A few weeks ago, I got myself into a heap of trouble with a pretty prominent member of a Jamaican musical dynasty (I’m not naming names) after I reviewed some of his company’s famous Jamaican coffee.
After reading that review, another roaster of Jamaican coffee swooped in and offered to send me some samples from his company. The difference, he told me, between his company’s coffee and the other company’s coffee is that his is actually 100% certified Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee—one of the rarest (and most expensive) coffees in the world.
Believe it or not, I have never tried 100% JBM so I eagerly accepted his offer.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping a cup of Jamaican gold—the 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain from Reggie’s Roast. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Reggie’s Roast got started during the early ’90s while Reggie Chung-Loy was searching for a hideaway in the Blue Mountains. Nestled away in the district of New Monkland, St. Thomas, was a pristine parcel of land. This property rests in the valley bordered to the west by the main road to Cedar Valley, and to the east by the sparkling Nigre River. A property lush with fruit trees, orchids and wild parakeets, it lies under an evergreen canopy of the great Guango trees. To our amazement, within this fertile rainforest, next to an abundance of cocoa plants, growing wild was Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
Teaming up with Henry Orgill, who eventually became manager of the farms, Reggie embarked upon development of the land. Preserving much of natural shaded canopy of the guango, the original “wild” coffee trees were maintained by pruning and cutting back, the cocoa plants removed, and new coffee trees planted. Ten years later, Reggie’s Roast New Monkland Farm is a thriving 10-acre property producing Jamaica GOLD Blue Mountain Coffee. All coffee harvested is sold to the Blue Mountain Coffee Cooperative (BMCC), of which Reggie is a member.
In 2001, Reggie acquired the north section of the Brook Lodge Estate, in the district of Hagley Gap, St. Thomas. This lush fertile property was once part of a thriving highly productive estate. However, with the devastation of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, much of the infrastructure was destroyed and the property abandoned. Brook Lodge is blessed with gentle slopes, abundant shade trees, and a micro-climate which provides for cool temperatures and abundant mist in perfect harmony with the majestic tropical sun.
origin: Hagley Gap, St. Thomas, Jamaica
farm: Brook Lodge Estate
elevation: 2255 meters above sea level
cultivars: Jamaica Blue Mountain
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Jamaica Blue Mountain, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
This coffee doesn’t have much going for it, in terms of aroma or flavor, and this is the third or fourth time I’ve cupped it, so I’m just going to get right down to it.
There are some faint floral aromatics in the scent in the flavor. The first few sips reveal touches of butterscotch and peanuts, and that’s about it. The most dominant flavors in the cup were of that of the inside of the roaster—the beans have so little flavor and body at the farm level, so they absorbed all of the flavor inside the roaster instead.
It’s roasty and metallic, with an alkaline acidity and coppery mouthfeel. It tastes like a caramel-coated Duracell battery. i don’t want to mean about it, and believe me when I tell you I’m not going out of my way to be mean—that’s just the way it tastes.
The explanation for this could be, of course, that this coffee was pretty “dead on arrival” when it got to my doorstep: there was no roast date on the packaging (another huge no-no, not just because of the whole “transparency thing” but also because I have no idea how fresh this coffee is—presumably not at all), but that doesn’t matter because it was pre-ground anyway (a HUGE no-no considering coffee loses just about all of its flavor within 15-20 minutes of it being ground).
Medium body; metallic mouthfeel; battery acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
The people of Jamaica are very proud of their coffee. They call it “the world’s best coffee.” This sort of marketing, of course, leads it to become one of “the world’s most expensive coffees.” Based on what I’ve tasted of Jamaican coffee, I have to give it the title, “the world’s most overrated coffee.”
It absolutely isn’t “the world’s best coffee”—for one thing, there’s no way to cast an objective blanket title over such a subjective medium like that; I personally think the world’s best coffees are found in Guatemala. Secondly, the fact that this coffee is so mild, has so little aroma, so little body, so little flavor—there’s no way it ranks in the echelons of “world’s best.”
Very seriously, besides maybe a little caramel, some floral aromatics, and a soft nuttiness, the most dominant flavor I could taste in this coffee was that of the insides of the roaster.
I’m willing to give Jamaican coffee one more shot, but after my first couple rounds with it, I remain unimpressed.
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