Would you spend $40 a pound for a killer cup of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee?

Would you spend $40 a pound for a killer cup of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee?

I asked myself that question when Chadwick Conte of C&C Specialty Coffee asked me if I wanted to do a taste test/review of his Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, apparently one of the most expensive coffees in the world.  Being a coffee fiend, and overall foodie, I said sure.  We don’t normally do “reviews” on the blog, but we do write about things we like outside of politics, and I thought it might be fun to explore the word of super-duper gourmet coffee.  So here goes.

In a nutshell. I liked it. I’ll be buying some as gourmet Christmas gifts. But I’m not sure I can afford the price tag for my daily drinking.

Now, a bit more detail.

I googled Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, and apparently it is a big deal.  And an expensive big deal.  $40 a pound is not cheap, and while they have it cheaper at Costco, it sounded to me like Costco’s might be a blend of beans and not pure Jamaican Blue Mountain (curious if anyone has the deets on that).

So Chadwick sent me the medium roast and the dark roast to try, and he advised me, and I also found the same noted online, that this coffee is lighter, and has less caffeine, than regular coffee.  And he was right.  And that’s what makes this a great afternoon coffee, for me at least, but not a great morning coffee.

I need a caffeine punch in the gut in the morning, and this stuff isn’t it.  But for the afternoon, when I feel like a big cup of  Joe, but don’t want to be bouncing off the walls any more than I usually am, the Jamaican Blue Mountain was great.  The caffeine was subtle, gave me a little buzz, but nothing like my favorite dark roast from Paris, Carte Noire (oddly, made by Kraft, but not sold in the US), which you get in 8 oz bags and isn’t terribly cheap (Paris isn’t cheap), or my second-runner up, Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend, which goes for around $8 for 12 oz, which is 3/4 of a pound.

So, over the past several weeks, I’ve been giving the Jamaican Blue Mountain a spin.  The first day, I made the mistake of making it for breakfast.  Oh the headache that afternoon when my body realized it hadn’t gotten its daily dose of caffeine!  But for some people, the low caffeine content is a plus, not a negative.

Chadwick sends beans, he insists they preserve the flavor better, and I have a Siemens grinder I think I’ve had for 20 years, it’s a workhorse.  So I ground my own beans, which is always great for scaring the dog and filling the air with a wonderful aroma.  Some folks online recommended that you grind it especially fine, so I did.



For brewing my morning coffee, I like to use an old Italian cafetiere that my mom might have gotten in Italy decades ago.  The thing is as much a workhorse as my grinder.  I piled it extra high, as folks online had suggested, and set it atop my stove.

Pretty soon, I had coffee brewing up.

I’ve tried the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffees two different ways.  First, as a cappuccino:

And then, in a manner which the Italians taught me when I was in college.  with sweetened condensed milk, which can be a tad too sweet, but is just decadent (it’s like drinking a coffee-flavored seven-layer cookie):

The coffee was good.  Interestingly, I found that the dark roast, when I added sugar to it and nothing else, was quite drinkable as is.  And I don’t drink black coffee, ever.  I’m a milk and sugar guy.  But it was that yummy with just sugar (didn’t have the same sense from the medium blend).

Drinking it with the sweetened condensed milk was a joy.  It’s more subtle than my French coffee, which can sometimes even overpower the sweetened condensed milk.  This stuff does not.

Then as a cappuccino.  The Jamaican Blue Mountain held its own, though I still probably prefer my French coffee’s overpowering flavor for my cappuccio.  But the Blue Mountain wasn’t bad.  Contrast that to a Nespresso machine I got recently as a gift.  The thing couldn’t make a strong enough cup of coffee if it tried.  Or rather, the coffee is strong, but the servings are so small that I need to use two of those 60 cent coffee pods for each of the two morning cappuccinos that I normally have each day (totaling $2.40 a day for my morning coffee, which is a bit insane for coffee made at home).

So is the Jamaica Blue Mountain worth the price?  As a gift, certainly.  I’l be buying a few bags for family members for Christmas as “gourmet” gifts – I like the idea of giving people pampering things they might not give themselves.  But for myself, because of the low caffeine content, and the price, it’s probably not the coffee I’d go for for my daily blend.  (Though I could see keeping a pound around for something “special” to serve at dinner parties – again, makes a nice gift for any foodies that you know.)

