These three brands sell Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) coffee but over the years their stories were somewhat intertwined.
Things to know historically.
Jablum is the most known brand globally of JBM.
Wallenford is the oldest brand and was formerly the regulator of all JBM until Government split its regulatory from marketing functions in about the late 90s.
Island Blue is the newest but owns the largest non-blue mountain coffee lands.
Things to know about current ownership:
Wallenford was acquired by Canadian billionaire Michael Lee-Chin in 2013 and then in 2016 he also acquired Jablum.
IslandBlue was formerly called ‘Wallenford Blue’ but ceased paying royalties for the use of the name when Wallenford was acquired by Lee-Chin. Island Blue is owned by Jamaica Standard Products (JSP) which buys Jamaica Blue Mountain beans and brands it as Island Blue. JSP also separately operates the largest Jamaica High Mountain factory in the island. High Mountain coffee is farmed outside the Jamaica Blue Mountain region. Its High Mountain products are not branded as Island Blue.
Things to know about taste profile.
Wallenford and Jablum are both large JBM producers and now owned by a common company. Both brands share space and facilities now. It is not immediately clear whether all buying and roasting operations are amalgamated. A general tip however is that Wallenford offers a chocolatey nutty and lemon almost wine taste profile while Jablum is light cocoa and at times hazelnut to vanilla.
Island Blue is more chocolatey with spice tones.
Tones of chocolate, nut and spice without bitterness. That’s the classic taste profile of Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM). In other words three distinct layers of tastes. The profile can vacillate slightly with more curated brands offering a transition between chocolate, spice and fruit.
The complexity and smoothness gained a reputation since the 1960s as a coffee that stood world’s apart from your typical cup. Context is important. The 60s was an era before Starbucks, when instant coffee was largely prevalent. Additionally, the average coffee drinker opened a can of dark roasted ground beans. The industry at the time was set on delivering the cheapest cup. That often meant dark very bitter brew. Besides if people had an issue they just added sugar and milk.
Within this era of mass bitter coffee was a beverage from Jamaica that could be consumed black! A brew that allowed the subtle layers of tones to cover the palette of its drinker. No doubt this resulted in it being a delicacy which fetched a premium price.
Then came Starbuck cafes. Its entry largely killed the canned bitter coffee market and resulted in shifting the value chain from cheap to tasty beans. It resulted in the world adopting farming, harvesting, producing and brewing practices that were standard in places like Jamaica and other high end quality coffee nations. The result commodity beans are more flavourful.
Nowadays it is commonplace to source beans from around the world with satisfying taste profiles. But most cannot get the Jamaica Blue Mountain balance of chocolate, spice and fruit. Usually commodity coffees are nutty. Or spicy. Or fruity. It is very rare that they get contrasting tones in one like a quality JBM.
So what does Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee taste like: It tastes like quality.
The Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee festival 2019 takes place in the hills of the world renowned Blue Mountain this weekend. Everyone will congregate on historic grounds in Newcastle but what brands will come out in full force.
Expect all the large ones including Jablum, Wallenford, Coffee Traders, Country Traders, Jamaica Standard Products, and so on.
In terms of cafe popups expect Cannonball, Cafe Blue, Jablum & Wallenford, Coffee Roasters, Island Blue and of course Starbucks and more.
People should be most excited about the surprises: The smaller brands coming out in force to increase marketability and exposure such as Plantation Blue and Bawk coffee. But we shall see this weekend at the coffee festival.
The festival under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism aims to get locals and foreigners to experience three days of Jamaican food, coffee and culture along the Blue Mountain Culinary Trail. There will also be indigenous arts and crafts showcases, live Reggae music performances and tours to some of Jamaica’s best kept secrets.
Can’t be there but want to experience quality coffee. There’s always next year.
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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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Sister companies Wallenford Coffee and Mavis Bank Coffee Factory want to be in every luxury store in the world. But quality takes time to find new markets.
Green beans are best handled by these companies directly but for roasted beans there are options. Each company ships roasted beans globally but they do so at prices which can at times be prohibitive. That’s where brokers enter the picture. Will a 8oz bag of coffee might sell for US$35 directly from these companies, resellers sometimes offer for US$25. Of course buy from sellers on platforms or websites with feedback and knowledge about coffee. Because most Jamaicans don’t drink coffee and think all coffee tastes great.
Jablum and Wallenford were distinct companies until recently acquired by a millionaire, whose officers restructured both companies under a new entity called Specialty Coffee Holdings. The strategy of the Specialty aims to increase green and roasted bean sales to new geographies with special care for China. They want China but they fear bean duplication and thus are searching for a large distributor and roaster.
Five years ago, Russia was a fastest emerging market but the sanctions and the drop in oil prices killed that market almost overnight. The strength of the Russian economy will one day rebound and we await its recovery.
Contextually Japan buys about 75 per cent of total output of coffee from Jamaica. But whats more the remaining 25 per cent sent to other regions actually fights with the some of the 85 per cent repackaged from Japan back to the world.
The Chinese are culturally tea drinkers, but coffee remains popular among youngsters and entrepreneurs which creates a market, particularly for the growing middle class.
Following the Western Financial Crisis in 2008, the Japanese market retracted from buying large supplies of Jamaica coffee. The efforts to market Jamaica coffee in USA and Europe proved difficult with limited budgets. While offloading excess goods in Jamaica would prove futile as the island drinks instant coffee and teas. Additionally, hotels are not required to buy Jamaica coffee.
The price of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee remains at around US$27 per kilogramme in Japan for green beans,and US50 per kilogramme for roasted beans.
Why is coffee from Blue Mountain, Jamaica so expensive?
Simple demand, supply and the resultant price.
People are drawn to the balanced cup that real Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee offers. It’s chocolatey infused with spice and fruit without bitterness.
Additionally Japan demands it more than the rest of the world and buys 70% of total production. This results in 30% for the rest of world. Additionally the region that it’s grown in–the steep slopes of the Blue Mountains, limits cultivation in an is already limited zone. Its 8 hours of daily mist and fog crestes a natural green-house effect which slow ripens the beans.
Additionally the island offers a bespoke coffee made in traditions delevoped over hundreds of years. But that’s not to say farms aren’t investing in modern and new cultivation methods.
Some critics say that over the last 20years with the rise of Starbucks and specialty coffee, other regions have improved quality and now offer cups with similar quality to Jamaica Blue Mountain.
The truth is great coffee can come from anywhere but not all have same taste profile. In short, 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.