Coffee Trivia and other ramblings: part 2

Coffee Trivia and other ramblings: part 2

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Trivia and other ramblings: part 2

The Jamaican flag, is one, of only 3 in the world, that does not share a colour with either the Union Jack, or the Stars and Stripes: the red white and blue: the others are Sri Lanka, and Mauritania.

Apart from the common stinging insects ( bees, wasps, etc. ) there are no poisonous creatures, in Jamaica, capable of killing anyone. The tiny scorpions ( quite rare, in these mountains ) are very painful, never lethal: there are no poisonous snakes, or reptiles, and Rabies has been eradicated; Malaria is extremely rare, and any outbreak ( usually from an infected visitor ) is dealt with very quickly, and effectively, by the Government Health Dept. the whole of the infected area is sprayed with mosquito-selective insecticide; by hand sprayers, big "blowers" mounted in vans, and by helicopter.

Infectious diseases, Cholera, yellow fever, and all the other "notorious" tropical diseases, are not endemic to the Island, any outbreak is quickly under control by the Health Dept: making the Country very safe for visitors without any natural immunity to these infections; and there is no need for any special pre-visit immunisation injections, or special precautions required when here. Although they don't carry any diseases, the mosquitoes can be extremely "annoying": and down near the coast, the "sandflies", far worse than the mosquito bite; can turn your ankles (they can only jump a few inches, and "attack" your feet and ankles) into a whole mess of very itchy, bites; unless you use a repellent.

In Kingston ( at least ) when the mosquitoes get really bad; the local Council sends round a small van with an insecticide blower on the back; it drives round very slowly, and kills uncountable millions of mosquitoes; smells horrid, but it most certainly, works!! .

I have read on a couple of web sites, advertising JBM for sale ( no mention on the CIB website that they are approved importers, and none of the official CIB logos, or the registered trade marks, shown on their packaging: so doubt it is real JBM ) that JBM is grown between 3,000 and 7,000 feet: we already know that this is not true, the correct figures are 2,000 feet, and the upper limit is 5,000 feet; as all the land above this elevation, is strictly conserved by the Forestry commission, and maintained as native "jungle".

2011 is officially declared as the Year of the Forest: the Jamaican Forestry Commission has been very busy clearing all the land ( around here, the only part I can see ) and replanting the area with native trees. Much of the land they are "reclaiming" and reforesting, is land they have leased out for growing coffee, but the lessees have not fulfilled their part of the lease agreement, and planted coffee, interspersed with new trees, so the FC have reclaimed the land not planted with coffee, and are replanting these areas with native trees.

Many years ago ( no dates that I can find, anywhere ) Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, had to be grown within 10 miles of Blue Mountain peak, regardless of the altitude. The quality of the coffee was improved, when they extended the area to include all of the Blue Mountain National Park, between 2,000 and 5,000 feet, and excluded parts of the old JBM growing area, that were below 2,000 feet; a circle that, at one point, overlaps the sea. According to the map, my plantation is within the original area, being some 9 miles ( straight line ) from Blue Mountain peak; which is the highest point of the Island, at 7,402 feet: and the only point on the Island ( since records started ) where "real" frost, has been recorded. In the "local speek", 60F is "freezing", and dew, is referred to as "frost".


A waterfall ( over 100 feet high ) caught by the afternoon sun.

Silver Hill coffee factory: which many people, using outdated information, still quote as being in operation: the last date I can find for it to be in operation, is 1989 ( the year following hurricane Gilbert, the storm that almost destroyed the whole Jamaican coffee industry ) A public notice was printed in the Gleaner, 4th October 2010, requesting any members of the cooperative to contact the liquidator: having visited the site, the only remaining asset, is the land itself, some semi derelict buildings, and piles of very well rusted scrap iron!!

