What is Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee?

What is Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee?

Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) coffee has been around for a long time. In fact, Jamaica’s coffee farms can actually be traced back with one coffee plant of three that were initially brought to the French Caribbean island of Martinique, on the orders of King Louis XV of France.

More recently, JBM has established a reputation as a “gourmet” coffee origin with a unique flavor. However, as a consequence, there have been a fair number of imitators trying to profit from its high price tag, somewhat limited availability, and desirable taste. 

In response, the industry has adopted a tough stance to stamp out the counterfeiters and prevent the use of the JBM name on illegitimate products.

But what exactly is JBM coffee? What makes it unique? And what is its relationship with the modern specialty coffee sector? Read this post to understand more about Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.


First and foremost, it’s important to point out that not all Jamaican-grown coffees are classified as Jamaica Blue Mountain by default. This label is reserved for coffees grown in a particular region and at a particular altitude.

The region is actually a designated 6,000ha area of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain range, located on the east of the island. The size of this JBM coffee growing area is exclusively determined by the Coffee Industry Regulation Act in Jamaica.

Furthermore, not only is JBM coffee grown in its own unique region – it also has its own variety. The region grows arabica coffee, including a unique mutation of the Typica heirloom cultivar, also (confusingly) known as Jamaica Blue Mountain. 

This is especially significant at a time where many farmers are rapidly replacing the low-yield Typica variety. Newer varieties might boast higher yields and better resistance to pests and disease, but despite this, producers in the Blue Mountain region continue to cultivate their unique variety.

However, while the JBM variety has adapted to its namesake region, it is known to thrive in other parts of the world, too. However, while they may be the same genetically, these non-Jamaican crops don’t share all the attributes that make the “original” so special.

Finally, altitude is another crucial aspect of JBM production. To achieve the classification, coffee has to be grown at an elevation of over 3,000 feet (around 915 m.a.s.l.). 

If it’s grown at an elevation of between 1,500 and 3,000 feet (approximately 460 to 915 m.a.s.l.), it receives a different classification: Jamaica High Mountain Supreme. 


Let’s start with JBM coffee’s cup profile. It’s generally described as being “silky smooth”, “well balanced”, “full bodied”, “sweet and creamy”, and as having a mild taste overall. It’s also said to be chocolatey, with effectively no bitterness.

One of the key factors influencing its flavour are its unique growing conditions. The Blue Mountains feature some of the steepest terrain in the world; alongside this, the soil composition, cloud cover, and slow maturity rate all play a role.

Because of the steep terrain, almost all crop cultivation in the Blue Mountains is high-maintenance. In this extreme environment, coffee cherries need to be manually picked, which is exceptionally labour-intensive. 

Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is also a washed or wet processed coffee. This keeps the cup profile light. Cherries are pulped at communal stations in the region, although some of the licensed estates have their own processing equipment.

Marketing Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee

As a luxury, gourmet product, Jamaica Blue Mountain is marketed as a “rare and unique coffee”. Its signature trait in marketing is its distinct lack of bitterness.

Attempts to market the coffee also rely on its iconic handmade wooden barrels. While their utility is questionable when compared to hermetically sealed liners for classic 60kg bags, they are certainly unique.

Perhaps the most important factor in the marketing of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, however, is the trademark. 

Every barrel of JBM coffee that is exported comes with a certificate of authenticity issued by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA). This ensures that every barrel has been tested and passed, and meets all JBM standards.

To verify the coffee’s quality, professionals inspect a sample for defects in size, shape, moisture content, colour, and cup. If successful, it earns the all-important trademark seal. 

JACRA – formerly the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board (CIB) – issues and monitors registered trademark licensing for exporters and those who intend to market under the JBM name. 

JACRA monitors all steps across the Jamaican coffee value chain, from nurseries and processing facilities to exporters and importers.  


We’ve already talked about what JBM definitely is, but it’s also useful to understand what it’s not. For starters, it isn’t any of the following:

  • Jamaica High Mountain Supreme: Jamaican-grown, but below the allowable altitude, and not necessarily in the Blue Mountain region.
  • Blue Mountain Jamaica 100% Arabica or any other variant of Jamaican coffee: Jamaican-grown but not specifically JBM.
  • Blue Mountain “blend”: May contain very small amounts of JBM.
  • Blue Mountain “style”: May not contain any JBM at all, although roasted to a similar profile.

Aside from the familiar packaging and the trademark seal, one of the surest ways to guarantee a legitimate product is to buy from a reputable supplier. JACRA is the best starting point for connecting with certified dealers and producers.

However, in spite of JACRA’s best efforts, imitation products still appear.

To counter this at producer and exporter level, few coffee estates have started using a blockchain platform (“Verified and True”), to ensure that every step along the supply chain can be verified. 


With the emergence of specialty coffee culture in the past few years, people have changed their understanding of what is considered to be high-quality coffee. 

However, for a variety of reasons, JBM coffee is not always considered to be “specialty”, despite the fact that it has a cup score of above 80 points.

JBM coffee was one of the first to be marketed as a specialty coffee as far back as the 1940s. Over the years, the quality of coffee improved greatly in Central and South America and Africa, so the attention has shifted.

JBM can and should be recognised as specialty coffee.

Although JBM will always be in demand, the rise of third wave coffee culture and new marketing strategies have caused a shift.

The Jamaican coffee industry, too, should embrace growth, innovation, and development.

Despite ongoing challenges with perceptions of “specialty” and imitation products, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee continues to enjoy high demand and luxury good status around the world.

However, without the implementation of innovations, farmers and JACRA alike seem set to fall behind in terms of marketing and the third wave of coffee.

One thing, however, is for sure: Jamaica’s Blue Mountain region will continue to produce some of the most popular coffee in the world, regardless of the perceptions of third wave coffee drinkers.

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