Saturday, March 31, 2007

Communiqué #2: The Taxman Commeth and the Coffeeman Isn’t Far Behind

This week was very eventful and as always full of coffee. We’ve finally settled on the lead coffees for our roast on demand program and are working on the final packaging (hey presentation is important). It seems that the coffee business has a lot to do with bringing great coffee to our clients and while we’re at it finding the best way to do so. By that I mean, reviewing packaging materials, sitting down with our creative team to come up with label concepts, presenting those to the roaster (he also applies the labels to the bags/tins) and wrapping the whole package up by taking into account everyone’s creative two cents.

The fun part of course is having it all come together with customer comments. Now, since we are online we never actually meet the customers face to face but we do receive a load of emails on a daily basis. At the beginning of this venture we wanted to have customer feedback of any time. Always the good comments are welcomed but the bad comments are especially insightful. I worry because we receive so many complimentary letters that things are moving along a little “too well” sometimes. I am sometimes a worrier, albeit an affable one.

This week we launch the “customer review project” over at Some of the impetuous is there to feed our egos (we want to show off the good reviews of our products). There is of course the functional aspect of having third party reviews to inform other clients. I have always been a personal fan of that type of the peer based review. Routinely I use it on and have been known to pen a review or two of products at For those of you who know me personally this would take you aback. I am a staunch iconoclast for those who don’t know me personally. Peer reviews are however a positive force practically and when coupled with a lack of censorship… a marvelous source of information. So then you can expect to see both the sterling reviews as well as the tarnished. Every review of less than five stars (we use a star ranking system) is a challenge for us to improve the service or product and it is a challenge we live for.

Enough of this ranking diatribe… you’re probably interested in which coffees we’ll be featuring starting April 13th (yes right before the tax man commeth). Here’s a sneak peak at the first dozen to ease the pain of tax day.

1. Sumatra Mandheling
2. Celebes (Sulawesi) Kalossi Toraja
3. Ethiopia Harrar Longberry Horse
4. Kenya AA Nyeri (a very rare sun dried heirloom Arabica)
5. “Kona Star Farm” Kona Fancy
6. Ethiopia Natural Sidamo (harvested from semi-wild coffee plants)
7. Ethiopia Yrgacheffee
8. Tanzania Peaberry
9. Dota Estate Tarrazu
10. “Kimel Estate” Papua New Guinea
11. “Huixoc Estate” Huehuetenango Guatemala (grown at an altitude of 6,400 feet)
12. Rwanda A1 Gikongoro Bufcafe

Warm Regards,
Jerry Delince
Managing partner

Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders, LLC.
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Communiqué #7: Learning in the Coffee Cup

Great little blog about how to get the most out of selecting and brewing specialty coffee. This is a must for most beginers heading down the road to enjoying specialty coffee.

read more | digg story

Communiqué #1: Dispatches From The Coffee Front

Today I’m sitting in my dining room in front of an Apple laptop writing this article. For me this is a little bit of ritual performed every week for the past three months. It would seem that new things are afoot in the world of coffee. For the first time we are introducing no fewer than a dozen new single origin coffees that have never tasted the sun drenched Blue Mountains of Jamaica. This is no small undertaking because our goal remains as rigid as always – to bring the freshest, prime grade single origin coffees to our clients.

As I enjoy the aroma of one of our finalist sent last week from our roaster I can’t help but feel a bit giddy. The Dota Estate Tarrazu has filled my home with the aroma of fresh coffee. Not of the Folger’s percolator television commercial variety but rather of the super duper fresh roasted to perfection variety traditionally found in a roaster’s café. The truly amazing part is that this coffee was roasted on March 2, 2007 and delivered to our offices March 6 where upon we immediately opened the bag and did what we call a “second cupping” on the spot. Imagine a bag of coffee exposed to all of the ravages of light, oxygen and time that can still produce such and aroma a taste. Coffee like this remind me that a great cup of coffee is truly one of life’s true luxuries.

