Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee

FROM BEAN TO CUP

FROM BEAN TO CUP

The story begins before the bean is born or even the seed planted in the soil. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee can claim its origins from a decision taken by a French King in the 18th Century. In 1723, King Louis XV sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique - another lush, fertile island 1,900 kilometres south-west of Jamaica. Five years later in 1728, Sir Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica, received a gift of one coffee plant from the Governor of Martinique. The rest is history. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee was born.

Luthie is a coffee farmer on Pleasant Hill in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Only coffee grown in the legally defined Blue Mountain range can be certified as Blue Mountain Coffee. A smallholder farmer, Luthie employs a handful of other local people to help plant the Arabica Typica, continue the husbandry of the plants throughout the year, including pruning and stumping when necessary.

THE HARVEST PERIOD

THE HARVEST PERIOD

The harvest takes place over a much longer time than in other coffee growing regions and Luthie needs to make sure he have the labour – or “reapers” as they are called in Jamaica – to pick the coffee cherries.

Very often the reapers will need to return to the same tree three or four times to pick the ripe cherries. The harvest takes place over many months – from January to June - since the picking takes places at between 2000 and 5000 feet depending on the farm.

Combined with the famous protective mist and changing weather conditions, the cherries take longer to mature and result in a complex coffee cup profile.

Luthie takes the handpicked cherries and floats them in the water, which shows if the cherries have insect damage or are undeveloped. The good cherries are then packed in wooden boxes and taken to the local coffee cherry depot. The higher the altitude, the longer the ripening takes, and the later in the crop the reaping takes place.

PROCESSING AND INSPECTIONS

PROCESSING AND INSPECTIONS

At the local coffee depot (there are hundreds of such depots dotted across the Blue Mountains), smallholders like Luthie deliver the fresh cherrys to the depot in the late afternoon as soon as possible for optimum freshness where the cherrys are inspected and floated again, then brought into the factory for processing.

At the processing facility, the coffee cherries are placed in large holding tanks and are again thoroughly inspected to eliminate any over fermented, green, or insect-damaged cherries. The cherries are then mechanically scrubbed to remove the mucilage, a sugary substance on the outer section of the bean. The product left after washing is a creamy, brown bean known as the wet parchment. In the industry, it’s called wet processing. Some processors use the traditional method of fermenting where the wet parchment is held in tanks for 24 hours.

Learn Jamaica Blue Mountain Block5

Following further inspection, the wet parchment is then placed on large slabs called barbeques for drying. Again, this is an artisan process that requires careful monitoring by hand and regularly the beans need to be turned. This can take as long as 5 days depending on weather conditions. The purpose of the drying process is to get the moisture level in the beans to the perfect level. The next step is the resting period.

The dried parchment is now bagged and taken to the resting warehouse where it will remain for at least ten weeks to mature. This is a critical stage of the processing where the unique flavour characteristics of the bean mature and develop.

Once this beans have rested and are just right, they are ready for hulling. Hulling is where the outer shell or “husk” is removed and the Jamaica Blue Mountain green bean emerges. These beans are then polished to remove the silver skin on the outer layer and are now ready for sorting.

Learn Jamaica Blue Mountain Block6

Following further inspection, the wet parchment is then placed on large slabs called barbeques for drying. Again, this is an artisan process that requires careful monitoring by hand and regularly the beans need to be turned. This can take as long as 5 days depending on weather conditions. The purpose of the drying process is to get the moisture level in the beans to the perfect level.
The next step is the resting period.

The dried parchment is now bagged and taken to the resting warehouse where it will remain for at least ten weeks to mature. This is a critical stage of the processing where the unique flavour characteristics of the bean mature and develop.

Once this beans have rested and are just right, they are ready for hulling. Hulling is where the outer shell or “husk” is removed and the Jamaica Blue Mountain green bean emerges. These beans are then polished to remove the silver skin on the outer layer and are now ready for sorting.

HAND-PICKING THE BEST

HAND-PICKING THE BEST

Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is all hand sorted by a large of team of locals, mostly ladies, who are in charge of making sure the final green coffee product is perfect. Every bean has gone through an artisan process from the land to the cup. All beans are sorted by size as verified by the Coffee Industry Board. The beans are graded according to size: Grade I, Grade II, Grade III and Peaberry beans. The process is almost over. The last step is one final inspection, done by hand, where each bean is examined to eliminate any defect.

Grade 1, 2 and 3 refers to the size of the classic flatberry Arabica Typica, which consists of two beans in one coffee cherry. Peaberry is where the beans are fused into one bean and represent about five percent of the crop. Some connoisseurs and experts believe that Peaberry has an even more condensed flavour and cup profile.

THE TASTE TEST

THE TASTE TEST

Next, samples are taken from the lots to the sample cupping room where they are sample roasted and cupped based on strict standardised tests regarding taste, body, and colour.

The coffee is ready to be packaged for export. The green Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans are then loaded into barrels made from Aspen wood and taken to the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board for quality inspection and export in 15kg, 30kg and 70kg barrels.

The Coffee Industry Board conducts further extensive testing from the barrels to make sure that consistent high quality is kept to the world standard of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. This can be time consuming, but guarantees that every barrel of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is of guaranteed high quality.

OVER TO YOU

OVER TO YOU

Now, the coffee is finally ready for export. The Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is shipped in containers to Antwerp in Belgium, custom cleared and stored in a purpose built coffee warehouse and the coffee is ready for its onward journey to Sea Island Coffee.

At the roastery, the Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans are treated with respect and careful roasting by the Roastmaster – slow roasted on a vintage 15kg Probat roaster to a light medium roast to reveal those delicate creamy features of Jamaica Blue Mountain, then rapidly packed in quality valve bags to keep optimum freshness.

The journey from smallholder farmer to cup is a lengthy process indeed and we are rewarded for our patience that, like fine cheeses and wine, reveal a complex and delicious cup.