So there you have it.  You can visit Chadwick’s online store and peruse the goods here.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • sealinewuman

    Hmmm, actual real Blue Mountain coffee is a light roast with citrus and chocolate notes and a high caffeine content, so high in fact that every time I get coffee here at a shop I have to load it down with shots to try and achieve the same flavour and hit. I’ve been drinking it with condensed milk since I was a kid in Jamaica, we never use cows milk and sugar in our tea or coffee, and we even the children get coffee if they want it, I’m not sure if all Jamaican families give their kids coffee, but my grandparents are Cuban, so that might have something to do with that, I still love it that way and we keep condensed milk pretty handily stocked. The stuff they sell here is usually a mix and most places roast the beans to a darker roast which kinda kills the flavour, I once had a Starbucks version of JBM and damn near spit it out, it was so bitter. If you want what is assuredly authentic Jamaican Blue Mountain, you have to go to one of the estates to get it while in Jamaica, or Japan lol, because around 95% of estate grown produce in Jamaica is for the Japanese market. We go home about 3-4 times a year and just load up on the stuff, cause that’s the only was to guarantee it’s authenticity. When I saw it for sale in Dean and Deluca a few years ago (when they were still open) I almost passed out from the price, then I proceeded to laugh my butt off at the inflation of the price, glad that I had a few pounds in a crocus bag in my cupboard at home.

  • bpollen

    Your information about gross and outrageously expensive coffee is SOOOOO last week! The newest front-runner is Black Ivory – one would assume that they would clean the beans of the elephant poop before selling them….http://www.kvue.com/news/50-coffee-from-beans-passed-by-elephants-183059851.html

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Abuelo would tell you that he was Californian, because several generations have lived there. That aside, our ancestry was Mexican. The cousins always referred to a group of senior men as Abuelo’s gang. They seemed to be always together and of several ancestries. Who knows what customs they shared with one another.

  • And then you’d look like you were growing pot! LOL

  • Interesting, was he Cuban? Because I want to think Cubans like their coffee this way as well, but not sure.

  • If you’re a real commenter with a real history here, and you are, then it’s clearly not spam that you’re promoting, so I don’t mind you linking to another coffee that you really like. Again, since clearly that’s not your primary purpose for being here :)

  • It can be very sweet. What I’ll sometimes do is put some of the sweetened condensed and then some regular milk, since I like a good deal of milk. But it’s quite a tasty treat. Probably works better in an espresso, since the amount of coffee is less so you don’t need to add as much milk.

  • 55, wow.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I’d love to be someone who could really appreciated the difference between Blue Bottle (a Bay Area and NYC gourmet variety) and Starbucks, but to me all coffee is divided into two types: nasty coffee and Mmm, that’s good coffee.

    That said, I’m not sure that it’s so easy to appreciate the difference between coffees when covering up the flavor with cream and sugar. I usually drink it black because I find that’s the way to really get the flavor of the coffee. (Unless it’s ‘nasty coffee’, then cream and sugar is required.)

    If you want to go full-gourmet, look up civet coffee (mentioned below) or the elephant variety which is a higher-volume (yes, exactly) method of producing something similar. (I only read about the elephant method recently; they charge something like $50 for a cup and they don’t ship.)

  • I bought Blue Mountain a couple of years ago, it must not have been as fashionable then, I don’t remember it being that expensive. It was good but I prefer my French dark roast. I’ll have to try the sweetened condensed milk even though I certainly don’t need the fat or calories.

  • Merv

    Lets see I take the really good coffee I get now for $11 a pound and add $30 to it to get Blue Mountain. There better be some fairy dust in it to make me pay the difference.

  • kevinbgoode

    I have a sample bag of Jamaican Blue Mountain at the office – this was included with my last online coffee order. I haven’t tried it yet, but am sure the office junkies will have a report, especially since we are in education and this is final exam week!

