The Beginner’s Guide to
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
There are some things we pay more for, understanding that money equates to a better product. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Like the ever-praised Yirgacheffe coffee from Ethiopia, Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica is another of the highly-regarded beans of the coffee world.
But whenever things are highly-regarded, there’s bound to be someone trying to take advantage of buyers. Much like the whole Kobe beef thing, Blue Mountain coffee has a number of knock-offs roaming the dark side of the internet.
Here’s the thing: Once you try real Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, you'll understand why you this floral, nutty, smooth, and delicious coffee is so in-demand.
We've put together this Blue Mountain coffee guide to teach you how to find a real bag of Blue Mountain coffee, give you a heads-up on how to avoid buying the fake stuff, and provide you with tips on how to brew it so you can enjoy the maximum amount of flavor if offers.
What is Blue Mountain Coffee?
It’s a great question. I mean, why pay 60 bucks for 16 oz. of beans? I admire a totally informed buyer, so that’s what I’m going to help you to be!
Blue Mountain Coffee is highly specific. It’s grown in Jamaica, in the Blue Mountains. That last tidbit of information you could’ve probably deduced on your own, but it goes much further than that. The beans must be harvested from four specific parishes—Portland, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, and St. Mary.
Even more than that, the beans in those parishes must grow above altitudes of 3,000 feet and under 5,500 feet to qualify as Blue Mountain Coffee.
You probably already know that altitude is important in coffee growing. It has more to do with the harsher environment than anything 'magical' to do with being closer to the heavens. At that altitude, plants are less capable of growing, which means less chance of disease, as well.
In addition, much like diamonds, hydraulics, and me as a deadline is looming, pressure is what really cinches the deal with high altitude beans. Up so high, they grow harder and denser, limited by the amount of water, but their flavors are given more time to deepen thanks to developing complex sugars.
I’ve seen other beans grown at altitudes higher than that. What gives?
What makes Blue Mountain coffee so coveted are the unique conditions that come along with that high altitude and harsh environment specifically in the Blue Mountains. Cool, covered in mist, and touching the clouds, this volcanic soil nurtures a truly distinctive drinking experience. It takes double the amount of time for these coffee plants to ripen for the picking at a total of 10 months.
The Jamaicans really know how to capitalize on what they have, though—they know this coffee is a true gem, and, to make this beautiful rock shine, they go the extra mile.
The labor-intensive picking process is followed by rigorous scrutiny. Only picture-perfect beans are allowed to be considered to be Blue Mountain Coffee. Most roasters use machines to separate out good and bad beans, but that’s no way to treat a premier product.
These beans are separated out by hand, inspected for any undesirable qualities, such as being too big or two small. Next, they are separated out by any defects, such as those made by the coffee borer beetle. Only perfectly whole, totally untarnished beans join the approved pile.
And we're not done yet! Not by a long shot.
After the beans are roasted, the Coffee Industry Board or Jamaica must formally approve them. Yes, there is a Jamaica Coffee Industry Board (JCIB, for short) and I have never been so happy to discover that there is a panel of experts cupping this beautiful, caffeinated beverage.
The JCIB sets the rules and regulations, inspects the beans green and roasted, and then blind taste test the coffee for the good of all coffee connoisseurs. (I’m writing a thank-you note simply because these people exist!)
They fill out detailed forms regarding the coffee and then decide whether it’s worthy of the Blue Mountain seal — and yes, there’s a real seal. I’m not just speaking metaphorically. Blue Mountain is an internationally protected brand, and if you don’t see the official seal and paper trail, put it down and forget about it.
Beans grow above altitudes of 3000 ft and under 5,500 ft
Genuine Blue Mountain Coffee is scarce
Jamaica produces only 4 - 5 million pounds a year in comparison to
Panama 13 million pounds
Dominican Republic 118 million pounds
10 months- bloom to harvest
Picking coffee is labour intensive, coffee trees are seldom grown on flat or rolling hills,
they are grown mostly on steep angles up to 70 degrees
Coffee beans are hand-sorted for quality, only 85% of coffee beans are good enough for export
Three cuppers do the tasting & evaluation
Also, be aware that buying “blends” may feel like the cheapest way to taste this magical coffee, but blends may contain 10% or less, and there’s no regulation. If you do this, you should commit and buy a full bag of it. That’s the deal here.
Where Do I Buy Blue Mountain Coffee Beans?
