The Ministry of Tourism hosted the inaugural Jamaica Coffee Fest over a 3-day period with a Coffee Industry Trade Day, a Marketplace, and Culinary Trail of Blue Mountain eateries. On a sunny day in the Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Site, dozens of patrons visited the Jamaica Defence Force Newcastle Training Camp for the main Festival Marketplace event. This, in my opinion, was almost perfect considering the Blue Mountains is of course home to our world-famous coffee (learn where you can make it yourself from scratch)!
JDF Newcastle Training Camp: History Lesson
The idea of establishing a military barracks in the hills of St Andrew was proposed by then Major General Sir William Gomm. This arose from a concern at the high mortality rate among European troops in Kingston due to a yellow fever epidemic. Visible memorials of the yellow fever era are evident through 2 immaculately maintained small troop cemeteries on the hill side. Without British Government consent, he started construction at the Newcastle coffee plantation, after which, erection of a permanent barrack to house troops was authorized.
In 1841, the Newcastle barracks was established as a military installation. Newcastle was given to the Jamaican Government by Britain as part of a general settlement of all military lands in Jamaica. Following our 1962 Independence, it became the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Training Camp.
Transportation to the Blue Mountains
Shuttle buses were offered from the University of Technology campus near the foot of the mountain in an effort to reduce traffic and parking roadblocks on the narrow mountain trail. Event goers received wristbands, a brochure and event newspaper section, along with a chilled bottle of water in exchange for tickets before being loaded onto a bus. The ~45minute scenic drive in the mountains delighted passengers with bird’s-eye views of the city below. A tour guide pointed out popular sites and offered any interested passengers a ‘stop off’ at eateries along the route, some of which I’ve indulged at, for another designated bus to pick up and transport to the destination later if desired.
Jamaica Coffee Fest Marketplace
The destination was just before Holywell National Park, and maybe 7 minutes aw Save & Exit ay from JD’s Coffee House. Patrons were free to roam a majority of the training camp site, observing trainee cabins, medical centre, other site buildings, and soldier exercises. Dozens of labelled tents tugging at your attention with their product showcases lined the centre of the Newcastle venue.
Exhibitors were mainly from the food and beverage industry, and were complemented by showings of artisans, culture, self-care, and more. Even though a majority of displays promoted coffee-based products, in no way did traversing from tent to tent feel repetitive. Each exhibitor had a unique personality, product presentation, and did a great job in showcasing the variety that our coffee offers. Blue Mountain coffee of ranging flavours and forms were enjoyed as hot and cold beverages, meals and desserts, home and body care items, and so much more!
My Blue Mountain Coffee Picks of the day
There was a great deal to see, taste, and purchase! I found myself having a hard time deciding where to visit next. Some of the most impressive coffee-based items I experienced included:
- A Hot Meal: Rice and peas, pak choy, dumplings, bammy, and ackee by Naturals by Nature
- A ‘teddy bear’ coffee special, by the event’s winning barista ‘Teddy’ of Café Blue
- Soap + Body Scrub combination by I Love Sweetness
Jamaica Coffee Fest Entertainment
In between samples and purchases, patrons were treated to quality entertainment in the form of music and dance. Hostezz Emprezz Golding kept the crowd engaged in the early stages with the help of musical selections and short interviews with event sponsors and exhibitors. The Charles Town Maroons raised the vibe by sharing their traditions through dance moves to the beat of drums and cultural song. Dance Xpressionz group followed later on with an upbeat selection inspired by former musical and dance eras before making way for headliner, reggae artist Tarrus ‘Singy Singy’ Riley.
The comic singer had the crowd in the palm of his hands throughout his time on stage with a string of hit songs, solo performances from his talented Blak Soil Music Band musicians, and sparking sporadic laughter in between tunes. The performances were in great taste and gave the event an added charm and enjoyment factor.
Notes for Future Jamaica Coffee Festivals
I’m looking forward to more Jamaica Coffee Festivals in the future, and you should too! The downfall of the Marketplace event in my opinion was the shuttle bus transport flow from Newcastle. The minimization of vehicles at the venue was good for maintaining a steady flow of traffic, however, facilitation of quicker departures needs to be improved. Persons chose to arrive at various times throughout the day, but most persons will want to leave an event at a similar time. This resulted in long bus waiting times and lines for departure.
At an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet, you can imagine how cold it can get towards evening. The experience many shared was waiting in line over an hour (in my case, 1 hour & 40 mins) to be boarded on a shuttle bus and transported to the plain. Other than that, and more event detail information provision to the public, the Jamaica Coffee Fest Marketplace was a well-executed and enjoyable event; see you at the next one?
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