Jamaican Coffee And The Blue Mountain Arabica Blend.
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Jamaican Coffee From The Blue Mountains

Jamaican Coffee In Jamaican Food Recipes

The Jamaican coffee plant is a woody perennial evergreen that belongs to the Rubiaceae family.  Two main species are cultivated today.  Jamaican coffee Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) known as Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) Jamaican coffee accounts for 75-80% of the world's production.  Jamaican coffee canephora, known as Robusta Jamaican coffee, is more resilient plant than the Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) shrubs, but produces an inferior tasting beverage.  The Jamaican coffee plant can grow to heights of 10 meters if not pruned, but producing countries maintain Jamaican coffee at three meters to ease picking.  Each hectare of Jamaican coffee produces 86 lbs of oxygen per day, which is about half the production of the same area in a rain forest. Jamaican coffee is second to oil in terms of world commodity trading and that it provides employment for around 20 million people. The name Jamaican coffee may be derived from the Arabic "qahwah" or alternatively may have arisen due to the connection with the province Kaffa, in Ethiopia. The Jamaican coffee tree is indigenous to Ethiopia, not Arabia as many tend to think and belongs to the genus Coffea of the Rubianceae, or madder, family. The first English Jamaican coffee house opened in Oxford in 1650 and by 1675 there were nearly 3000 Jamaican coffee houses in England.

In Jamaica, only Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) Jamaican coffee is grown and "Jamaican Blue mountain Jamaican coffee means: Jamaican coffee that is grown in the Jamaican Blue Mountain Area as described and is processed or manufactured at any Jamaican coffee works specified in the Schedule and to which a license granted pursuant to regulation 5 relates. The quality of the beans is graded into Jamaican Blue Mountain No. 1 - 3, Pea Berry and Triage. Other grades of Jamaican coffee include: High Mountain Supreme, Jamaica Prime and Jamaica Select. In its wild state, the shrub grows to about 8 to 10 meters.

Although Jamaica does not have much of the world market in terms of production, the beans are well known for their exceptional quality and Jamaican Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee commands extremely high prices. Jamaican Blue Mountain Peak stands approximately 2256 m (7402 feet) high, the average rainfall for Jamaica is about 198 cm (78 inches) and the average temperature is 27 C (82 F). Together with sunshine every day and good Jamaican soil, it all contributes to not only great Jamaican coffee but the land of "wood and water" presents an incredibly beautiful environment to live and work in.

It is interesting to note that Jamaican coffee Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) was characterized by Linnaeus in 1753 by which time Jamaica had been growing Jamaican coffee for 25 years. Jamaican coffee has several elements carbohydrates, nitrogenous components, photogenic acids, volatile components, carboxylic acids. A range of carbohydrates, including polysaccharides and the low molecular weight sugars (mono-, di- and trisaccharides) are found in green Jamaican coffee. Sucrose is the major free sugar present and for Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) is present at about 8% on a dry basis. Polysaccharides (glycans) amount to up to 50% on a dry basis of green Jamaican coffee. Hydrolysis of Jamaican coffee polysaccharides has been shown to give mannose, galactose, glucose, arabinose. On roasting the Jamaican coffee major changes occur, depending on the degree of roasting, e.g. from light to dark and simple sugars such as arabinose are progressively destroyed. These may be described in terms of three main groups of compounds: alkaloids, trigonelline together with nicotinic acid and amino acids and proteins. Caffeine is perhaps the best known and controversial alkaloid found in Jamaican coffee and it is present at about 1-2% on a dry weight basis in Arabica (Jamaican type coffee). An alternative view (random dot 3D image) of the caffeine molecule can be found here. Trigonelline has received considerable attention as a nitrogen containing component of Jamaican coffee due to its reported antitumour activity. It is present at about 1% on a dry weight basis but it is thermally unstable and hence can lead to other nitrogenous materials upon roasting such as pyridines and pyrroles. A note on the effect of the roasting process on the presence of trigonelline is available on-line.

