Counterfeit Coffee

Jamaica’s Coffee Industry Board has established a task force to combat the rise in counterfeit Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, which is protected by a Geographical Indicator (GI), an international trademark.  The defense of the brand is important on several levels:

  1. The GI must be legally defended as a trade mark in order to maintain legal status as an official trade mark
  2. The integrity of the traits that define the brand must be maintained at a strict level to protect the brand itself and in this case, the GI defines the brand.

It’s important to understand that Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is not from any one specific tree variety or cultivar.  Rather, it is legally defined as any coffee grown within a very specific region in the mountains of Jamaica and processed only by licensed processing mills1.

For this reason, you can not have true Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee from Vietnam, or even Portland, Jamaica.  Even if one takes seeds from trees qualifying as Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee and plants them somewhere else, say Laos, the trees will not produce a coffee that can legally be called Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee because the trees were not grown in the defined region.

I’m very happy to see the board step up and take a strong stance against counterfeiting.  This sends a clear message to those who are willingly take advantage of and effectively steal from someone who has invested the time, money, and effort to establish a successful brand/mark.  I’m currently working with a community of farmers in Kintamani, Bali who also operate under a GI. A successful defense of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee will bolster the strength of all other GI’s, including Kintamani’s.

1. The Coffee Industry Regulations, 1953 p.3

Michael C. Wright

Michael is a licensed Q Grader, licensed Q Processor Pro, an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST), and most recently, a graduate with a degree in horticulture and a concentration in horticultural business management. He has over ten years experience in the coffee industry operating on both the supply and demand sides of the value chain.