    As a side note – I’m a bit spoiled and order my coffee online – it is freshly roasted that day or the next and shipped immediately. It might sound expensive, but isn’t really that much more than buying an upscale brand like Caribou or Starbucks in the supermarket – and the taste is just wonderful. And the price range is really about $12-13 a pound for most blends – that, of course, wouldn’t include Jamaican Blue Mountain. I won’t put a link here since John is reviewing a sample from another company. . .but it really isn’t much more expensive. I regularly take some of the beans to the office and everyone loves it, no matter what flavor or blend I’ve selected.

  • Robertogee

    BTW . . . coffee beans in freezer = BAD. Google it. (I used to think it = GOOD too. I was wrong.)

  • Robertogee

    To each her and his own. I have never understood the appeal of Jamaican Blue Mountain. The curiosity factor made me try it, initially, over 20 years ago. As I recall, it was about $20 a pound then.

    Bland and blah.

    Recently tried another cup in a coffee shop. Because I hadn’t tried it in 20 years. Because they suggested it.

    Bland and blah again.

    So I STILL don’t get it.

    Yes, I’m a coffee snob. Hario Skerton ceramic grinder. Chemex. Lean toward French Roasts or blends from Whole Foods.

    JBM is simply, and remains, the most boring coffee (at any price) I’ve ever consumed in my life. But to each their own.

  • Whispers2u

    You should try Kona Joe. It’s $55/lb. He grows his coffee like fine grapes.

  • josephebacon

    The Keurig Vue uses a new format. K Cups don’t fit in it. :-(

  • The most expensive coffee is a variety of African Arabica…the beans of course have passed through the digestive system of a type of civet and are harvested from the little civet turds. The price of that makes any one who is trying to look cool by buying the Jamaican Blue Mountain a mere wannabee piker, but for anyone who thinks they need a 40 buck cuppa to enhance their image, I say….KEEEL THEM! This is how the predatory marketing jerk offs rationalize raising the price of coffee for the rest of us….

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Well, you guys have just switched my morning around. My favorite place for coffee is on the other side of Minneapolis. I hadn’t planned on going there this morning, but now I really want to go. It’s funny to hear about the sweetened condensed milk. Whenever Abuelo was around, there had to be sweetened condensed milk for his coffee. God help you if there wasn’t any.

  • You gotta get a better grinder that treats the beans with more respect. Even the $40 Cuisinart burr mill grinder’ll do, but $120 worth of Baratza would be ace. Love the cafetiere. (Also I buy Colombian Supremo green at about $6/lb and roast it myself, it’s insanely good.)

  • HeartlandLiberal

    Same here, from a Hoosier for the past 30 years. I buy coffee $9.00 – $12.00 a pound at a local imported and specialty food market, Kenya AA, Guatemala Antigua, Copenhagen Blend, and a couple of other favored varieties, mix up batches so I have 50/50 caffein/decaf, and make it in a regular drip grind coffee maker. Tastes good, I get my usual 2 – 3 large mugs every morning.

    What I do NOT and never will understand is paying $5.00 for a large coffee at a place like Starbucks, where the coffee tastes like it was burned over a fire that used dirty underwear to fuel it. And just looking at the abuse of language in the naming of the varieties and sizes offends my sense of decency and propriety as a student of language and its history and use.

  • Naja pallida

    You can buy various coffee plants online, but almost all of them come small that it would take 3-4 years, or more, before they start producing a good amount of fruit. If you are a regular coffee drinker, you’d have to have probably a dozen plants to produce enough to supply a daily habit. :)

  • devis1

    Because I was quite happy with the coffee in my standard cuisinart, but it tastes terrible from the Keurig. I don’t know if it’s because it flows threw so fast but they recommend NOT packing it down in the cup.

  • devis1

    Does the VUE have the my K-cup and can you recommend any cheaper coffees that taste good using the machine. I didn’t have much time to ‘shop around’ and went with the b-70 even though some reviews warned about getting a good cup of coffee using the My-k.

  • josephebacon

    I have both the Keurig Vue and Tassimo. Tassimo is the better of the two single serve machines, but there are fewer T-Disc varieties than Vue cups. For the good stuff (Blue Mountain), I use a French Press.