To one side of the old buildings, on the site, are the remains of an old Silver mine, all locked up, and now just a roost for bats; in local speek - Rat-bats: to distinguish them from the enormous black moths, which are referred to as "duppy ( = ghost ) bats": these moths, are BIG, up to 7 inch wingspan, and when viewed obliquely, with the light reflecting off the wings, are really beautiful!

If I leave any of the outside lights on, at night I can see the rat-bats, swooping after the insects that have been attracted to the light.


A "duppy bat", a smaller one, just over a 6 inch wing span.

Just across the gully, and less than 100 yards from my gate, is another Silver mine ( long abandoned ) neither of these mines ever managed to extract sufficient Silver, to cover the mining costs.

The gold, silver, and other minerals, that formed in the volcanic intrusions into the rocks, give our soil its unique fertility, and coffee quality.

There are many more gold and silver mines, located around this end of the Island, but I have yet to hear of one that ever made a profit.

The "fig" tree ( local name for a large, very non-descript tree, that does not bear any fig-like fruits: but it does produce fruits, year round, and is much used by the wildlife, as a food source ) is well known as a tree where ghosts, and evil spirits, reside: and these spirits have to be appeased, before the tree can be pruned, or cut back. When I needed my one pruned back, a piece of paper, on which I printed a couple of random letters from the Hebrew alphabet, sufficed!! but the pruning was done very quickly, to ensure they finished before sunset; have never seen anyone work that fast, before or since!

In Jamaica, the local "voo-doo" is called Obiah ( O-be-e'r ) and many of the locals are really scared of it, despite being regular church goers. I have made around J$15 ( half the cost of a single cigarette! ) by giving several of them "counter curses", when they have managed to convince themselves that they have been cursed.

My counter curses; ( "cross my palm with Silver", first!! ) always consist of some random letters from the Hebrew alphabet, which they have to spend some time copying ( exactly ) on paper, and the curse is gone, but only as long as they have managed to convince themselves, that "our" magic is stronger than the caster of the curse.

All very amusing to me, but they take such things very seriously.

There are more "churches" ( both in the number of buildings, and different "sects" ) in Jamaica ( based on land area, and population ) than in any other Country in the world.

Since my teenage years I have been "plagued" by the Jehovah's Witnesses, I thought I was rid of them when I moved to Jamaica: it took them less than 24 hours, from when I moved into a rented house in Kingston, before they located me, and made their first visit! Over the years, I have learned a few questions, that they are totally unable to answer, and it gets rid of them: the same questions also work with all the other "fundamentalist" Christian "sects".

In the tropics, the temperature varies very little across the year, when compared to the climates nearer the poles. Up here the annual temperature change between maximum and minimum, is only 30F ( max.84F and Min 54F, as I have recorded ) and the change is less in Kingston, down on the coast, with the sea helping to maintain a more constant temperature.

The variation in daylight hours is just over 3 hours ( an hour and a half, at each end of the day; it is a little more up here, as the mountains get in the way! ) between mid summer, and mid winter; the most noticeable effects are the delays in the garden vegetables ripening ( sweet peppers, and tomatoes ) which take a couple of weeks longer to ripen in December, than they do in June; and my bees, with a shorter working day, produce a bit less honey.

With the air conditioning set on maximum throughout the year ( that is; all the doors and windows wide open ) the only difference is the need to put on a sweat shirt over the usual T shirt, in the winter evenings. My house has no heating or cooling, as they are not needed; just vary the number of open doors and windows.

A tropical rain shower ( this is most noticeable in Kingston ) does nothing at all, to "cool" the air; in fact it makes it feel hotter, as the humidity, rapidly rises when the rain hits the hot ground ( tarmac roads, and buildings ).

Jamaica is some 5 degrees south of the tropic of Cancer: which leads to the situation where we have the sun, to our North, for about 40 days, around midsummer, each year.

When one gets used to fresh air blowing through the house, all the time; boarding up the house in preparation for a hurricane, makes for a most unpleasant stuffiness in the house, compounded by the fumes from the kerosene lamps, and candles, which are the only source of light, when the power goes out.


