Rising 7,402 feet above sea level, the majestic Blue Mountains are considered the most scenic in the Caribbean. Stretching between Port Antonio and Kingston, they’re easily accessible. You’ll discover tiny, quaint settlements, excellent hiking trails, breathtaking panoramas, and Blue Mountain® coffee for the connoisseur.From a distance, the Blue Mountains are indeed blue. A misty blue from the almost perpetual cover of clouds. But as you get closer, climbing the twisty, narrow roads, dodging the occasional goat, mule and cow, the mist thins and the colours become a green that’s unshakeable from memory.
As you climb higher and higher, the air gets cooler and crisper. At these higher elevations, it’s not unusual to drive right through clouds. Reach out of the window; you can feel their moisture. Weaving around the road, you’ll see bamboo plants sharing the rainforest like environment with tropical vines, ferns, banana plants and coconut trees. At about 3,000 feet elevation, you’ll enter the world famous Blue Mountain region.
Several small plantations dot the roadside and offer a good opportunity to stop, stretch your legs, and enjoy a cup of the world’s best coffee along with the awesome scenery.
The temperature drops significantly with elevation (60 degrees at the higher levels) and the air gets sweet. There are five major peaks on what is called the Grand Ridge: John Crow (5,750 feet), St. John’s Peak (6,332 feet), Mossman’s Peak (6,703), High Peak (6,812 feet) and the highest of all, Blue Mountain Peak (7,402 feet).
At the highest point of your excursion, you’ll find the military post of Newcastle. The road passes right through the Jamaica Defence Force training base here. Beyond the gatehouse, there is a parking area where you can enjoy the awe-inspiring view of what’s ahead, if you’re continuing down the other side.There are two routes through the mountains, Route A3 from Annotto Bay to Kingston is the principal road. The other, more scenic route, as described above, is B1. It travels from Buff Bay to Kingston via Newcastle.
However, paved roads won’t get you to any of the peaks. If you have a desire to get to the top, put on your boots and start walking. Good hiking trails exist and guided trips can be arranged. There are about 250 species of birds living in the mountains. They are also home to the six inch swallowtail butterfly, largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere.
Overnight trips take hikers through coffee plantations, alongside waterfalls and on up to Blue Mountain Peak, the top of Jamaica. From that altitude, on a clear day, it’s said, you can see Cuba.
Blue Mountain® Coffee
The question now must be answered in cold, empirical terms. Is it truly the world’s best coffee? Any answer is subjective but there are many who have stood tall and declared their allegiance. Among the champions was author Ian Fleming. Fleming, who lived part time in Jamaica, would not allow his literary hero (and man of taste), James Bond, to drink any other. As Bond sits down for breakfast in a page of "Live and Let Die," Fleming declares outright: "Blue Mountain® coffee, the most delicious in the world…"
The sentiment is shared far and wide but it may come as a surprise to the uninitiated that in the U.S., coffee aficionados pay more than $30 (and as much as $50) a pound for the pleasure.
Why so much? Because supply is low and demand is high. Blue Mountain tastes like no other. Its taste is tied to geographical and climatological phenomena found only in a tiny part of Jamaica.
Jamaican coffee comes from the arabica bean, a bean which is far more fragile and flavourful than the robusta bean. It also contains less caffeine than Robusta coffee.
The harvest of Blue Mountain® coffee is laborious and occurs only when the beans, or cherries as they are properly called, are ripe. They are literally hand-picked. One at a time. Coffee is not native to Jamaica. Or the Caribbean for that matter. Its origins lie in Yemen and it was carried across the globe by Europeans. Folklore has it that Louis XV of France sent three plants to Martinique in 1723. Two plants died en route and the lone surviving plant ended up in Jamaica. From that, the coffee industry now owes its heritage.
In 1953 the government decreed that only coffee grown in a specific region of the mountain range, and processed by four estates (Mavis Bank, Silver Hill, Moy Hall and the Government Station at Wallenford) could be certified as 100 percent Blue Mountain® coffee. Any other Jamaican coffee would be graded as, High Mountain or Low-Land coffee.
Jamaican coffee held a solid niche in the gourmet coffee market. But, in 1988 Jamaica was again pounded by a violent storm. Hurricane Gilbert , packing 150-mph winds, damaged 70 percent of the fields and factories, practically shutting down production for two years. Only recently has production been restored to former levels. Identifying marks on all Blue Mountain® coffee packages, assuring the premier quality, are part of the quality-control system established by the Coffee Industry Board. Package labels indicate if it is a blend or 100 percent.
Because of its cost, you will not find Blue Mountain® coffee served in all island hotels and restaurants. However, you can buy brand-name coffee such as Country Traders in local shops for considerably less than in the U.S. Until then, the original question remains. Is it the world’s best coffee? Savour a cup of your own. Surely you’ll agree with 007.
From Destination Jamaica Magazine
1 pound Ground Coffee (good, Rich Roast)
8 quarts Cold Water
Half-and-half (healthy Splash Per Serving)
Sweetened Condensed Milk (2-3 Tablespoons Per Serving)
You can Use Skim Milk, 2% Milk, Whole Milk, Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners, Syrupsas you like
In a large container, mix ground coffee with water. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.
Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set over a pitcher or other container. Pour coffee/water mixture through the strainer, allowing all liquid to run through. Discard grounds.
Place coffee liquid in the fridge and allow to cool. Use as needed.
To make iced coffee, pack a glass full of ice cubes. Fill glass 2/3 full with coffee liquid. Add healthy splash of half-and-half. Add 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (can use plain sugar instead) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust half-and-half and/or sweetened condensed milk as needed.
2 cups evaporated milk
2/3 cup strong coffee
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1 envelope unflavored gelatin, softened in 3 tablespoons cold water
1 ½ cups heavy cream
In a medium saucepan, combine the evaporated milk and coffee; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it just starts steaming. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and brown sugar.
Add ½ cup of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Add the warm egg-milk blend back into the hot milk in the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 165 degrees on a digital candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin. Chill the coffee custard thoroughly.
Beat the 1 1/2 cups of cream in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Thoroughly stir ½ cup of the whipped cream into the chilled custard, and then gently fold in the remaining cream. The coffee mousse is ready when the custard is thoroughly incorporated into the whipped cream, and no marbling shows. Serve the mousse chilled.
This coffee mousse recipe makes 8 servings.
Coffee Rum Cake
cocoa powder for dusting
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup dark rum
2 cups strong brewed coffee
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
confectioners' sugar for dusting
lightly sweetened whipped cream
Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter a 4 1/2-inch-deep (12-cup) Kugelhupf or bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder, knocking out excess.
In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove chocolate from heat and stir in rum, coffee, and granulated sugar. With an electric mixer beat in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down side, and beat in eggs and vanilla until batter is combined well. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan on a rack and turn it out onto rack. Cake may be made 3 days in advance and kept wrapped well and chilled.
Dust cake with confectioners' sugar and serve with whipped cream.