When our little company was first formed the partners all sat around a fresh pot of coffee and had an all out dream session. The ink had barely dried on our bi-laws when we began to pen some of the most fantastical wishes a coffee lover could hope to dream. Tops on our collective list was the ability to aggregate coffee orders from our website, roast fresh batches once a week and ship those coffees the next day to clients. All of us having tasted fresh roasted coffee knowing the singular pleasure that could never be matched by “industrial roasting and preservation of coffee.” The challenge at hand to make turn this dream into a reality for our clients.

Step one was of course finding a roaster but not just any roaster, one with a true passion for coffee and a tongue for detail. The parameters were simple enough but the search proved exhaustive. We wanted a roaster with years of experience roasting top quality single origin beans in innovative ways. Innovation to us meant moving away from prescribed roasts into the area of arcane or perhaps extinct roasts. The roaster we felt was essentially our fourth and most important partner. The process was always the same – we secretly purchased their recommended fresh roasts as consumers, ground, brewed and cupped the coffees. The vast majority failed round one. Round two was a series of conversations with the roaster first as a consumer then as potential wholesale clients. This part is important because anyone who takes the time to engage in passionate, long form conversation with a consumer is a rare chap or lady. The business conversation always came last and always delivered a bit of shock to the roaster. I can still see the “you guys are the guys .“ We are all young, wear jeans (except Damian he’s a proper Jamaican gentleman) and love to talk coffee conversationally.

Step two was understanding how the roaster came to the flavours we had enjoyed in the cup. We are not roasters so a conversation on roast profiles, etc. would generally be lost on us. What we were interested in absorbing, was "the essence of method to the madness" as we put it. For example, why did this particular Kenya AA from the same green broker and the same estate taste to much better than this other one? Hours of conversation and carafes of coffee did much to enlighten us to world of roasting coffee. I personally walk away after each conversation convinced that coffee roasted at the artisan level is truly a craft bordering on an art. The personality of the roaster shines through in the cup – ergo choosing the right roast is perhaps the most important of all the steps in producing an audacious coffee.

Step three, how do we arrived at the selection of coffees on the menu? We work within the boundaries of the roaster’s skills and our tastes to arrive at the very best beans through cupping, varying roasts and ultimately “living with the coffee.” The first two components should be fairly prevalent as the old adage goes “garbage in is garbage out.” So selecting and roasting the best beans then methodically testing them through cupping is a requirement. Living with the coffee is something we do here at Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders. Living with the coffee means that the roasts that pass muster are roasted delivered then consumed in the real world – just like our clients will experience the coffee. The coffees are brought to the office where the receptionists brews pots and makes it available to everyone (clients, co-workers, guests, etc.). The coffee may be consumed fresh pot after pot or poured into a thermal carafe and left to sit for hours – then consumed. This is a free form evaluation so we don’t ask for feedback. However if the coffee is great – we will receive verbal and email comments. If the coffee has “no comments” it is rejected.

At home it’s the same story. Coffees are brought to our homes, ground and served in a variety of forms to family, friends, guest and of course our own consumption. Like today, it’s just me and the Tarrazu. Living with coffee is perhaps the best way to gauge it’s quality because what we call “organic real world consumption” is how our clients will experience it. The client will have a cup of Tanzania peaberry after a garlic rich Italian dinner. Some will brew and consume the first cup of Kona Fancy before brushing their teeth first thing in the morning. Coffee is not consumed in a vacuum but amidst everyday life. So our testing happens in the epicenter of life as well.

Warm Regards,
Jerry Delince
Managing partner

Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders, LLC.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Communiqué #9: Reply to J. Michael Wheeler at

Thank you for your interest Mr. Wheeler. I'll give you the short story regarding the business and my role in it - of course if you require more information, I'll be happy to provide what I can.

Jerry Delince
Managing Partner


The coffee is the central focus of the business so perhaps it would be best to start there. Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is defined as the Arabica coffees grown the parishes of Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland and Saint Mary that have met all of the quality standards established by the Jamaican Coffee Industry Board. That of course is the academic definition. Historically Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee has been the most sought after coffee in the world as far back as the 18th century before modern cultivation and processing. The only way to explain this popularity is by tasting a good example of the coffee.