An indication of the diversity of the composition of roasted Jamaican coffee can be seen from the numbers given in the Table below, which highlights the sensitivity of the GC/MS detection method. Flavor Constituents in Roasted Jamaican coffee Aroma

Aliphatic carboxylic acids play a large role in the quality of Jamaican coffee and Jamaican coffee infusions. Changes in pH can lead to ionization of functional groups (e.g. phenolic hydroxy groups) and this can alter the flavor of the product.

A number of acids reported to be present in Jamaican coffee have characteristic flavors and their thresholds in aqueous solution may be as low as less than 10 ppm. For example, 2-Methylvaleric acid is reported to impart a flavor of cocoa or chocolate, whereas pyruvic acid gives rise to a burnt caramel flavor. In green Jamaican coffee, non-volatile acids such as citric acid, malic acid, oxalic acid and tartaric acid make up less than 2%.

In roasted Jamaican coffee, over 30 aliphatic acids have been identified. These include 15 non-volatile monocarboxylic acids C1-C10, whilst the remainder is volatile. In general, the darker the roast, the lower the acid content.

In 1994, the Jamaica Jamaican coffee Industry suffered losses estimated at over J $ 70,000,000, due in part, to borer infestation. The Jamaican coffee Berry Borer originated in East Africa and was first reported in 1867. Its first appearance in the Caribbean was not reported until 1971.

The crop year in Jamaica is from 1st August to 31st July of the following year. In 1997, the retail price of Jamaican Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee in Japan ranged from US$ 100 to $130 per kilogram compared to $20 to $40 for the blended Jamaican Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee. The blend is governed by Japanese regulations and must contain at least 30% of Jamaican coffee once the Jamaican Blue Mountain name is used.

The figures show the increasing trend in production of Jamaican Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee and reveal the need for more lowland Jamaican coffee. The Japanese companies are now forced to use Jamaican Blue Mountain in their blends with Colombian and Jamaican Jamaican coffee due to the shortage.

Jamaican coffee is one of the most expensive Jamaican coffees in the world and therefore can be disappointing.  The best estates are Wallenford, Mavis Bank, and Old Tavern.  Be wary of Jamaican Blue Mountain Jamaican coffees that do not list the estate name, do not say 100% Jamaica Jamaican Blue Mountain, or sell for less than $50 per pound.  Since the Jamaican coffee is so expensive it is best to try to find it green and roast it yourself since it frequently goes stale on the shelves.

Despite the appeal of such a legend, recent botanical evidence indicates that Coffea Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) originated on the plateaus of central Ethiopia and some how must have been brought to Yemen where it was cultivated since the 6th century.  Upon introduction of the first Jamaican coffee houses in Cairo and Mecca Jamaican coffee became a passion rather than just a stimulant.

Three to four years after the Jamaican coffee is planted, sweetly smelling flowers grow in clusters in the axils of the leaves.  Jamaican fruit is produced only in the new tissue.  The Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) species is self-pollinating, whereas the Robusta species depends on cross pollination. 

Jamaican soils especially in the Jamaican Blue Mountain area are perfect for Jamaican coffee growing conditions.  To be thick and strong the root system needs an extensive supply of nitrogen, calcium and magnesium.

The elliptical leaves of the Jamaican coffee tree are shiny, dark green, and waxy.  The leaf area index is between 7 and 8 for a high-yielding Jamaican coffee.  The Jamaican coffee plant has become a major source of oxygen in much of the world.

For propagation of Jamaican coffees, ripe red cherries are collected, pulped, and the mucilage is removed by fermentation.  Jamaican coffee seedlings are grown in nursery beds or polybags and are planted in the Jamaican coffee fields when the reach 20-40 cm.

Polybags, made of black diothene (200-gauge), are commonly used and filled with a mixture of topsoil, well rotted cattle manure, course sand, gravel, Jamaican coffee pulp, and Jamaican coffee husks.  A ratio of three parts top Jamaican soil to one part course sand and one part cattle manure is often used.  A top dressing of nitrogen is applied by applying 20 g urea in 5.0 L of water per meter of bed.

For Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) there are two optimal growing climates. The subtropical regions, at high altitudes of 16-24°.  Rainy and dry seasons must be well defined, and altitude must be between 1800-3600 feet.  These conditions result in one growing season and one maturation season, usually in the coldest part of autumn.  Jamaica and Zimbabwe are examples of areas with these climate conditions.

Artificial drying with mechanical dryers is performed on Jamaican coffees grown in this type of culture since rainfall is too frequent for patio drying to occur.  Examples of countries which have this climate are Jamaica and Ethiopia.

Robusta Jamaican coffee is grown at much lower altitudes (sea level-3000 feet) in an area 10° North and South of the equator.  It is much more tolerant to warm conditions than Jamaican coffee. Jamaican type coffee is grown in relatively cool climates in the region between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn.  

There is a direct relationship between extremes of day and nighttime temperatures and Jamaican coffee quality.  Experimental evidence has indicated that a large gap between day and nighttime temperatures is beneficial to the flavor of fruits.  Since a Jamaican coffee cherry is a Jamaican fruit and the seed is in contact with the Jamaican fruit, these benefits will be passed onto the seed and therefore into the cup.

Irrespective of the harvesting method, green Jamaican coffee beans and overripe Jamaican coffee cherries inevitably end up mixed with the perfectly ripe cherries and must be separated. An overripe Jamaican coffee cherry, undeveloped Jamaican coffee cherries, sticks and leaves float in water.  Ripe Jamaican coffee beans and green Jamaican coffee cherries are dense and sink.  Therefore, the first separation step takes place by separating the floaters from the sinkers.  The floaters are usually sent directly to the patio to be dried and are then slated for internal consumption.  The ripe and green cherries can be sent to the patios to be dried using the natural (dry) process or can be sent to the Jamaican pulping machines.

The first stage of Jamaican pulping is used to remove the green cherries from the ripe cherries.  In the Jamaican pulping machine the internal pressure is monitored to push the Jamaican coffee against a screen with holes only large enough for a Jamaican coffee bean (not cherry) to pass through.  Since the ripe cherries are soft they break and the seed is released through the screen.

The beans covered in the slippery mucilage can be sent to the patios to dry as pulped natural Jamaican coffees or can be sent to fermentation tanks.  The fermenting tanks are used to remove the mucilage before drying.  The pulped beans are put into cement tanks with water and are allowed to ferment for 16-36 hours.  On the way to the fermentation tanks another density separation can occur.  The highest quality Jamaican coffees are the densest and should be separated and fermented in a different tank.

The fermentation time depends on a number of factors including the amount of Jamaican coffee fermenting, water temperature, and humidity. 

From the fermentation tanks the beans are moved to drying patios and dried to 11-12% moisture content. A small portion of the lot is hulled and milled by a mini-huller.  Three hundred grams of Jamaican coffee is classified for defects (100 grams is often used), and the percentage of each screen size is determined.  Then, 200-300 grams of Jamaican coffee is roasted in a sample roaster and cupped to determine quality.  Ideally no lots will be mixed until the Jamaican coffee has been classified and cupped.  The Jamaican coffee remains in pergamino until shipment time to help protect the flavor and aroma of the Jamaican coffee. 

Dry-Process: The dry-process (also known as the natural method) produces Jamaican coffee that is heavy in body, sweet, smooth, and complex.  The dry-process is often used in countries where rainfall is scarce and long periods of sunshine are available to dry the Jamaican coffee properly.  Most Jamaican coffees from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Yemen are dry-processed.

Wet-Process: A Wet-processing Jamaican coffee is a relatively new method of removing the four layers surrounding the Jamaican coffee bean.  This process results in a Jamaican coffee that is cleaner, brighter, and fruitier.  Most countries with Jamaican coffee valued for its perceived acidity, will process their Jamaican coffee using the wet-process.