I’m here for you. Here’s a few places that’ll hook you up:
I want you to know that I spent way too long finding and vetting those based on the information provided by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica, so you're welcome!
If you’re curious, click here to take a look at the site for the list of the certified sellers. You can also see the list of importers here. Technically, the JCIB has been replaced by The Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority, but, much like the Sears Tower in Chicago, it’s probably never going to be called by its new name.
Here’s a few vetted options you can have on your doorstep within a couple of days.
Available in 8 oz. or 16 oz. bags, this medium roast is in a vacuum sealed bag with a burlap bag covering. This certified bag of coffee has the appropriate label right on the front for the whole world to see, which is exactly what we’re looking for.
Dark, Medium, Light, and Peaberry?!
We’ve surmounted the difficult bit of this. Now we can talk about you.
You can acquire Blue Mountain Coffee in the same versions you’re already acquainted with — Medium, Dark, Light, French Roast, and, of course, Peaberry. Companies label their roasts differently, so you might see a few others depending on the distributor.
My best advice here is to buy the roast that you like the most. If you typically drink a dark roast, I’d encourage you to snag a bag of that. I typically push light roast coffee when it comes to specialty coffees, largely because you’ll really taste the subtle notes and the origin flavors. You can read our overview of different types of coffee roasts here, but the fact of the matter is that you like what you like. Go with it.
If espresso is your coffee beverage of choice, we recommend opting for the Peaberry. It our favorite for making a two-ounce shot of the good stuff.
Brewing with Blue Mountain Coffee
Great! Now we get to talk about the fun stuff, i.e., how to brew to perfection.
You bought whole bean, right? If not, you march your fingers right back to that site, cancel your order and resubmit it. Then I want you to write “I will never buy pre-ground beans ever again” 100 times on the blackboard.
Now that that’s been attended to, let’s talk about what’ll happen when your coffee arrives. The moment it lands on your doorstep, store it somewhere cool, dry, and away from sunlight until you’re ready to enjoy the first mug. Next, make sure you have the following items:
The best ways to take advantage of the complex flavors of this beautiful bean are immersion or drip. We’ll go through the French Press method right now, which you can get more background on here. You can also check out our Ultimate Guide on Pour-Over Coffee if you’d prefer to go that route.
Come to think of it, cold brew coffee would likely do this bean right, as well.
Alright. You’ve chosen your method. Let’s take this bit by bit. Take this seriously. This is expensive coffee, so be exact. We’re brewing based on a 17 ounce cuppa joe yield, so you’ll have to divide or multiple or whatever if you have a different amount.
Do not grind the coffee until you’re ready to use it. Since that moment is right now, grab that conical burr grinder and kitchen scale. Set your coffee grinder to a coarse setting. The grind should have the same size and consistency as kosher salt.
Now, slowly add the grounds to the kitchen scale. We’re aiming for 1.1 oz. This also equates to two tablespoons and about a pinch if you have no other method of measurement. Once you’ve ground the amount of beans you need, store the rest inside a vacuum-seal container.
Attain filtered water.
I’ll be honest: for my daily coffee, I pull from the tap. I don’t mind the taste of tap water vs. filtered water, but I know people who do. The thing is, in this instance, I’d opt for the filtered water. We don’t want anything influencing the flavor of this java except… well… the java.
Brew the water. Normally, I’m a little blase about the temperature. You know, boil, wait a minute or two, but not this time. This is serious business. Whip out the thermometer you use, like, once a year for the Thanksgiving turkey, give it a good wash and ensure that the water is between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the water is getting up to temperature, go ahead and put the grounds in the French Press.
Prep the timer. Set it for 4 minutes, but don’t start it quite yet.
Water ready? Okay. Pour it into the French Press, seal it, and start the timer all at the same time because you have definitely spouted a third arm as an evolutionary development to reach coffee nirvana.
Write that thank-you note to the JCIB while you wait. Might as well, right?
When that buzzer goes off, plunge! Plunge away! Separate out those beans and pour yourself a morning mug.
That’s it, my friends. Hear the angels sing while you take your first sip, appreciating the smoothness, the vibrancy, the clean flavor. Make sure you get a good whiff of it, too, and take a moment to appreciate the florals.
Blue Mountain Coffee might be frustrating to acquire and cost a pretty penny, but you’ll quickly discover that it was all worth it.
As you can tell, we're fans of the stuff, and we're confident you will be too. Enjoy your Blue Mountain coffee and feel free to write to us with any questions, comments, or concerns!