Klatching up with Café Blue

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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Thursday Food has been catching up with winners from the 20th staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards . This week we go up the hills of Irish Town to Café Blue — winner of Best Café Experience.

Coffee roasting is a complicated process that transforms a simple bean into the liquid gold that many can't live without. “We are the largest purchaser of coffee beans from small, local coffee farmers,” said Jason Sharp, managing director of Café Blue. The company's roots are in coffee farming and roasting. After a number of years, the decision was made to open a café in order to, as Sharp puts it, “inform the coffee-farming business”. Opening a coffee shop allowed Sharp and his team to see how customers reacted to the product and get quality feedback which was used to improve the business model.

At a time when café culture was as rare in Jamaica as finding proper Viennoiseries outside of local hotels, Sharp forged ahead and opened the first Café Blue in 2005. Irish Town was a natural choice as it offered “a unique coffee experience… There's something about having coffee in the Blue Mountains, somehow it makes the coffee taste better”, said Sharp. This business vertical contributes to the sustainability of the core coffee business as Jamaicans will not only consume more of the beverage but have a greater appreciation for and understanding of the product.

As the flagship café in the chain, Café Blue Irish Town provides customers with expertly made drinks (there's an award-winning barista on staff), an intimate environment and a respite from the hubbub of city living. “Most of the Irish Town customers live in Kingston or are Jamaicans who don't live in Irish Town,” Sharp noted. But if you can't make it to Irish Town, there are five other locations from which you can get your coffee fix: Sovereign Centre Liguanea; two in Montego Bay — a stand-alone location and one inside Fontana Pharmacy; and at both international airports.

Even though there are six locations in Jamaica, plans to expand internationally and across the Caribbean are afoot. “This won't be for two or three more years, as we really want to get Jamaica right first,” Sharp remarked. He wants to ensure that regardless of the Café Blue there is consistency in branding, the overall quality of product and seamlessness in service. Sharp continued, “We want there to be an identical experience, as this is a sure way of building brand value.” Café Blue is not in the volume business — whether in the extraction or expansion process. It is focused on quality and consistency.

Café Blue was also nominated in the Best New Product category for its chocolate-covered coffee beans. When asked about this diversification of the company's revenue streams Sharp was enthusiastic. “In the same way that we are a big supporter of small coffee farmers we want to do the same for cocoa. Jamaica has quality chocolate and we want to do our part to increase revenues for the cocoa industry,” he pointed out.

Blue Mountain coffee enjoys worldwide acclaim and has a cult following abroad. Jason Sharp and the Café Blue brand allows Jamaicans to enjoy a world-class product right here at home. All of the brand's products — cafés, roasted beans and confectionery — add value to its core commodity.

So whether you're a serious coffee connoisseur, looking for a cool spot to bring a date (or picky relatives from abroad), or simply like sweet treats that offer a jolt, Café Blue has you covered.

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