Inaugural Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Day
If there’s one thing Jamaicans can boast about, it’s having a reliable and recognisable brand with major marketability. Brand Jamaica not only has music and beautiful vistas on its roster, but also, and maybe most importantly for those of us who ‘love wi belly’, a hard-working Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries. We are more than ‘rum country’, we are also ‘coffee country’, with a steady coffee economy and a growing and evolving coffee culture.
Since the 1960s, Jamaica has supplied the Far East island of Japan with high-quality Blue Mountain coffee beans, so It’s no surprise then that last January, in 2019, it was announced that in partnership with Japan, our largest coffee export market, January 9 would thenceforth be celebrated by the islands as Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) Coffee Day.
Food spoke with coffee man Jason Sharp, the managing director of Jamaica’s own Coffee Traders Limited, parent company to the beloved coffee house Cafe Blue, about the coffee-based day of commemoration and what it will mean for Brand Jamaica. “Let me first say that Cafe Blue celebrates Blue Mountain Coffee Day every day,” he joked with an easy laugh, before sharing insights on the difference between the new day of commemoration which was developed in partnership with the Jamaica Coffee Exporters’ Association (JCEA) and the Association of Japanese Importers of Jamaican Coffee (AJIJC), and the Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, which is a Jamaica-based three-day event that should enjoy its third iteration this year.
When asked how a day like this would benefit the Jamaican coffee farmers, Sharp stressed that a day like Blue Mountain Coffee Day needed to be a day that focused on the human aspect of coffee farming. “Coffee is a product grown by people; at the end of the day, it’s about the people.” The day of commemoration and celebration ultimately highlights the quality product and thus positively impacts the farmers by creating greater value in the brand, which will bolster sales. Agriculture is a delicate industry as many different factors, such as weather, disease and competition, impact the market. The Jamaican position is secured, however, thanks to the hard work of our farmers and companies like Coffee Traders who work hard to ensure that Jamaica provides a quality product every time.
The coffee industry is one of the largest industries, said to be exceeded only by oil, and so it can be a ‘dirty’ industry-filled with poor practices which produces an inferior product through shortcuts which decrease biodiversity, thus negatively affecting the soil, and, unfortunately, the exploitation of small farmers. “I think Jamaica has one of the ‘greenest’ coffee industries in the world,” Sharp posited. “Because we aren’t built on large farms, we don’t have a chemical dependency.” This is thanks to multi-cropping which encourages biodiversity, of which Jamaican coffee farms have a lot. While there are, of course, smaller yields, the quality is consistently better as the natural environment encourages superiority through the existence of bird and insect life which help to naturally regulate disease and infestation breakouts.
To ensure we continue to have a superior product, especially in the face of climate change where for the past two years Jamaica has experienced never-before-seen bouts of severe droughts, the Jamaican coffee industry is working hard to mitigate as best as possible, the most critical effects of climate change. Coffee Traders works hard to produce ‘green’ beans having received through their work in improved water-treatment facilities and outreach and education for farmers, Rainforest Certification. This accreditation is earned from the Rainforest Alliance when certain environmental criteria are met, and these criteria are ever-changing to ensure continued improvement of the coffee produced by guaranteeing that farmers and the environment aren’t exploited in the pursuit of caffeine. Jamaican coffee farmers are supported by the industry leaders and are learning mitigation practices against fire, and the benefits of using different methods of fertilisation and disease-fighting
The Cafe Blue coffee houses will be offering discounts for loyal customers and encourage coffee sceptics to take the plunge. “Of course, we always want to promote our brand (Cafe Blue), but January 9 is about our (Jamaican) coffee, and the focus should be on [that].”