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Jamaica's Coffee History

Coffee production began in Jamaica in 1728 when the then governor of Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, brought coffee seedlings from Martinique. Governor Lawes planted those seedlings at his property, Temple Hall, in St Andrew.  Within a decade, there was a rapid expansion of the local coffee industry. This was due, in part, to the influx of refugees from the Haitian Revolution. The Haitian masters and their slaves brought with them their experience and expertise in coffee production. 

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Between 1728 and 1768, the coffee industry developed largely in the lower mountain ranges of St. Andrew, but gradually the cultivation extended into the higher elevations of the Blue Mountains. This rapid expansion was, however, short-lived, chiefly due to poor land preparation and agronomic practices which resulted in severe landslides and the loss of the productive soils.

Things got worse after Emancipation as the slaves deserted their plantations, resulting in large-scale abandonment of coffee farms, with some being rented or sold to small farmers. This resulted in coffee becoming a small-scale peasant crop as opposed to the plantation crop it was previously. Since then, the industry has experienced many rises and falls, with some farmers abandoning coffee for livestock and other crops.

In order to save the industry, legislation was passed in 1891 "to provide instructions in the art of cultivation and curing coffee by sending it to certain districts, and competent instructors". Efforts were made to increase the production of coffee and to establish a Central Coffee Factory for processing and grading. In 1944 the Government established a Central Coffee Clearing House where all coffee for export had to be delivered for cleaning and grading. Improvement in the quality of Jamaica's coffee export was underway. The Coffee Industry Board was established in 1950 to officially raise and maintain the quality of coffee exports. These efforts have now placed Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee as one of the top coffees in high demand by coffee aficionados around the world.

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