July 24, 2014
There’s more to Jamaica than picturesque sandy beaches, rum and reggae music. Delve a little deeper into this fascinating Caribbean island and you’ll see it has plenty of other equally stunning (and unexpected) attractions up its sleeve.
Often overlooked, and for no good reason, are the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, situated to the east. Spanning four parishes including Portland, St Mary, St Andrews and St Thomas, the Blue Mountains are home to one of the world’s finest and most expensive coffees. A combination of climate, rich soil and the beautiful tropical sun provides the perfect environment for coffee plants to thrive.
For a coffee experience like no other, stop off at one of Jamaica’s most notable coffee plantations. Surrounded by the majestic landscape of the Blue Mountains is the 3,000ft high Mavis Bank Coffee factory, home to the celebrated JABLUM Blue Mountain Coffee. The factory here processes a colossal 1.4 million pounds of coffee beans every year from approximately 6000 local farmers, and has existed in this spot since 1920. An institution in its own right, visiting the factory is a treat for the senses “” the aromatic smell of roasting beans wafts through the air as you’re guided through the coffee making process. Afterwards, nothing beats pitching up under the charming gazebo for a fresh brew, served up alongside panoramic views over the mountain peaks.
Another great place to visit for coffee lovers is the Craighton House Coffee Estate, a location steeped in history with connections to many notable Jamaicans. Tours around the great coffee plantation offer an insightful close-up of how this premier coffee is made. It is easily accessible by bike for those who are fit enough to endure steep inclines and rugged terrains, or alternatively, take a leisurely stroll on foot from Strawberry Hill.
The Old Tavern Coffee Estate (P.O. Box 131 – Blue Mountains National Park, Kingston 8, St. Andrew, (876) 924-2785) sits at one of the highest points in the Blue Mountains, and offers magnificent views over Kingston on a clear day. Established by the late Alex Twyman in the 60s, the family-run business remains a busy coffee producer to this day. It’s known for creating brews from the coveted peaberry bean – a mutation of the regular coffee bean that’s said to have a noticeably different flavour. Some argue the peaberry bean tastes better; judge for yourself by arranging a tour and taster.
For those who want to experience the scenic views and abundance of wildlife and lush vegetation on display, an adventurous hike to the Blue Mountain Peak should certainly be on the cards. There are many accessible trails through the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, where stumbling across animals such as the Jamaican Boa – the giant non-poisonous snake native to the area – isn’t uncommon. Once you arrive at the summit, incredible sights of both sides of the island (and on a clear day, even the coast of Cuba) can be seen.
Once you tire of the rough terrain, kick back with a coffee to revitalise and reawaken your senses in Jamaica’s capital. There are numerous coffee shops in Kingston and the surrounding areas that are particularly worth visiting. Café Blue is a favourite of locals and tourists alike with its freshly roasted and brewed coffee, served up alongside an array of sweet treats, while EITS Cafe, located in the hills of the Newcastle district, is great for classic Jamaican breakfasts and fine Blue Mountain coffee. You’ll be feeling irie in no time.
Header image © Croix-rouge franÃ§aise / Emeline Decoray/Flickr
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Jamaica from London. Book your flight today.
Are you a fan of Blue Mountain coffee? Have you visited the Blue Mountains of Jamaica? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Written by Chantelle Symester