Coffee, Culture, and Creativity – Minister of Tourism Talks Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival

Aerial view of tents at the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival 2019 in Newcastle, St Andrew, Jamaica.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee has always been famous and renowned as some of the finest coffee in the world. For the last two years, Jamaican coffee has been the star of its own increasingly popular festival hosted by the Tourism Linkages Network. 

The third staging of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival is set to take place on Saturday, 21 March at the Jamaica Defence Force training camp in Newcastle.

Here in the crisp mountain air, there will be demonstrations and workshops, food, culture, live performances and even a barista competition.

Yello caught up with Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, to talk about the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, why it was important to support and all it has to offer.

The event is hosted by the Tourism Linkages Network. Could you give me a brief explanation of what the network is and what it does?

The Tourism Linkages Network is designed to connect the various partners of tourism and those industries that provide the consumption requirements of the tourists. So, food, shopping, artisans and various artists that make marketable cultural products, and tourists would want. This also includes entertainment, music, sport, and all those valuable experiences visitors would want. Health and wellness as well, we try to foster the development of products, for example, oils in spas, using our rich biodiversity.

We spend a lot of time at meetings, conventions, and other large events. We host things like nature summits and seminars, and educational programmes. We try to link those in the [hospitality] industry with manufacturers of goods used in the industry such as oils, syrups, condiments, and all sorts of agro-processed goods. There are also those manufacturing furnishings – beds, mattresses, pots and pans, kettles, etc. − all these things are utilised in the tourism industry.

We established an app called ALEX (Agri-linkages Exchange) that connects farmers with buyers in the hospitality industry.

In the gastronomy network, we encourage the use of our indigenous products like coffee. We encourage visitors to come and enjoy and see the various applications that coffee can be used for.

We have just started working with chocolate. We just sent a team to the Salon du Chocolat event in Brussels, and they’ve gotten rave reviews.

There are so many things to celebrate that we can encourage visitors to utilise.

Where did the idea for the Jamaica Coffee Festival come from?

That’s an idea that came out of the council. I think this is what you do to highlight the value of our assets. It also came out of the issue related to price and the falling price of coffee in the world market and the impact it was having on coffee farmers’ income and wellbeing.

Why a coffee festival specifically?

We wanted to introduce coffee to our tourism. Coffee is the second most-consumed liquid on Earth. If you have the second most-consumed drink on Earth as one of your premium offers, you will get coffee aficionados coming to visit for it.  We thought this [festival] was a good way to attract these visitors.

Why was it important for the Ministry to support this initiative?

One of the things that we try to do at the Ministry is to act as a catalyst to get recognition for these areas.

The second is to show that tourism is about all the things that Jamaica has to offer the world. Tourism doesn’t exist without these things. We need to bring to attention to the wider community that your creativity is what visitors want.

How do you see the festival benefiting the local coffee industry?

The festival showcases a whole range of creative outputs relating to coffee. Over the last two years, I’ve been amazed at the range of coffee-related outputs. People had coffee vapour, you had coffee infused in water, and there were so many other things, including cakes and candies. I’ve seen the beans by themselves after they’ve been thrashed, being used to make mats. There’s a wide variety of possibilities utilising almost every link in the coffee value chain. By bringing this out, we expose the rest of Jamaica to it. Each year we’ve seen new applications of coffee which speak to innovation.

Where do you see this festival going forward?

The festival is going to grow and grow beyond Kingston. It can morph into a broader tourism product alongside rum and chocolate.

The Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival runs from 10am to 6pm. Tickets are pre-sold only and are JMD $1,500 for adults and $500 for children.

You can purchase tickets at Cannonball Cafe (Manor Park, Barbican, and New Kingston), Starbucks (Waterloo), and Cafe Blue (Sovereign and Irish Town).

If you love coffee, then check out our article on nine ways to use coffee other than drinking it.

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