Calling coffee ambassadors - Persons in the hospitality industry urged to promote the Blue Mountain brand
Investments in the local coffee industry in general, and Jamaica Blue Mountain in particular, must extend beyond the planting, harvesting and processing of the beans - which are at the core of the premium hot beverage for which Jamaica has achieved world acclaim - one specialist is urging.
Acting director of the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA), Gusland McCook, wants those involved in serving the Blue Mountain Coffee to become everyday personal ambassadors, instead of depending on special promotion activities, such as this year's second staging of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival.
"It is our intention to strengthen the capacity of persons in the hospitality trade in the art of roasting, brewing and developing their sensory skills, with a view to enabling them to recognise and serve a good cup of coffee," he told yesterday's press launch of the festival, to be held from Friday, March 1 to Sunday, March 3.
The festival is being billed as the Caribbean's premier coffee festival for the immersive experience, from farm to cup, in the process providing some insight into the rich tradition of coffee production in the Blue Mountain region. It will feature coffee and coffee-related products, food stalls, entertainment, cultural presentations, tastings and demonstrations and workshops in a centralised location - Newcastle, St Andrew.
THE 'WINNING BEAN' IN JAPAN
McCook shared with the audience at the Talk of the Town, The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, that for the Japanese who now purchase at least two-thirds of local production, Blue Mountain Coffee is the "winning bean", as demonstrated by its commemoration of January 9 as the annual Blue Mountain Coffee Day in Japan.
"Through developments such as the coffee fest, we will build on these developments to expand our reach, starting right here at home with our local citizens and tourists who visit our shores, as we showcase our coffee culture in the heartland of production by our caring farmers who have contributed to the production of this speciality product," he added.
Meanwhile, Juliet Holness, member of parliament for St Andrew East Rural, the constituency in which the festival will take place, pointed out that beyond its obvious pivotal role in Jamaica's ecosystem, the economic value of the Blue Mountain Coffee cannot be overstated.
"Coffee is much more than the beans and goes way beyond the cup. The variety of ways that coffee can be used should be capitalised on so that our farmers never have to be concerned about the overseas market. Blue Mountain Coffee should be on the lips of every visitor to Jamaica, in every hotel room - be it all-inclusive, boutique or bed and breakfast," she declared.
"At the same time, it should form part of our beauty regime in soaps and scrubs, so that we can feel the goodness of coffee inside and out."
STRENGTHEN LINKAGES BETWEEN TOURISM AND AGRICULTURE
The press conference was hosted by the Tourism Enhancement Fund and Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett used the occasion to share his vision for the three-day festival.
"While the coffee industry generates some US$25 million annually, it is important to the livelihoods of some 102,000 farm families and benefits thousands more in related industries. The synergy of these two industries through the coffee festival will help to strengthen linkages between tourism and agriculture, while spreading the economic benefits derived from tourism to local communities, particularly rural households," said Bartlett.
This linkage has the potential grow the coffee industry locally and help to alleviate some of the challenges caused by shrinking international markets and low prices, according to the tourism minister.
He explained: "Coffee tourism creates opportunities that can unlock the potential of the local coffee industry by introducing visitors to the Jamaican coffee experience, while providing farmers with an alternative income. The key is to view coffee as not just a commodity for export but instead as a speciality product around which we can build an entire ecosystem."