Search online and you'll receive all kinds of information extolling the virtues of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. I won't bore you with a re-hash of this information. Rather I'd like to expose some of the aspects that are seldom discussed in other explanations. Where coffee is concerned three things outweigh almost everything else in producing great coffee:

1. The species of coffee plant
2. The growing environment
3. Picking and processing of the beans

Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is perhaps a perfect storm of species, climate and processing. All of the farms in the Blue Mountain region grow and harvest plants of the Arabica variety. The jury is out on whether Arabica plants are truly the only coffee plants capable of producing complex and varied expressions of flavour (there are potentially hundreds of uncultivated strains of coffee in Yemen and Ethiopia that may produce better coffee). What we do know today is that when comparing complexity of flavor between Arabica and Robusta coffees - there is no contest - Arabica reigns supreme.

The Arabica plants while transportable (they have moved from their native Arabian peninsula to the Africa, into the new world, south Asia and beyond) are finicky where fruit production and quality are concerned. Arabica plants prefer good drainage, warm days and cool nights in rich soil. Elevations above 3,000 between the tropics of cancer and Capricorn seem to be optimal growing environments. Volcanic soil also contributes to the flourishing of Arabica plants. The Jamaica Blue Mountain range offers all of these parameters for growth and producing exceptional fruit and thus exceptional coffee.

Once nature and genetics have done their work on the fruit, this is where processing comes into play. Only ripe beans are hand picked, sorted, pulped, washed and graded. Jamaica established another level of quality control in the creation of the modern Jamaica Coffee Industry Board. The CIB is the latest in a long lineage of Jamaican attempts and bringing standardization of quality standards through legislation (established in 1950). Previous incarnations were numerous laws establishing coffee quality (1728 –1768), the Central Coffee Work (1891) and the Coffee Clearing House (1944).

About the business

The company was started in 1999 by my business partner Damian Nelson in order to supply the expat Jamaican market with genuine Blue Mountain Coffee. It is important to note that while the rest of the world regard the coffee with reverence the Jamaican regard it has the home brew. That personal connection to Jamaican foods, music and culture is something that Jamaicans strive to maintain. The coffee is actually the genesis for the business on so many levels. I can't remember when I came into the picture where business is concerned - either 1999 (late) or early 2000 I was approached by Mr. Nelson to evolve the functionality of the web site. At the time I was closing my publishing business and moving towards establishing an advertising agency. As I cannot "sell" or market anything that I do not understand so I asked for a sample of the coffee. The next day I offered all of the development at no charge in exchange for an equity position in the company. Recently my company Aptakin Delince Group, LLC. acquired controlling shares in Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders, LLC. and launched a new ecommerce platform (aka the new web site) in January 2007. This acquisition brought the third business partner Marc Aptakin into the management of Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders, LLC.

You can read a longer version of this in our new blog (

As for my role, I am a partner in the business. The way we run this business is much like a fan club of coffee in general with zealous devotion to Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee in particular. Over the years I have developed a reverence for truly great coffee. Coffee alas is not like pizza - bad coffee is - well bad coffee. No matter how much cream and sugar you put into it. My fascination with Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee centers around its "roundness." That term "roundness" is what I personally use to describe the taste because it is unique and almost ephemeral. I wrote in the above mentioned blog that every coffee lover/fanatic has that one moment when the coffee stars aligned for them. That round sensation in the flavour for me bordered on the emotional.

Day to day operations wise I am responsible for the marketing and happily engage in "test driving" aka cupping and brewing new coffees. We also do a healthy dose of test driving everything you see on the web site. Everything you see online are the things that passed our unscientific evaluation and these are the products that we all live with on a daily basis.

Warm Regards,
Jerry Delince
Managing partner

Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders, LLC.
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Communiqué #10: The BODUM™ Santos (quick notes)

The BODUM™ Santos is truly a jewel in an otherwise horrid world of coffee makers. The makes coffee using the vacuum method very popular earlier in the 20th century. Notably on a trip to Japan I kept running into the old stovetop/spirit lamp versions at local coffeehouses in Tokyo. I won't go into excruciating detail about he brewing mechanics except to say the resulting coffee is fantastic!!! If you get this machine be prepared for a floor show! I still stop and watch the water move up into the upper chamber, mix with the coffee then shoot back down into the carafe.