Anyone for Escargot?? Jamaican style!!

It really is a land snail, not a sea shell!! As to whether it is edible or not, I don't know!

Jamaica's favourite "scam" is ( or was ) the international lottery scam ( you have won a load of money in a lottery you never bought a ticket for: send us some cash for the legal documents, and the money is yours ) there was, of course, no lottery, and there is no prize money. Up until a year or so, ago, several gangs were fighting over the "rights" to this scam, several of them were killed in gang-fights; until the Police managed to close the whole operation down.

"Wine and cheese parties"; how can that be a scam I hear you ask; well, it is!! Cheese has the peculiar property of "deadening" the palate to many of the distinctive features of low quality wine [ try it for yourself: get a bottle of the cheapest plonk you can find, and eat some cheese between each swig: by the end of the bottle, it will taste "wonderful", and it has nothing to do with the "inebriation" you might be enjoying!!].

The more cheese you eat, between samples, the less acute the tongue becomes, to the "faults" in the wine: the usual procedure at such events, is that the wines increase in price, as you taste your way around ( the carefully organised!!! ) range of wines on offer: the very first wine you taste ( before "refreshing" your palate with cheese ) is almost always the cheapest, and almost invariably, of a much better quality than the price suggests! ( often offered at a price below cost, just to entice you! ) and usually the best value for money, by a long way!!

We have all heard about the internet scams, most of them coming out of Nigeria, and neighbouring Countries: I get a few, and do enjoy a bit of "scam-baiting": using a totally fictitious character, who lives on a non-existent Caribbean Island; along with some fellow ex-patriot Englishmen, Messrs Laurel and Hardy, a retired lawyer, and a retired bank manager: then there is Obadiah, local policeman, postman, magistrate, and notary, who is also the distiller of our local Looney-juice ( a well over-proof concoction, distilled from bananas, coconuts, and sugar cane ) and several other residents, who just appear, as necessary to my story: I love just "playing" with them, wasting their time; and trying to get them to send me some money!

NEVER give them any genuine details about yourself, everything you write to them must be phoney: their insistence for a telephone number can be a problem, unless you are living on a tiny, fictitious, Caribbean Island, without mobile phones, or land lines, just an emergency radio: and all other ( modern! ) communications go through a satellite link, which does not work if there is any "weather" around!!

And NEVER, no matter how convincing their story, send them any money!!

Some of the more obvious signs of an internet scam:-ALL scams are written to the same formula, the details will vary, but the basic formula is always the same:-follow our instructions and a vast amount of money ( or a promise of marriage, etc ) will be yours, it could be a lottery win, money "lost" in a foreign bank, and all the thousands of variations on the formula: ALL you have to do, is pay, up front, for some legal documents, and all this money is yours. BUT: there is no money!!

Frequently, addressed to "undisclosed recipients": and if you reply, with lots of questions, they ignore all your questions, and just send you page 2 of their pre-written, script. Claim to be a lover of food, and ask for their favourite local recipe: you will never get the recipe, as the scammer you are e-mailing is ( despite their claims, and alluring female photographs ) a guy, working in an internet cafe, or a "scammers sweat shop" with no real knowledge of cooking. As soon as your questions can get them off their pre-written script, they start to "flounder", and just ignore the questions.

Check the time the letter ( or any replies to your letters ) was sent, allow for the time difference, and if it was sent outside of normal office hours, or on a weekend, from a supposed bank or other institution, it is hardly likely to be genuine.

The money is never deposited in a bank account, that is earning interest ( too much trouble for them to produce a bank statement, with interest earnings added at monthly intervals ).

All the requested payments for "legal fees", are asked for in cash payments, usually via Western Union: cheques, bank-to-bank transfers, etc. are never accepted, as they are "traceable", directly to the scammers.

