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A Very Brief History of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

Teeming in every cup of coffee lies a history waiting to be unpacked. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, arguably the world’s best and an indulgent luxury at a whopping $60 per pound in gourmet shops, comes with a history of rebellion, defiance and bloodshed. The Blue Mountains was home to runaway slaves (Maroons) who set up, governed, and financed settlements that operated outside the rule of the British Crown.

Blue Mountain coffee keeps coffee connoisseurs guessing. Its pleasing, mild flavor, and pungent aroma harkens back to plantation economies, the Middle passage, and slavery. Experts attribute its aroma to the combination of soil nutrients, altitude, and rainfall typical of the crisp mountain climate. It is a diaspora product with a bittersweet past. For me, this particular brand of coffee reminds me of my lineage. The sweet smell brings back memories of my grandparent’s kitchen in South Florida where the coffee is always brewed in the morning and sweetened with condensed milk, a pantry staple. Caribbean culture radiates from my grandmother’s cooking and the bustling garden teeming with mango and avocado trees. I was transported back to these mornings while sitting in an Africana class. Blue Mountain Coffee was the topic of discussion because it just so happened to be my professor’s favorite. Equally appealing to me is the idea that this coffee has flourished in the midst of enormous strife. At a time of racial reawakening in this country, this brand of coffee paradoxically draws on a history of colonialism and the stories of the Maroons who defied and resisted the British. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is symbolic and representative of the history of Jamaica itself. The coffee plant came to Jamaica as a gift from the Martinique government to the British Governor, Sir Nicholas Lawes. Do not be fooled, the colonizers may have brought the coffee bean but the cultivation and the growth of this plant itself should be attributed to the Black people that were integral to the production and care of the land and a continuously determined people.

Brew this wonderful coffee as you would any other. However, instead of boiling milk or cream, add a generous tablespoon of condensed milk to the brew. Sip the brew carefully, imbibing both the peace and the rebellion that have characterized the history of the coffee’s birthplace. Savor the rich aroma, the calming and mellow flavor of the condensed milk and get ready for a day as nuanced and as perfectly blended as the coffee itself.

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