Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Communiqué #9: Reply to J. Michael Wheeler at DancingSpoon.com

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 (jbmcoffee.blogspot.com).

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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Brotherhood of the Bean said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! I completely agree with your views on coffee. It enhances and entwines itself into the fabric of our lives.

Its odd, some of the memories that I recall in the most vivid detail are the ones that involve coffee.

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read the article. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool site you've got here. Thank you for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. BTW, try to add some images :).