  • josephebacon

    I do notice the difference. I keep my coffee beans in the freezer until I grind it. Sure tastes better, especially with a French press.

  • josephebacon

    John, Trader Joe’s was pure 100% Blue Mountain, 8 oz can approx $35. Cost Plus World Market had 8 oz bags approx $40. Both were incredible. I haven’t tried the Marley Blue Mountain. Brookstone is selling it for $119.99, They’re selling it in 8 Ounce and 2 lb. sizes. I’m sure hoping that the $119.99 price tag is for the 2 pound bag!

  • You can grow a coffee plant, though the climate is probably not great for it. But you can grow it in a pot and carry the pot outside in the summer. I did for years. I got one seed LOL But boy was I proud :) I’m sure you can order plants online. But, it probably has to be a good plant, and god knows how to roast etc, or how much coffee it would yield. Could be fun though as an experiment.

  • Interesting, problem worth a try. Like I wrote above, I read some reviewers, or the Costco stuff, saying it was “blended” and not pure, but I’m not sure.

  • That’s funny. I always love how people say “all coffee tastes the same,” or “all wine tastes the same.” Sure it does :)

  • Did you notice a difference?

  • I’d heard that before, but wasn’t sure if it was true. I know people who drink espresso will tell you they drink it at night without a problem. I’d never really wanted to try :)

  • devis1

    That’s interesting. I didn’t know that the darker had less caffeine. I just assumed stronger meant more caffeine.

  • devis1

    Was more of a coffee drinker years ago but recently down to 1 or 2 cups in the morning. The caffeine began keeping me up at night so I had to stop it later in the day. Was buying the cheapest I could stand(funny how you can adjust to your budget) and things were rolling along fine til my coffe machine stopped working 2 weeks ago. Wound up getting a Keurig one cup machine but swore I would buy the My k-cup and use my own cheap coffee. The machine came with a twelve pack and I was in heaven, drunk on caffeine, French Roast and the other choice delights. So, I bought the My K-cup and another 18 pack of Tully’s french roast but that was to be it. Ran out of these on Friday and finally began using my store brand dark roast–now it tastes like dishwater. Tried making smaller cups but made no difference. Tonight I went out and bought more Tully’s and will be up all night because I just couldn’t wait til morning for a good cup of coffee! Yeah, I could see myself spending $40/lb for something I REALLY REALLY am jonesing for!

  • josephebacon

    Trader Joe’s had 8 ounce cans of Blue Mountain several years ago. So good. Now I’ve seen Blue Mountain in Whole Foods stores under the Marley label. To me, it’s the XO Cognac of coffees!

  • Phil

    My Midwestern sensibilities make me scratch my head over this post. I like a good cup of coffee, but I get it from a decent, mass produced, already-ground brand or a bean coffee, ground in the store – think Mrs. Olson or something that gets ready around 8 am. Put it in my 10 cup, stove-top percolator (which doesn’t require more than a good cleaning in the kitchen sink and doesn’t get calcified from tap water), and I’m happy, caffeinated, and end up with more money in my wallet! And you can’t beat the smell of fresh perked coffee.

  • Drew2u

    I’m trying to find if there’s a coffee or a coffee-like plant that can grow in the north-central U.S. I’d rather grow my own coffee for that price (or get a $2 gas station coffee and donate the other $38 to charity)

  • RetiredCatholic

    I like espresso, but the darker the roast the less caffeine. Medium roast is what I drink in the morning. I do espresso in the afternoon.

  • Charles Kinnaird

    Jamaica Blue Mountain! I have never handed over the bucks to buy the beans, but whenever the coffee shop in the mall posted that they were brewing it, I always bought a cup. I enjoyed reading your coffee-making techniques.

  • I use turbinado as well, but it’s more than half a teaspoon :)

  • I love good coffee. I even do my own version of home-cafe brew, one mug at a time using an unbleached #2 cone filter (fortunately, it’s compost-able, which we do), with freshly burr-ground coffee each morning. FWIW, I drink mine with a half teaspoon of turbinado sugar and a splash of half & half.

    But I can’t see spending $40/pound for the beans.

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