Cafe Blue: serves Blue Mountain Coffee and pastries and retails localsauces, candles, and soaps. Café Blue is ownedby the Sharps, who own Coffee Traders and offer tours on their farm, Clifton Mount
The Blue Mountains
The highest mountain range in Jamaica, the Blue Mountains harbor a rich history, having provided refuge for runaway slaves, transplanted French-Haitian coffee farmers, and even Bob Marley, when he sought safety and seclusion at Strawberry Hill following the attempt on his life in 1976. Today the area attracts visitors principally for its lush nature, colorful birdlife, delicious coffee, and fresh air.
Blue Mountain Peak, the highest point in Jamaica at 2,256 meters, offers a stunning view of five parishes: Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland, and St. Mary. The Blue Mountain range forms a physical barrier to the northeasterly weather fronts that frequently descend on the island, giving Portland and St. Thomas especially copious amounts of rainfall compared to the southern coastal plains of Jamaica, where drought is common.
During the rainy season (October and November), the mountain peaks often cloud over by mid-morning. Skies are clearest June–August and December–March.
Within an hour's drive from Kingston, Irish Town, Hardwar Gap, and Mavis Bank are great destinations for a quick escape from the urban jungle. This is where rural Jamaica is at its coolest. The elevation and lush greenery are a welcome retreat from the heat on the plains and foothills around Town. The road up and the rugged terrain are not for the faint of heart, but the prized Blue Mountain coffee, breathtaking views, diverse vegetation, and abundance of native birds are more than adequate rewards, and few are sorry for making the effort.
Europe In The Summer (EITS) Cafe, run by Robyn Fox and located at Mount Edge Guesthouse, serves up a creative mix of home grown vegetables produced in situ on the family's farm, coupled with meat and seafood dishes whose ingredients are procured in Kingston a couple thousand feet below. While the service can be hit-or-miss and the value for your dollar at times questionable, the restaurant does an admirable job of staying true to the land, notwithstanding the occasional worm in your lettuce. But don't panic, it's organic!
Mavis Bank is not the place to go for culinary delights or nightlife of any kind. Nonetheless, Karen’s Container Bar around the corner from Forres Park is open whenever there are customers to serve.
Karen’s One Stop (US$510), located just past the hairpin turn to the left, is the only place around to get Jamaican staples like fried or BBQ chicken, fish, calalloo, and rice ’n’ peas cooked to order any time of day. Karen also sells basic foodstuffs to area residents.
Belcour Lodge (10 minutes from Papine in Maryland, reservation required) is a beautiful private, colonial-era home set in a lovely river valley amid expansive gardens. Robin and Michael Lumsden offer Culinary Tours that include a stroll around the yard. Visitors will find an apiary with 50 colonies, a citrus orchard, and an abundance of other fruit trees. Robin and Mike markets Belcour Blue Mountain Honey, as well as Belcour fruit preserves, chutneys and spicy pepper sauces, produced on a cottage-industry scale from all natural, local ingredients.
Cafè Blue serves Blue Mountain Coffee and pastries and retails local sauces, candles, and soaps. Cafè Blue is owned by the Sharps, who own roaster and distributor Coffee Traders and offer tours of their farm, Clifton Mount.
Strawberry Hill (appetizers US$1320, US$3050 for entrèes) has a varied menu of Jamaican and international cuisine and spectacular views from the wraparound porch. While it is by no means a budget eatery, the ambience will leave you with no regrets for having splurged. The food and food service has been hit-or-miss, unfortunately leaning towards the miss side in recent years. It’s best to make reservations in advance, especially on weekends. A US$15 entrance fee is charged to enter the property unless you have made reservations.
Yatte Man, or Blane "Smaker" Walker (10 a.m.8 p.m Sun.Fri.), a once up-and-coming boxer, sells delicious homemade fish, chicken, and ital (vegetarian) patties (US$1) from one of the stalls about three quarters of the way through the main drag on the left, before the road begins to rise again toward Newcastle. Look out for the Star of David painted on the stall and a display case filled with patties.