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As is true of every country but Ethiopia, Jamaica did not always grow coffee. Someone had to bring it there and plant it. In this case, that someone was the Governor in 1728, a Sir Nicholas Lawes, who received a coffee plant from the Governor of Martinique, and promptly planted it in the St. Andrews area. Production was limited in the first half of the century, but as coffee cultivation spread up from St. Andrews to the Blue Mountains, it flourished on 686 plantations. By 1814, Jamaica was producing more than 16,500 tons a year at peak, as compared to only 30 tons in 1752.

That was the heyday for Jamaican coffee. Production began to decline due to labor shortage primarily, and by 1850, only 180 plantations were still producing. Quality issues began appearing toward the end of the century, leading to a program to improve quality and infrastructure, with limited success. By 1944, a Central Coffee Clearing House was built to route all coffees through, followed by the formation of the Jamaican Coffee Board in 1950.

Fast forward to the present: Though the journey has not been swift, coffee quality and savvy marketing put Jamaica on the map for clean, sweet specialty-grade coffees before many of the other producing countries. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee has come to be considered as some of the finest in the world.

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