Jamaica’s Blue Mountains are shrouded by mist and rain. The terrain is steep, and in a few places the road has disappeared into landslides created when hurricanes bring too much rain for the already saturated soil to hold. The foliage is lush—a thousand shades of green—and the rough and windy road is dotted with colorfully painted shacks.
I’d expected to find a great house or coffee shop at Old Tavern Estate coffee, but it’s actually a cottage clinging to the side of the mountain. Here, Dorothy Twyman lives and roasts all the coffee right in a back room; she can tell by the color and popping sounds the beans make when the coffee is roasted to perfection. She also hosts the few caffeine-seeking pilgrims who hike up a steep but beautiful trail to the cottage. Her son, David Twyman, tends the coffee farm and manages the business.
The Twymans grow their coffee with few or no pesticides or herbicides. In addition, they employ 20 local, year-round coffee farmers. The care that goes into every cup is evidenced by its mellow flavor and the tropical fruit accents I tasted with every sip. This is one coffee I can enjoy without adding cream.
Twyman’s Old Tavern Estate encompasses about 140 acres of land, some of which may have been farmed for coffee since Spanish times. Only 100 acres is currently farmed because consecutive hurricanes in recent years have destroyed many coffee trees.
(In fact, a major challenge to the Blue Mountain coffee industry is change in the weather patterns. Hurricanes used to hit on average every 15 years; recently, a major storm has hit every other year.)
After Hurricane Ivan (2004) coffee production slowed to the point that it was no longer economically feasible for the family to export Twyman’s coffee—but they hope to change that soon. For now, this aromatic, smooth, non-bitter beverage is a treat enjoyed in Jamaica only.
You need to make an appointment to visit Twyman’s Old Tavern Estate, near the village of Green Hill. It’s accessible from either Kingston or Buff Bay (on the northeast coast) on the B-1 road. Enjoying a cup with Dorothy is worth the trip.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor