Coffee culture in Jamaica

By | Category: Travel destinations

The low-down on the Jamaican coffee scene

How to ask for a coffee in the local language?
Me need fi full up pon sum kaffee

Signature coffee style?
Drip coffee

What to order with your coffee?
Meat patty

Waste your time searching for hip micro-roasters or latte artists; Jamaica’s best coffee often appears out of beach shacks that look like they’ll blow away in the next hurricane


Jamaica produces the Ferraris of the coffee world. But, rather like the supersonic cars, not a lot of people get to try them. Instead, most of the countrys low-yield, high-end coffee is earmarked for export, with more than 80% of it going to Japan.

Jamaicas best beans come from the Blue Mountains, whose cobalt slopes rise abruptly behind the steamy capital, Kingston. Here, their growth, harvest and processing is meticulously overseen by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. According to local lore, the coffees superior quality is a by-product of the mountains damp mists, steep lofty slopes (certified Blue Mountain Coffee must be grown between 3000ft and 5500ft) and excellent drainage. As a result, the coffee cherries mature slowly to ensure a rich, nutty brew that is low in acidity. Above all, Jamaican coffee is wonderfully smooth.

Coffee culture in Jamaica doesnt enjoy the historical intrigue of Italy or the hipster affiliations of the US. But thats not to say you cant find a decent cup here. In fact, Jamaica is one of the few countries in the world where youll rarely suffer a bad brew. Cappuccinos arent the norm. Rather, locals tend to drink their coffee piping hot out of large ceramic mugs with a little added milk. With Blue Mountain set aside for souvenir-hunting tourists and five-star Tokyo hotels, locals are left to sup on High Mountain, a smooth chocolatey coffee thats long played second fiddle to the premier blend. Then again, theres no shame in being runner-up to a Ferrari.


©-lvinst-/Getty Images

1.5km southwest of Section Village, Blue Mountains;
+1 876 865 2978

The Twyman family has been responsible for producing some of the world’s best Blue Mountain Coffee for decades. High up in Jamaica’s longest range and reachable by 4WD only, the family’s estate is run by David, the son of late owner Alex, who emigrated to Jamaica from England in 1958 and persevered for a decade to secure a Coffee Board License, which allowed him to sell the beans directly to clients under the coveted ‘Blue Mountain Coffee’trademark. His persistence ensured the bean’s impressive heritage continues; Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee dates back to 1730, when the first Arabica plants were introduced to the island from Saint-Dominque (present-day Haiti).


Blue Mountain Peak
Starting from Penlyne Castle hamlet, hikers make night-time ascents of Jamaica’s tallest peak. At sunrise on a clear day you can see Cuba.

Strawberry Hill
Swim in the infinity pool, sample the sumptuous Sunday brunch or relax in the Caribbean-style cottages at this luxury hotel in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Downhill Cycling
Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours offer exhilarating guided descents past coffee plantations clinging to steep slopes.

Holywell Recreation Area
Well-maintained hiking trails thread their way through the unique ecosystems of primary montane forest, cloud forest and elfin woodland Beautiful waterfalls and excellent birdwatching.

The Twymans make good use of traditional fermentation and sun-drying processes while keeping the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides to a minimum in their single-estate beans. Visitors are welcome by prior arrangement and treated to lessons on coffee growing and production, with a tasting session at the end. The rare peaberry beans grown here are mild-flavoured and prized by coffee connoisseurs. You can buy the Old Tavern Coffee Estate beans directly from the farm or at the Kingston office; the brew itself is served in Kingston’s top restaurants and cafes.

©wilpunt/Getty Images 

©wilpunt/Getty Images


Types of Coffee
Americano Espresso and hot water
Cafe au lait Equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk
Cafe mocha Espresso blended with chocolate syrup and topped with steamed milk or microfoam
Cappuccino One part espresso, one part milk and one part foam
Cold brew Coffee brewed using water at room temperature or colder. Usually steeped for 10 to 24 hours
Cortado  From the Spanish verb‘to cut’, a cortado is equal parts espresso and steamed milk
Crema A thin and desirable layer of foam found on top of an espresso
Doppio Or ‘double’ in Italian. Two shots of espresso pulled through the same filter and served as one
Drip/filter coffee Mechanized brew method using gravity to pull hot water through a bed of coffee grounds and a paper filter
Espresso A small, concentrated, syrupy shot of coffee that is achieved when pressure is used to force water through finely ground coffee
Flat white One part espresso to two parts steamed milk/microfoam
Latte One part espresso and three or more parts steamed milk
Latte art A design made in a drink using steamed milk/microfoam
Long black Espresso and hot water, a term popularised in Australia
Lungo Or ‘long’ in Italian. An espresso which is pulled longer or uses more water than a typical shot
Macchiato Or ‘marked’ in Italian. Is an espresso topped or – marked – with a small amount of steamed milk
Nitro cold brew Cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen and served on tap for a thicker, creamier texture
Piccolo Similar in espresso-to-milk ratio as the cortado, the piccolo is a drink made popular in Australia
Pour over A manual brew method that uses gravity to pull hot water through coffee grounds and a paper filter
Ristretto Or ‘restricted’ in Italian. An espresso that is pulled short or uses less water than a typical shot
Turkish coffee Brewed in a copper cezve or ibrik, Turkish coffee is unfiltered and made by boiling finely ground coffee beans in water


Technical Terms
Arabica Originally from Ethiopia, Coffea arabica is the world’s most desired species of coffee plant
Blend When different coffees from different origins are mixed together to achieve a specific flavour profile
Brew ratio The proportion of coffee grounds to water used when brewing
Coffee cherry The fruit surrounding the coffee bean or seed
Cupping A method of coffee tasting used to determine quality, flavour attributes, and potential defects
Cup score A system of evaluating arabica coffee by assessing aroma, flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, cleanliness, uniformity and defect each on a scale of 1-10. Coffees receive a total cup score out of 100
Green coffee After picking, processing, drying and before roasting, coffee seeds are known as green coffee
Microfoam When milk is steamed to a texture consisting of tiny bubbles
Natural/dry process Picked cherries are set out to dry naturally on raised beds or patios. As the fruit dries it imparts fruity flavours into the bean
Pulped natural or honey process After cherries are picked the skins are removed and beans are dried on beds with their sticky outer layer intact
Robusta Robusta or Coffea canephora is a species of coffee that is less desirable in flavour than arabica, has more caffeine, and is easier to grow
Single origin Coffee sourced from one geographic growing region which usually reflects the flavour attributes produced by a particular terroir
Speciality coffee Any coffee that achieves a cup score of 80 and above
Third wave Describes the overall trend of cafes and purveyors that source, prepare and serve speciality coffee
Washed or wet processing Picked cherries are hulled and put into fermentation tanks to remove the sticky outer layer. The beans are then washed before being set out to dry

Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour , © 2018 Lonely Planet

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