The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their mild flavour and lack of bitterness. Over the past few decades, this coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. Over 80% of all Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is exported to Japan. In addition to its use for brewed coffee, the beans are the flavour base of Tia Maria coffee liqueur.
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark, meaning only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labelled as such. It comes from a recognised growing region in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica, and its cultivation is monitored by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica.
The Blue Mountains are generally located between Kingston to the south and Port Antonio to the north. Rising to 2,256 metres (7,402 ft), they are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean. The climate of the region is cool and misty with high rainfall. The soil is rich, with excellent drainage. This combination of climate and soil is considered ideal for coffee.
The Coffee Industry Regulation Act specifies what coffee may use the Blue Mountain label. Additionally, it restricts the use of the Blue Mountain trademark to those authorized by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (formerly the Coffee Industry Board). Broadly speaking, coffee harvested from the parishes of Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland and Saint Mary may be considered Blue Mountain coffee.
Traditionally, only coffee grown at elevations between 910 metres (3,000 ft) and 1,700 metres (5,500 ft) could be called Jamaica Blue Mountain. Coffee grown at elevations between 460 metres (1,500 ft) and 910 metres (3,000 ft) is called Jamaica High Mountain, and coffee grown below 460 metres (1,500 ft) elevation is called Jamaica Supreme or Jamaica Low Mountain. (All land in Jamaica above 1,700 metres (5,500 ft) is a forest preserve, so no coffee is grown there.)
There are generally three types of grades of Jamaica Blue Mountain ranked by size and defects. Number 1 beans as the largest and most desired with least defects, followed by number 2 and 3 beans. Separately, there are peaberry beans which are smaller beans which appear shaped as a rugby ball as opposed to the usual flat beans. >