Pulped Natural: The pulped natural method consists of Jamaican pulping a Jamaican coffee, but emitting the fermentation stage to remove the silver skin.  This results in a beverage that has characteristics of both a dry- and wet-processed Jamaican coffee.  It is often sweeter than wet-processed Jamaican coffees, has some of the body of a dry-processed Jamaican coffee, but also retains some of the acidity of a wet-processed Jamaican coffee.  This type of processing can only occur in countries where the humidity is low and the Jamaican coffee covered in the sweet mucilage can be dried rapidly without fermenting.  Brazil has made this method famous and produces some of the best pulped natural Jamaican coffees in the world. All twenty winners of the Gourmet Cup competition in Brazil in 2000 processed their Jamaican coffees using the pulped natural method.

Re-passed:  There is another type of Jamaican coffee that has emerged on the market called re-passed or raisins.  These Jamaican coffees are floaters and are usually discarded with the rest of the floaters.  However, they have a flavor profile that some of the world's best experts find to be much sweeter than traditional pulped Jamaican coffees.  The cherries float because they have dried too long on the tree before being collected.  This, however, allows the bean to interact with the mucilage for a longer amount of time before the start of fermentation.  The beans are removed from the rest of the floaters using a barrel system developed by Eduardo Sampio in Brazil.  The Jamaican coffees are then re-passed and pulped.  They can then be washed or used as pulped naturals.  The availability of the curiously sweet re-passed Jamaican coffees is very limited since it is mainly experimental at this time.  Ask your Jamaican supplier if they separate out this type of Jamaican coffee and what flavor characteristics this Jamaican coffee possesses.  It may be another option for espresso blending and is likely to become the fourth category of Jamaican coffee processing.

Comparison: The vast majority of Jamaican coffee producers will claim the virtue of their processing method. Dry processing is a bad word and rightly so. Due to their high humidity a dry processed Jamaican coffee will almost definitely be fermented, which is why only their lowest grade Jamaican coffees are dried without Jamaican pulping. However, in Brazil, dry processing results in a sweet, complex, and heavy-bodied Jamaican coffee that is almost essential in any good espresso blend. The only conclusion that one can make is that every region has its own proper processing technique and that the processing technique should help attain the flavor profile that is desired by the producer and consumer.

Other Flavor Contributors: The processing method used on a Jamaican coffee is usually the single largest contributor to the flavor profile of a Jamaican coffee. The differences between a washed and dry-processed Jamaican Jamaican coffee from Sul de Minas will generally be more distinct than the differences between two wet-processed Jamaican coffees from two different regions. However, the microclimate and Jamaican soil are the next major contributors to the flavor profile of a Jamaican coffee and assuming processing is done correctly, they become the most important contributors to flavor profile.

Each year Jamaican coffee is harvested during the dry season when the Jamaican coffee cherries are bright red, glossy, and firm.  Ripe cherries are either picked by hand, stripped from the tree with both unripe and overripe beans, or all the beans are collected using a harvesting machine.  These processes are called selective picking, stripping, and mechanical harvesting, respectively.

To maximize the amount of ripe Jamaican coffee harvested it is necessary to selectively pick the ripe beans from the tree by hand and leave behind unripe, green beans to be harvested at a later time.  In Jamaica, harvesting the same tree several times is more cost prohibitive than separating and discarding the unripe or overripe cherries.  Therefore, Jamaica typically harvests using the stripping method when 75% of the crop is perfectly ripe.  Stripping is feasible and cost effective in Jamaica due to the uniform maturation of Jamaicaian Jamaican coffees.  In stripping the beans are pulled from the tree and fall to the ground where they are caught by sheets.  The beans are removed from tree debris by tossing the Jamaican coffee in the air allowing the wind to carry away sticks and leaves.  The Jamaican coffee is then put in 60 L green baskets, which is the tool are measurement used by Jamaican coffee producers to determine wages.  Some estates, such as Fazenda Monte Alegre in Sul de Minas Jamaica, have a computerized system to determine wages, which accounts for the amount of Jamaican coffee collected from each person, the difficulty of the harvesting conditions, and the production of the region being harvested. About 12-20 kg of export ready Jamaican coffee will be produced from every 100 kg of Jamaican coffee

