Café Blue: From Seed To Cup

Counting Down To The 20th Staging Of The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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Café Blue copped its first Food Award in 2007/8 in the Best Kept Secret category for the Irish Town location. Seven awards later Jason Sharp, the managing director of Café Blue/Coffee Traders Ltd, is as appreciative and just as thrilled as he was on that memorable first night. In a recent conversation with the 2018 Jamaica Observer Food Awards judges, Sharp took them back 20 years when there weren't many options, to today where he has seen a significant rise in the number of people who regularly dine out. This he has linked to the Observer Food Awards' constant promotion of and focus on the industry.

“Café Blue,” shared Sharp, “was born out of necessity. My brother Richard, our CEO and chairman, and myself had been farming for 13 years and Richard about 18. We realised that, to survive as farmers, we had to create a new platform. We had to diversify and create a new value proposition. Add value to our product. The value added was a little café. It was from there that we learnt the café business.”

Lessons and more were learnt, for 15 years later Coffee Traders Ltd is the largest exporter of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee controlling over 50 per cent market share and exporting into all the major developed markets in the world including Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, all of Western Europe and North America.

“We are today,” continued Sharp, “the largest coffee roaster in the English-speaking Caribbean controlling majority share in the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados and Grenada.

“Coffee Traders Ltd is the coffee provider for the Sandals chain and the largest supplier of coffee to the hospitality industry.”

The Sharps own and operate the oldest working coffee plantation in the Jamaica Blue Mountains, Clifton Mount Coffee Estate, which dates back to 1751, and sell to some of the most prestigious coffee retail outlets in the world. These include, but are not limited to, Fortnum and Mason (retailer to Her Majesty the Queen of England), Mi Café to the café in Barneys of New York and Starbucks Reserve stores worldwide.

Three years ago Clifton Mount became the only commercial certified Rainforest Alliance coffee farm in Jamaica indicating the customer's commitment to environment, land preservation, social welfare and community development. In 2017, the company attained SQF Food Safety certification in Jamaica, allowing for its roasted coffee to be shelf-ready anywhere in North America and Europe. This has resulted in the company expanding sales into the largest grocery retailers in the world.

Café Blue's future looks equally promising. Indeed, Sharp's wife Jackie, former CEO of the Bank of Nova Scotia, has transitioned to the company as its CFO. Sharp has stepped away from the day-to-day management of Café Blue and Justine Pyne, a hospitality industry pro, is the new general manager. Expansion is on the cards with two cafés slated to open in 2018 and several more next year.






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