People are drawn to the balanced cup that real Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee (JBM) offers. It’s chocolatey brewing with natural spice and fruit tones without bitterness.
Jamaica coffee can be divided into two categories Blue and High Mountain. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee comes only from the East of the island and usually costs US$50 per pound (450g) for roasted beans. High Mountain mostly from the west of the island usually sells for ÙS$25 per pound for roasted beans.
Blue Mountain is luxury beans the equivalent of a Louis Vuitton bag for coffee. The classic profile is layered moving from chocolate to spice to fruit tones without bitterness. High Mountain is functional and would represent a beauiful leather backpack without a brand name. The profile moves from deep chocolate to lighter chocolate and spice with slight bitterness.
Some critics say that over the last 20 years with the rise of Starbucks and specialty coffee, other regions have improved quality and now offer cups with similar quality to Jamaica Blue Mountain. Jamaica finds its natural competitors that speciality coffee in Latin America and the Pacific. So is Kona coffee better than Jamaica coffee. Or is Guatemalan coffee better than Jamaica coffee. What about Colombian coffee. These beans usually cost half that of Jamaica Blue Mountain quality beans. That said, the profile tends to be a cross between Jamaica Blue and Jamaica High Mountain beans. Two handbags of the same size says nothing about the quality and style. A Louis Vuitton handbag will always maintain its value due to its quality and taste, so too with Jamaica Blue Mountain.
So is Jamaica coffee worth the money? Well it depends. Yes if you can guarantee that the beans are 100% from Jamaica rather than blends. Blended coffee is basically 10 to 30 per cent Jamaica Blue Mountain with 70 to 90 per cent beans from other origins usually Colombia. Blends costs half the cost of JBM or about US$25 per pound but really drinkers are getting foreign coffee.
Buying 100% JBM from reputable brands is essential. The best brands of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee include:
3. Coffee Roasters Jamaica
4. Marley Coffee
5. Coffee Traders
7. Jablum Gold
8. Island Blue
10. Plantation Blue
There are others and the list can adjust based on crop and batch quality. Here’s a list of the taste profiles of most of these brands along with fulfilment.
Coffee lovers might wonder why Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is twice as expensive as High Mountain coffee.
Well Blue Mountain is in heavy demand in places like Japan where roughly 75 per cent of the total crop gets exported annually. Additionally, the Blue Mountain growing region is entirely on steep slopes. That limits cultivation in an is already limited zone. Its 8 hours of daily mist and fog creates a natural green-house effect which slow ripens the beans. Comparatively High Mountain is grown on flat lands or lowlands which enables better economies of scale. But also the coffee isn’t in heavy demand in Japan like the JBM.
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Three lbs of Jablum Gold 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain for under $60plus shipping. $18.99. The coffees expire in 2018.
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A respected local coffee brand SALADA Foods Jamaica Limited complained of Jamaica coffee price increases.
The increases slashed its gross margins by more than one-quarter, the company stated. It’s the latest processor to complain about the over 30 per cent price hike in one year, and 250 per cent hike over two years, towards $11,000 per box of coffee cherry. However the price rise is due to a severe supply shortage based on drought, disease, farm decay and now fire. Concurrently, large overseas buyers are demanding more coffee from Jamaica. On the micro-level farmers are demanding more per box due to the impact of currency depreciation on farm costs, and also the cost to protect the coffee against disease and theft. Two years ago processors paid roughly $3,000 for a box of coffee cherry to farmers.
“Profits continue to be adversely affected by the increases in price of coffee beans realised in the first quarter and the performance of its subsidiaries Mountain Peak Food Processors Ltd and Pimora Company Ltd,” stated Salada in a notice prefacing the financials signed jointly by Chairman Patrick Williams and Director Aubyn Hill. “The gross margin for the six months was 27.5 per cent, a reduction of 27 per cent when compared with the same period in the prior year. This resulted from the higher cost of coffee bean now being processed.”
Salada made $37-million profit before tax in the March quarter 2015 on $220 million in revenues, or 184 per cent higher profit year-on-year.
Just this week, large coffee processor Mavis Bank Coffee Factory Ltd makers of Jablum indicated that fire damaged at least $200 million worth of farms thus far. Last week US-based Marley Coffee cautioned its investors that the supply shortage of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee could affect its sales going forward.
In recent times, Salada has faced increased local coffee competition in both the instant and brewed markets. Salada in its previous quarter hinted that it would seek to launch new coffee products this year. However, its latest March financials failed to add information on product development.
Last year, large coffee company Mavis Bank Coffee Factory Ltd launched True Brew, an instant coffee. It also launched Jablum Caribbean Blend, a mixture of beans from Jamaica and the Caribbean. In 2012, it also launched a high-end product called Jablum Gold.
Marley Coffee offers one of the coolest brands from the Jamaica Blue Mountains. This coffee rocks with reggae chocolateness and R&B low acidity. Its led by Rohan Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley, with operations in the US and Jamaica.
Its listed on the OTC Market in the US as Jammin Java and considered a penny stock with thin capitalisation. The team at Marley Coffee however want to change that but are faced with financial hurdles.
For instance, April quarterly sales more than doubled year on year which has puts it on track to surpass the US$10 million annualised target for this financial year.
Despite the rapid sales jump, its net loss quadrupled to US$1.9 million during the three months to April. The company blamed the losses on its widening US distribution.
“The principal reason for the increase in net loss was the US$1.9 million increase in total operating expenses from the growth of the company and its staffing needs offset by the US$473,950 increase in total other income,” said company filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Losses mean very little to coffee lovers who just want the perfect brew. Marley Coffee offers that, but even that has challenges based on the limited supplies of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
The shortage is based on factors outside the company’s control led by the coffee rust disease. During the April quarter the company purchased just US$65,000 worth of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. which accounted for a small fraction off its US$2.1 million in quarterly sales. Comparatively, the company bought one-third more Jamaican coffee a year earlier.
In fiscal 2014, Marley Coffee established a national grocery distribution network, increased its brand awareness and strengthened its international presence, including its entry into two of the largest chains in the US, Safeway and Kroger.