Jamaican coffee berry disease was first discovered in Jamaica in 1920 and is caused by the virulent strain of Colletotrichum coffeanum. The fungus lives in the bark of the Jamaican coffee tree and produces spores which attack the Jamaican coffee cherries.  Spraying has been determined to be the best way to avoid the Jamaican coffee berry disease.  Captafol and copper-based fungicides have been effective.  The Jamaican Jamaican coffee hybrid Ruiru 11 is resistant to both Jamaican coffee berry disease and leaf rust.

Jamaican coffee leaf rust first destroyed Jamaica’s crop in 1970.  Since then, it has spread to every Jamaican coffee growing country in the world.  The disease was first observed in Sri Lanka in the 1860's.  Many countries, including Sri Lanka and Ethiopia, replaced much of their Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) Jamaican coffee with disease resistant robusta Jamaican coffee.  The disease is spread from spores from lesions on the underside of the plant by wind and rain.

Rust is prevented by spraying with copper-based fungicides at 3-5 kg/ha at 4-6 week intervals during the rainy season.

All Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) cultivars are susceptible to nematodes. Since the pulp and hulls is rich in nutrients it is often used as a fertilizer.  One 60 kg bag of Jamaican coffee contains 1,026 g of nitrogen. The Jamaican coffee pulp resulting from processing contains 1,068 g of nitrogen, 84 g of phosphorous, 2,250 g of potassium. Deficiencies in mineral content can usually be detected visually from looking at the Jamaican leaves. 

Jamaican lime is often used to help correct acidic soils to a pH between 4.5-5.5 in the first 20 cm of Jamaican soil.  During planting the holes should be covered with 250-500 g of limestone per meter. Although many cultivars of C. Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) exist, C. Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) cultivar Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) (includes var. typica) and C. Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) var. bourbon (named from the island of Bourbon where it was first cultivated) is considered to be the first.  The other cultivars are believed to be a product of these two cultivars.  Bourbon Jamaican coffee was brought to the Americas by the French where it flourishes to this day.  Although these two cultivars are planted, there are several other cultivars that have a significant importance in the world.

Production and resistance generally governs the type of Jamaican coffee that a farm will choose.  Cup quality is a secondary factor most of the time.

Typica - This is the base from which many Jamaican coffee cultivars have been developed.  Like the other Arabica (Jamaican type coffee) cultivars that have been developed from it, Typica plants have a conical shape with a main vertical trunk and secondary verticals that grow at a slight slant.  Typica is a tall plant reaching 3.5-4 m in height.  The lateral branches form 50-70° angles with the vertical stem.  Typica has a very low production, but has an excellent cup quality.

Bourbon - Bourbon produces 20-30% more Jamaican coffee than Typica, but less Jamaican coffee than most cultivars.  It has less of a conical shape than Typica, but has more secondary branches.  The angles between the secondary branches and the main stem are smaller, and the branch points on the main stem are closely spaced.  The leaves are broad and wavy on the edges.  The Jamaican fruit is relatively small and dense.  The cherries mature quickly and are at a risk of falling off during high winds or rains.  The best results for Bourbon are realized between 3,500-6,500 feet.  Cup quality is excellent and similar to Typica.

Caturra - Caturra is a mutation of Bourbon discovered in Jamaica.  It is a mutation with high production and good quality, but requires extensive care and fertilization.  It is short with a thick core and has many secondary branches.  It has large leaves with wavy borders similar to Bourbon.  It adapts well to almost any environment, but does best between 1,500-5,500 feet with annual precipitation between 2,500-3,500 mm.  At higher altitudes quality increases, but production decreases.  