BODUM™ is notorious for delivering high street style, extreme functionality at a stunningly low price. The Santos delivers on all those counts. The only thing I would add when buying this machine is a vacuum jug (Stelton™ and Eva Solo™). While this machine over delivers on all of the tenets of great brewing it is amiss in one... it has a heating element to "keep the coffee warm." Avoid all continuous heating like the plague when brewing coffee - this should be the 10 commandments of brewing coffee.

The BODUM™ Santos for its minor flaw is truly a tremendous coffee maker... err I mean brewer fit for a king or a queen!

Warm Regards,
Jerry Delince
Managing partner

Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders, LLC.
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Communiqué #11: Learning in the Coffee Cup

Seven years ago I was introduced to fine coffee by one of my business partners, Damian Nelson. At the time Mr. Nelson was busy operating a small web site called and wanted some assistance on site design and marketing. At our first meeting, Damian expounded on the many virtues of 100% pure Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. I remembered listening patiently and after a few minutes asked him for a sample of the coffee to test drive.

Now I must admit that at that time, I was not an ardent coffee drinker. My foray into what I would later recognize as Specialty coffee never deviated far from a French press and a bag of Kenya AA purchased from Barney’s at the local mall or Helmut Sachers from the local German grocer. Damian produced later that week two bags of coffee. The other being a 2oz sample of JABLUM 100% Blue Mountain Coffee (ground as I did not even own a grinder at that time) and one bag of Wallenford Jamaica High Mountain Coffee. I remember distinctly going home, opening the bag of JABLUM and smelling it while waiting for the water to boil for my French press.

From that first meager pot of coffee I experienced and epiphany. The flavor was unlike any coffee I had ever experience and that was my “ah hah” coffee moment. I suspect that ever coffee lover has had that same moment where the cup was so different and the experience so mesmerizing that it started a life long fascination with coffee in all it’s most sublime forms. The next day I agreed to work with him on the new site for an equity position in the fledgling company.

Today it’s seven years later and my how things have changed. I’ve tasted fresh roasted Kenya Aas that defy description. Kona Fancies so mesmerizing that when asked I could only describe the taste as “round like a soft playground marble.” We have collectively read countless books, attended countless trade shows and traded stories with countless coffee nuts about the particulars of arcane subject matter (like what’s the best roast for a true Tanzanian peaberry if you’re using a vacuum brewer). What binds all of these experiences is a damn near mythic quest to find the next great coffee not necessarily the best coffee.

Coffee like all things is really based on two things that defy easy codification – personal taste and passion. I always tell friends that coffee is like wine in more ways than one. Some people prefer thin Rieslings for years as their wine of choice and go from bottle to bottle learning the peculiarities of the grape. They experience first hand the differences between the same wine bottle from year to year and gradually begin to understand how weather, drinking temperature, food, etc. affect the flavor. All of that is what I call the “school of the glass.” In effect the drinker is learning from experience with the subject. Eventually that Riesling drinker takes a baby step to a white wine from Alsace and oh man what a difference. A new series of lessons are learned and their taste mature seeking the next great wine. Now, does that wine lover ever really abandon Riesling… probably not, they just seek better Rieslings. Better often means seeking a particular region or better yet a particular estate. Eventually things like vintage come into focus clearly.

Coffee lovers go through a familiar evolution as well. You find a truly great cup and you follow it to where it leads you. A great cup of after dinner coffee at a German restaurant led me to Helmut Sachers and a cup of coffee on morning led me to Kenya AA. Coffee is like wine in one very important way, each bean like each grape variety is different when it is in the glass or in this case the cup. The alchemy of plant, weather, growing condition, harvest, processing, roasting, freshness and brewing all play crucial roles in taste. Thus some coffee are more sought after than others. Unlike wine however coffee does not have an international lexicon honed over centuries that can be used as a shorthand in separating the regal from the plebian. Coffee is far more hands on than wine. By that I mean you, yes you have to dig into the choices. Here’s the good news, today you have a better chance of scoring a truly great cup than at any time in the past. I really believe and have experienced great cups of coffee and so can you… it only takes a little diligence.
Warm Regards,
Jerry Delince
Managing partner

Jamaica Blue Mountain Traders, LLC.
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