Monday, July 30, 2007

The Price of Excellence, Part II

Why is Jamaican coffee so rare and expensive?

Jamaican Coffee is often known to be the “rarest, most expensive” coffee in the world. Both the high price and rarity stem from the low-yield farms that are growing beans in the region. In the mid-fifties with the introduction of the Industry Board, farming for quality, not quantity, became the priority. That being said, the thing that hurts Jamaican coffee consumers the most is Japan.

That’s right, the little island that is the same size as California consumes more Jamaican coffee than everywhere in the world - combined. To be specific, Japan buys 90% of all coffee grown in the Blue Mountain region. The US, in comparison, buys 2% of the coffee, with the remaining 8% taken mainly by the UK and Europe. Why does Japan get so much you might ask? Because they are willing to pay for it! In America prices are now between $35 and $50 a pound for Jamaican coffee; in Japan try $60 to $75 per pound!

Another rumor is that in the early 60’s when Jamaica was almost wiped out by a hurricane (perhaps Hurricane Flora on 10/5/63?), Jamaica sold out the futures on a certain percentage of coffee in return for financial aid from Japan. This is total coffee conspiracy theory and I can’t back it up with facts. I have one friend that owns a farm in the Moy Hall co-op, which is how we source our coffee, and he’s never mentioned the hurricane. Until we get some evidence, it will just be something Joe and I talk about at the office, but it seems a likely story to me.

So, the moral of the story here is this: Jamaican coffee is amazing, but it comes in small quantities. If you like it, you’ve got to be willing to pay for it! The prices are going up steadily as word gets out and demand increases, but the farms yield the same amount of coffee (or less if they are damaged by hurricanes like 2 years ago with Hurricane Rita).

How to try Jamaican coffee: We offer Blue Mountain Mavis Bank coffee as of now, and are working hard to get some from the Moy Hall co-op. Give it a try and tell us what you think. I’d love to hear some feedback (hopefully positive) so I can convince Joe to let me post another blog sometime soon.


1 comment:

Dirty Pete said...

Speaking of expensive coffee, could we get some of that fancy Kopi Luwak (spelling?) coffee? God knows what a pound would cost and how hard it would be to import, but I am all about drinking a digestive-juice-enhanced cup of coffee.