In Search of a Perfect Cup

Name:Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
Country / Territory:Jamaica
IP right(s):Geographical Indications and Appellations of Origin, Trademarks
Date of publication:September 3, 2010
Last update:July 10, 2012


Jamaica Blue Mountain® coffee is a registered Community Trademark (No. 002093060) in the European Union (CTM-ONLINE).

Background

The eastern end of the Caribbean island of Jamaica is adorned by the majestic Blue Mountains range. The climate in this region is marked by abundant rainfall which has made it the home of lush vegetation – thousands of towering trees and some five hundred varieties of flowering plants. The terrain, rainfall pattern, Blue Mountain mist, and overall conditions are perfectly suitable for the cultivation of one of the world’s most distinguished and cherished coffees – Jamaica Blue Mountain® coffee.

Coffee was first introduced on the island in 1728 and gained prominence during the nineteenth century when many of the natives turned to growing coffee on their own lands. The plants flourish nicely in this region and give beans with a good shape, unique flavor, intense aroma, delicate acid balance and sweetness. Due to the cool microclimatic conditions in the Blue Mountains, it takes a longer time for the coffee berries to ripen, which helps the beans to mature with more substance. A unique, special flavor comes out when these beans are roasted.

Traditional Knowledge

Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is grown and processed by skilled local farmers in an artistic manner. Experienced reapers select the finest bright red cherries and pulp within the Blue Mountains. When the outer skin is removed, the wet beans are moved to government-authorized processing facilities within the next 24 hours, where the beans are sun-dried, stored and cured in wooden silos or jute sacks for at least eight weeks. This curing process brings out the flavor-enhancing compounds within the bean that contribute to the development of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. The next stage is the most important one; skilled women take charge of the process to hull, polish and hand-sort only the best of the beans. This hand sorting exercise, developed over generations of experience, is, according to the Coffee Industry Board (CIB) of Jamaica, the “lynchpin of the quality presentation of Jamaican coffee.”

Trademark and Branding

The specific area in which coffee defined as “Blue Mountain” can be grown and how and where it is “processed or manufactured” is defined in regulations made under the Coffee Industry Regulation Act, 1948 of Jamaica. Only coffee grown at elevations between 3,000 and 5,500 feet in the parishes of Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland and Saint Mary can be called Jamaica Blue Mountain. 


The Blue Mountains range in Jamaica offers the perfect microclimatic conditions for the cultivation of one of the world’s most distinguished and cherished coffees (Photo: Nicholas Laughlin)

As early as 1944 the authorities realized the potential of the coffee grown on the Blue Mountains and recognized the need for quality control and branding. That year, Jamaica, still under British rule, established the Central Coffee Clearing House where all coffee for export had to be delivered, cleaned, and graded. In 1950, the CIB was established “to maintain and standardize the quality and consistency…” of exported coffee. The coffee cooperatives, through the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Coffee Growers Federation, have three members on the CIB Board. The CIB provides cooperative members with marketing arrangements, credit facilities and technical support, and issues a certificate guaranteeing the quality of coffee that conforms to its standards and specifications (certificate of authenticity). It is the only certifying agency for all Jamaican coffee and recognizes and licenses five “roasting” companies and twelve companies that grow/export coffee.

A CIB certificate of authenticity always accompanies true Jamaican coffee. In order to be able to use the Board’s logo the coffee must have passed all of the necessary quality controls. 

The CIB processes and commercializes three types of coffees produced on the island: Jamaica Blue Mountain; Jamaica High Mountain Supreme; and Jamaica Prime. Among them, the Blue Mountain coffee is the most cherished and enjoys a worldwide reputation. Blue Mountain Coffee is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as a certification mark (No. 1,414,598), protected as a community trademark (No. 002093060) in the European Union and as a certification trademark (No. 1222993) with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the United Kingdom. The CIB owns all the marks through its wholly-owned subsidiary Coffee Marks Limited.

Geographical Indication

Jamaica actively protects its national brands. In 2004, Jamaica adopted the Protection of Geographical Indications Act (GI Act), which protects names linked with a geographical origin of particular goods. The GI Act provides a registration system, although registration is not necessary in order to enjoy protection. The reputation of Blue Mountain coffee has rendered it a priceless intangible asset inherently linked to the region where it is grown. Accordingly, the CIB has taken steps to register Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee as a GI with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO). In accordance with JIPO’s GI registration requirements, The CIB’s GI strategy focuses on drafting a code of practice and establishing an institutional framework comprising the producers, a management body and a certification body. Upon completion of the background work, the CIB will file application for GI designation of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee

Business Results

Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee has a worldwide reputation. It is one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees of the world. According to 2006 data, the average price of Jamaica Blue Mountain roasted coffee was US$43.44 per pound as compared to a price tag of US$3.17 per pound for average retail roasted coffee. The stake for the farmers producing this coffee is quite high too; as much as 45% of the retail price goes to the producers. A huge amount of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is exported to different countries, with Japan being the largest importer.

Trademarks as a Tool for Economic Development

Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is an example of how developing countries can benefit from the increased value of their branded products protected through intellectual property rights. The premium price that exported Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee receives is an important contribution to the Jamaican economy.