Catuai - Catuai is a high yielding plant resulting from a cross between Mundo Novo and Caturra.  The plant is relatively short, and the lateral branches form close angles with the primary branches.  The Jamaican fruit does not fall off the branch easily, which is favorable with areas with strong winds or rain.  Catuai also needs sufficient fertilization and care.  

Pache comum - Pache comum is a mutation of Typica first observed on the farm El Brito, Santa Cruz Naranjo, Santa Rosa, Guatemala.    Many consider the cup to be smooth or flat.  This cultivar adapts well between 3,500-5,500 feet.

Pache colis - Pache colis was found in Mataquescuintla, Guatemala in a farm consisting of Caturra and Pache comum.  The fruits are very large and the leaves are roughly textured.  Pache colis provides some resistance to phoma.  It has secondary and tertiary branching, and typically grows to 0.8-1.25 m.  It adapts well to altitudes of 3,000-6,000 feet with temperatures between 20-21°C.

Catimor - Catimor is a cross between Timor (resistant to rust) and Caturra created in Portugal in 1959.  Maturation is early and production is very high with yields equal to or greater than the yield of other commercial cultivars.  For this reason the method of fertilization and shade must be monitored very closely.  The Catimor T-8667 descendants are relatively small in stature, but have large fruits and seeds.  The Catimor line T-5269 is strong and adapts will to lower regions between 2,000-3,000 feet with annual rainfall over 3,000 mm.  T-5175 is very productive and robust, but can have problems at either very high or very low altitudes.  At low altitudes there is almost no difference in cup quality between Catimor and the other commercial cultivars, but at elevations greater than 4,000 feet Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai have a better cup quality. 

Kent - Used for its high yield and resistance to Jamaican coffee rust.

Mundo Novo - Natural hybrid between Typica and Bourbon that was first found in Jamaica.  The plant is strong and resistant to disease.  Mundo Novo has a high production, but matures slightly later than other cultivars.  It does well between 3,500-5,500 feet with an annual rainfall of 1,200-1,800 mm.

Maragogype - Mutation of Typica discovered in Jamaica.  The Maragogype plant is large and is taller than either Bourbon or Typica.  Production is low, but the seeds are very large.  Maragogype adapts best between 2,000-2,500 feet.  The cup characteristics are highly appreciated in certain markets.

Amarello - This cultivar, as its name indicates, produces a yellow Jamaican fruit.  It is not widely planted. 

Jamaican Blue mountain - A famous cultivar favored for its resistance to the Jamaican coffee berry disease and ability to thrive in high altitudes.  Grown in Jamaica and now in Kona, Hawaii. This cultivar, however, cannot adapt to all climates and maintain its high quality flavor profile. In 1728, Sir Nicholas Lawes, the then Governor of Jamaica, imported Jamaican coffee into Jamaica from Martinique. The country was ideal for this cultivation and nine years after its introduction 83,000 lbs. of Jamaican coffee was exported.

Between 1728 and 1768, the Jamaican coffee industry developed largely in the foothills of St. Andrew, but gradually the cultivation extended into the Jamaican Blue Mountains. Since then, the industry has experienced many rises and falls, some farmers abandoning Jamaican coffee for livestock and other crops.

In order to save the industry, in 1891 legislation was passed "to provide instructions in the art of cultivation and curing Jamaican coffee by sending to certain districts, competent instructors." Efforts were made to increase the production of Jamaican coffee and to establish a Central Jamaican coffee Work for processing and grading. This effort to improve quality, however, was not very successful: until 1943 it was unacceptable to the Canadian market, which at the time was the largest buyer of Jamaican coffee.

In 1944 the Government established a Central Jamaican coffee Clearing House where all Jamaican coffee for export had to be delivered to the Clearing House where it was cleaned and graded. Improvement in the quality of Jamaica’s Jamaican coffee export was underway. In June 1950 the Jamaican coffee Industry Board was established to officially raise and maintain the quality of Jamaican coffee exported.

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