamaican Coffee Board as a JBM bean blend
  • Medium roasted

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Didn’t you say NOT to get a blend? Yes, but the one time that a JBM coffee blend is alright to try is when it is honestly and openly labeled as such… and when it’s approved by the Jamaican Coffee Board. This openly mixed blend is crafted with 30% pure Jamaican Blue Mountains beans, with the remaining 70% made up of a supporting cast of the most elite mountain-grown coffees. 

The big winning factor here? They’re nearly half the price of 100% pure Jamaican beans.

The site is run by the Munn family, one of the original families to enter the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee business back in the late 19th century (Cecil Augustus Munn started growing coffee plants there in 1885!). The family’s roasting facility, the Mavis Bank Central Factory, is also one of the foremost JBM coffee roasters in the world, and is a pillar of the local farming community.

Their site has a selection of beans in various sizes (including peaberry). Check them out; they have a solid reputation.

How to Brew Blue Mountain Coffee

You should only brew this coffee when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin's Day…no, wait. That’s something else. Brewing a coffee this prestigious does demand your full attention, though. What coffee makers should you use with this bean?

Here are a few general guidelines for brewing amazing blue mountain coffee:

  1. Keep your coffee fresh (store it in a vacuum container until you’re ready to use it)
  2. Grind it as close to using it as you can, preferably at home.
  3. Use an immersion technique to bring out the best of the flavours. Drip,
  4. French press or percolator will all do this bean justice (5).
  5. Use good filtered water that has been boiled, then cooled for 30-45 seconds.
The best way to brew blue mountain coffee beans

Why Immersion?

Immersion brewing styles (eg. french press coffee, percolator or moka pot coffee makers) get every scrap of flavor out of your freshly ground coffee. These methods allow the hot (but not boiling) water do its job of penetrating the grind and pulling out all the flavor and the oil that gives coffee its great mouth-feel. You could also experiement with a cold brew.

If you’re a real fan of espresso, then look for Jamaican Peaberry. These are beans that have grown to fill the whole cherry, rather than splitting into two. They make a better choice for espresso brewing.

Roasting your own?

Since it's so expensive you'll want to make sure you roast them in confidence; a medium roast is recommended.

"We use a medium roast, which brings out the most of the complexity of the flavour of blue mountain coffee" - Fish, Thunder Coffee

Here's some advice from a man named 'Fish' from Thunder coffee, showing the care he pays to roasting for his customers. Some great tips for home roasters within:

Final Thoughts

If you're still with us, you should know everything about this bean, from its history, to where to buy it, to how to brew it and roast it. At least once in your life, you should treat yourself to the standard that all other Arabicas are held to, and brew yourself a cup of coffee from the Jamaican blue mountain region.


References:

  1. 7 reasons why Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is so expensive. (2019, February 06). Retrieved from https://henryshouseofcoffee.com/2015/11/03/jamaicanbluemountain/
  2. 51 Products We Love: Editor's Choice Gift Guide. (2017, December 04). Retrieved from https://www.mensjournal.com/gear/60-products-we-love-editors-choice-gift-guide-20141215/wallenford-blue-mountain-coffee/
  3. DEWAR, T. (n.d.). Crackdown planned on fake Blue Mountain coffee. Retrieved from http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Crackdown-planned-on-fake-Blue-Mountain-coffee_18015328
  4. Jamaica Coffees. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/jamaica/
  5. Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bluemountaincoffee.com/about-us/faqs


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Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.