Blue Mountain coffee gets boost on the Travel Channel

BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter

Saturday, November 14, 2015

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UNCOMMON Grounds, a show on the US-based Travel Channel has shown viewers how to spot fake Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) coffee, to the delight of local stakeholders.

US coffee drinkers are trending towards cheaper uber coffees while distrusting the value of luxury brands, including JBM.

In an interview with Mark McIntosh, the boss at Wallenford Estate Coffee Company, the Jamaica Observer learned that the show devoted over four minutes of airtime to the local brand which aims to grow the lucrative US market, affected in part by overseas knock-offs. The segment premiered the last week in October but was shot about a year ago with footage held in limbo until now, McIntosh stated.

"The fakes don't come from Jamaica, because the Coffee Industry Board (CIB) prevents that," added McIntosh at Wallenford's head office on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston as he spoke about the positive angle the local industry got from what was revealed on the Travel Channel.

The CIB plays an essential role by issuing a seal of approval for coffee ready for export, McIntosh explained. However, once the beans leave the island, then it's up to the overseas entity receiving the beans to maintain their integrity and avoid mixing them with cheaper inferior beans before labelling them as 100 per cent.

"With a coffee that's one of the most expensive in the world, having an independent certifying body is essential," McIntosh added.

In the show's segment, the host Todd Carmichael compared a brand of coffee labelled as JBM from a popular US supermarket chain with three local brands certified by the CIB.

"That's a knock-off," Carmichael stated about the US can of coffee beans, while enjoying the other cups of coffee.

"I never buy Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee because I can't compete with the fakes who are selling coffee for US$6 and US$7 a pound," added Carmichael in the segment.

"Its easy to tell. If you go into department stores all across the US and see that price at US$7, run away, because it's a fake," McIntosh responded in the show's segment.

Coffee lovers adore the deep chocolate floral and bitter-free tones of JBM. This is what allows it to fetch US$50 a pound and beyond.

Coffee remains one of the Jamaica's most prized crops. It employs thousands in the island and earned some US$16.3 million in 2014 down from US$19.5 million in 2013. The earnings continue to fall based on a dip in coffee production due to a series of challenges caused by fire and drought. Although demand continues to rise rapidly from the island's main export market in Asia led by Japan, the US remains its largest untapped market.

But impressions of the TV programme where not all positive. Two coffee sources told Sunday Finance that they were concerned about the spin that Carmichael could put on JBM based on his previous adventures that coud link coffee to the scenes of violence filmed in Jamaica.


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