If you get one of these letters: get on the internet, and do a search on all the names ( people, banks, etc. ) named in the letter, don't just follow the links they give you, as they lead to ( in some cases, really good ) "totally phoney" institutions, or genuine web sites, that they use ( without the real owners of the site, knowing about it ), to which they will give you a very similar, but phoney, e-mail address to reply to, check the links you get from the search: the vast majority of which will lead you to one of the "anti-scam" web sites; and often an almost identical letter to the one you received.

No genuine organisation will ever use a "free" e-mail provider ( for example: G-mail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc ), or a mobile phone number, for business; check them carefully!!

To spend a few minutes doing searches on all the names in the letters, could save you from being scammed.

They have "mastered" the art of counterfeiting documents, to send over the internet, so be aware that ID cards, bank statements, Government "paper-work" etc, are almost certainly, forgeries.

In one case, they referred me to a commercial bank, in Scotland: they gave me the e-address to the banks' web site, and it was a real masterpiece of construction; I could find no reference to this bank in any of the internet searches I did, or trade directories: I did a Google Earth scan of the location, and instead of the soaring office skyscraper, as pictured on the web site; just a very run down old warehouse, and no reference to the bank, at that postal address.

Just today, I received another "scam" letter, from a Mr Kenneth Munakah: put the name into an internet search: 14 of the first 16 search results, took me straight to anti-scam websites, and an exact copy of the letter I received; but dated over 2 years ago.

He wants me, to "impersonate" the next of kin, of a deceased businessman: my share of the US$35.5million fund, is 50%: but: as will very soon become apparent, I will need to send money ( cash, via Western Union ) to various people, to get the legal documents, prepared and "government" stamped, before the ( non-existent ) money can be released to me.

Then; this particular scam takes a whole darker, and nastier, turn: we have already told him that ( 3 of us, Laurel, Hardy, and myself ) are flying over to his country ( Burkina Faso ) to handle the transfer, in person: as soon as I told him that we had purchased the air tickets, and gave him the date ( ALL fictitious, of course ) he immediately comes back with the necessity for us to deposit some US$37,000, in CASH, in order to open the local bank accounts to facilitate the transfer of the money to our ( fictitious ) personal, bank accounts, in the Cayman Islands.

This leads to only a single possibility: a few moments after he collects us from the airport, we would be robbed of the cash, which is the least terrifying of the possible outcomes: we could be held for ransom: or, much worse!!!

If you get one of these letters, assume that it IS a scam, and check out everything possible: and always bear in mind: "If it SEEMS to good to true, it probably IS too good to be true"!!!!But: be aware that they frequently change the names they use, and even if the first search produces no results, check everything you can, in all the letters they send you.

Until next time, and how we process the coffee, here, on my plantation.

Robin Plough, friend of

For questions about JBM, mail to: Этот e-mail адрес защищен от спам-ботов, для его просмотра у Вас должен быть включен Javascript

See also:
A New Year on the Plantation
A Visit to Paradise
A year in the life..What makes JBM, the 'legend' of coffee?
Assessing your coffee (part 1)
Assessing your coffee (part 2)
Assessing your coffee (part 3)
Economics of JBM. Part 1
Economics of JBM. Part 2
Everything you wanted to know about the Coffee Board
Growing a coffee plant at home
Growing Coffee. Part 1
Growing Coffee. Part 2
Growing Coffee. Part 3
Growing Coffee. Part 4
Growing Coffee. Part 5
Growing: Part 1
Growing: Part 2
Jamaican food (part 1)
Jamaican food (part 2)
Jamaican food (part 3)
Jamaican newsletter
Living in Paradise: Part I
Living in Paradise: Part II
Living in Paradise: Part III
Processing our coffee (part 1)
Processing our coffee (part 2)
Random thoughts on the end of the world
Random thoughts on the end of the world (II)
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 1
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 2
SPECIAL: Coffee borer beetle in Hawaii
Trivia and other ramblings: part 1
Tropical Storm Nichole
see also

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