Cultivation of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
Jamaica has around 10,000 farmers growing coffee, including Blue Mountain Coffee and what is generally called “High Mountain Coffee” outside the area denominated as the Jamaican Blue Mountain growing area. Mavis Bank alone purchases from 6,000 small farmers who are growing Blue Mountain Coffee. That means the average farmer is producing about 166 lbs of green coffee per year. Since each tree produces one to two pounds of green coffee, then each farmer has between 83 to166 trees each. Since over 600 trees can grow on an acre these farms are quite small. Blue Mountain coffee cherries are sold by the “box” to the larger processors. Each box is 60 pounds of coffee cherries which will be processed into about 12 pounds of green coffee. Those 12 pounds of green coffee, once roasted, will yield about 9.6 lbs of coffee. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is often grown on the steep slopes of the mountains and requires hand picking. The slopes can be as steep as 60°, which is so steep that it is quite difficult to imagine working easily or even just safely. Cultivation on the steepest slopes is now discouraged due to the erosion such planting can cause. The Jamaican coffee industry employs around 120,000 people making it a significant contributor to the country’s economy. That is the reason that when any of the large processors has gotten into trouble, the government has stepped in to help. Thus the government, until recently, owned the two largest processors of coffee, Wallenford and Mavis Bank. It recently divested its 70% interest in Mavis Bank, and is still trying to sell off Wallenford’s assets. Another reason for the government’s involvement in Blue Mountain Coffee- the beverage acts as an “ambassador” for Jamaica based on the fame of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee in the world. It is a small percentage of international coffee sales, but is the one of the world’s most expensive coffees, recognized for its nuanced flavors, balance and lack of bitterness. It is the quintessential coffee.