The Finest Coffee in the Jamaican Blue Mountains

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Dorothy Twyman has been running Old Tavern Coffee Estate, a 75-acre coffee plantation in the Jamaican Blue Mountains, for nearly 50 years. It is the only single-estate coffee produced in the Jamaican Blue Mountains, which means the coffee is grown, processed, roasted, and packed at the estate—all by hand and in small batches. For a taste of some of the good stuff and a behind-the-scenes look of how it is made, grab your family and head out for a day trip to this unique plantation.

Your tour starts with David, Dorothy’s son, taking you outside and showing you clusters of berries—some green, some red—clinging to the branches of the coffee bushes. You watch the quick-fingered pickers pluck only the ripe ones, splitting the husks open to reveal the beans inside. Follow Dorothy into the kitchen, where two cylindrical ovens roast just five pounds of beans at a time. The air in the kitchen is heavy with the aroma of roasting coffee, making your mouth water as you imagine a taste of caffeinated goodness. A woman dressed in a bright-red jacket sits at a table with a tray of raw beans before her, pushing them this way and that and sorting them into sizes to ensure an even roast. You learn that although roasting beans takes around 15 minutes, it requires months of work to get to that stage. The beans must be grown, picked, fermented, dried, and rested, which takes several months.

You hold out your palm, and Dorothy places in it a medium-roast bean and then shows you how to choose it. The taste as you bite down is slightly bitter, but behind it is a rich depth of flavor. She explains that up at 4,000 feet, the air in the Jamaican Blue Mountains is cool, still, crisp, pure, and often foggy, which means the coffee ripens more slowly, imparting a better flavor. You then sample medium-dark- and dark-roast beans to compare the differences. Finally, she gives you a peaberry bean to try. These special beans are highly prized among coffee connoisseurs for their rarity and unique, milder flavor.

Your coffee lesson now complete, Dorothy invites you to explore more of the estate. She tells you where you will find a small river and a hidden waterfall and grants you permission to eat oranges right from the trees. After you wander for a bit, meet back up with Dorothy on the veranda of her cozy 1930s cottage, which is perched above the coffee plantation and overlooks the area you toured earlier. Snack on homemade cakes and cookies as you look out at the steep hills and the challenging hike that brought you there.

You are offered a coffee, and the anticipation that has been building in your chest all day gets your taste buds tingling for what’s to come. Your first sip immediately proves what you’ve expected all along—rich, smooth, dark, and powerfully aromatic, the brew tastes even better now that you’ve seen just how much work goes into producing each cup. As you sit and sip some of the best coffee in the world, you gaze across a deep, green valley where wisps of clouds cling to the hillsides. Of course, you will have the chance to buy some of Dorothy’s exceptional coffee before you go, but there’s no hard sell here. This is, after all, a visit to a private home, not a factory tour.

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