The Caribbean Coffee Tour
The first stop on this week’s virtual trip is Jamaica, “The Land of Wood and Water.” This gorgeous island nation is a favorite destination for relaxation as well as for adventure. First conquered by Spain, it subsequently came under British rule in 1655. It is a Commonwealth Realm, meaning that, though it is a sovereign state, it recognizes the British crown as its head of state.
The people of Jamaica are primarily of African or partially African descent with origins in West Africa, Europe, and Asia. Many of the population are immigrants from China, Haiti, Cuba, Colombia, and Latin America. There are two major languages spoken on the island, Standard Jamaican English and English based creole or Jamaican Patois.
Jamaica is a tropical island found in the Caribbean Sea. It boasts bustling cities, active coastal areas, and the soaring Migos Mountain range. The weather in Jamaica consists of both an upland tropical climate on the windward side of the island – the east/northeast – and a semi-arid climate on the leeward side – south/southwest. Temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year with ranges of 77F – 86F in the lowlands and 59F – 72F in the higher elevations. The peaks of the Blue Mountains may see temperatures dip to as low as 50F. In addition to the northern trade winds, Jamaica also enjoys onshore breezes during the day and offshore breezes at night. Average rainfall is around 77” per year with more falling in the northern mountains. Jamaica is also in the hurricane belt and occasionally experiences the extensive damage that comes with these storms.
There are three geographical sections of Jamaica – the coastal plains, the limestone hills, and the central mountain range. The dual-personality beaches, found in the plains, make for a conversation in and of themselves. The northeast shore suffers from ocean erosion and small inlets dot the coastline. The northern coast sports a narrow strip of plains with calm seas and white sand beaches. Behind these beaches, you will see a raised plain of coral reef. The southern coast, on the other hand, has black sand beaches with limestone cliffs and narrow plains. In some places, there are no plains, and the cliffs plunge over 900 feet straight into the ocean. If you wish to spend a day at the beach, however, the western coastline is where you should head as that is where you will find the best the island has to offer.
The limestone hills are found in the plateau that covers approximately two-thirds of the island. Here you will find sinkholes, caverns, streams, and valleys of terra rosa or residual red soils, some of the most productive soil on the island. The central mountain range of Jamaica is the Migos Mountains. They are home to the famous Blue Mountains. Rising from the coastal plain to the highest peaks in only 10 miles makes this the steepest gradient in the world. Here in these climbing slopes is where you will find the famous and coveted Blue Mountain coffee.
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is known and sought-after for its mild flavor and lack of bitterness. It is a globally protected certification. Only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labeled as Jamaican Blue Mountain. At CoffeeAM, we have a portfolio of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffees. Our Jamaica Blue Mountain Estate comes from the region of St. Andrews. It is rich with subtle acidity and a smooth chocolate finish. Or try our Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend with a mix of Jamaica Blue Mountain beans and high-quality arabica beans from Central and South America. This blend offers the subtle acidity and chocolate flavor of the Jamaica Blue Mountain with the full-body richness of the Central and South American coffees, all while retaining the signature lack of bitterness. If you don’t know which to choose, try the Jamaican Coffee Sampler featuring four 1/2 pound bags of coffees in our Jamaican Blue Mountain catalog – Jamaica Blue Mountain Estate, Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend, Jamaica Blue Mountain Reserve, and Jamaica Blue Mountain Cuvee.
The next stop on our trip to the Caribbean is Haiti, “The Pearl of the Antilles.” It is a country that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Discovered by Columbus in 1492, it was ruled by Spain until the 17th century when it became a part of the French settlement. During the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution took place. This freed the slaves and created a sovereign nation. It is the only nation in the world to have defeated three superpowers – Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. They are also the only nation to have mounted a successful slave revolt.
The people of Haiti enjoy a rich cultural identity that blends traditional African customs with those of the French. It also mixes in Spanish and indigenous flavor. It is a very colorful country with multicolored houses stacked close together. There are white, sandy beaches and blue waters for lounging. Colonial Georgian architecture calls to those who prefer walking in the cities. Jungle-like forests boast endless activities for the adventurers. The official language of Haiti is French though Haitian Creole is spoken by most of the population. This version of French-based Creole is closely related to Louisiana Creole.
Haiti is comprised of the western portion of the island of Hispaniola. It is bordered by the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Dominican Republic. It is a tropical environment with some areas of subtropical and oceanic climates. Temperatures range from 73F to 88F in the cooler months and 77F to 95F in the warmer months. There are two rainy seasons, April through June and October through November. It often experiences periods of drought or flood, made worse by severe deforestation. It also finds itself in the hurricane belt.
The geography of Haiti ranges from sea level (though some believe there are points below sea level) to the highest point, Pic La Selle, which soars to 8,793 feet. There are beaches, valleys, and mountains. The southern mountain chain extends from the Dominican Republic and is home to the Pic La Selle. Coffee in Haiti is grown by smallholder farmers meaning that a single family is typically supported by the farm. At CoffeeAM, we carry a Haitian Blue Mountain Direct Trade coffee. This is the same varietal of beans, grown in the same type of soil, and under the same conditions as the Jamaica Blue Mountain. With a creamy mouthfeel, low acidity, and sweet finish, you will find an amazing coffee bliss.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and is the final destination for our trip to the Caribbean. Bordered by Haiti, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea, the Dominican Republic is a tropical country. As mentioned while visiting Haiti, Columbus discovered this land in 1492. The Spanish ceded the western portion of the island, Haiti, to the French while keeping the eastern portion under Spanish rule. For many years, the Dominican Republic was caught in a tug-of-war between Spain and France. All of this to show the diverse individual cultures that make up the single, blended culture we see today.
The people of the Dominican Republic are as varied as the country’s past. There are quite a few of European descent with a large immigrant community consisting of East Asians, West Asians, and those from other Caribbean countries. The main language spoken is Spanish though you will hear Haitian Creole, some French, a little English, and a couple of other languages sprinkled in.
You will find four mountain ranges in the Dominican Republic, the two most notable being the Northern Mountain Range which runs parallel with the Atlantic Ocean, and the Central Mountain Range which is not only the highest mountain range in the Dominican Republic but all of the West Indies. These mountains soar to an impressive 10,164 feet at the highest peak on Pico Duarte. In addition to mountains, there are valleys and coastal plains crossed and dotted with numerous rivers and lakes.
The climate in the Dominican Republic, as mentioned before, is a tropical rainforest. Due to the topographical geography, there is a wide difference in temperatures and weather over short distances. The average temperature is 77F with higher elevations recording 64F at the same time lower elevations record 82F. High in the mountains, you may see temperatures drop as low as 32F while in the valleys, highs can climb to 104F. The northern coast sees a rainy season from November through January while elsewhere the rainy season is May through November. Average rainfall is around 59” while the driest area records as low as 14” and the wettest 108” annually.
Coffee in the Dominican Republic is found in the central mountainous area of the country. Depending on the location of the coffee plantations, you will see variations in the coffees from mild and mellow to heavy and acidic. Our Dominican Republic “Santo Domingo” is an organic coffee that is delicious and well-balanced with a mild flavor and no bitterness.