The earliest reference to a coffee house in Jamaica comes from Kingston in the early 1730s, and likely served imported, not locally grown coffee. It is said that Jamaica does not have a coffee drinking tradition as we prefer teas, particularly herbal and medicinal brews.

But the old-time tradition of brewing coffee is still practiced by country folk who grind and draw their pure coffee in muslin bags, usually with a pinch of salt or a tipple of rum.

While coffee culture is not yet mainstream in Jamaica it is growing in popularity. Today we are seeing an evolving coffee culture with a number of urban coffee hotspots opening up throughout the corporate area, both uptown and downtown. And some are popping up in unusual places… we have small cafes in art galleries, bookshops and museums; and even in car dealerships and home décor outlets. Some are located in the city centre, others on the outskirts; and there are a few high in the mountains while others sit on the water’s edge downtown. Some cafes are large international franchises, others are home-grown; and some have only one outlet while others have branches islandwide.

The décor also varies – some are spacious, modern and sleek, while others are small and intimate. The ambience can be low-key and quiet, or crowded and busy. Almost all have a laptop vibe and offer free Wi-Fi.

All staff are trained baristas in the art of coffee-making and the menus are extensive. You can sit and savour your coffee or get it on the go. There are so many variations of cold and hot specialty gourmet brews and they come in a variety of flavours. You can get it simple or fancy, and most offer the full gamut from espresso shots and French-pressed to every kind of ‘cino, from frappuccino to mochaccino!

Café culture appeals to the lifestyle of young millennials as well as working professionals. It’s considered the ‘third place philosophy’ – there’s home, there’s work, and there’s the place that becomes familiar, your hangout, your ‘go to’ place to relax and chill.

 

All the cafes offer an extended menu of breakfast, brunch and lunch snacks as well as light meals after hours. Typical menus offer savoury and sweet food including paninis, sandwiches, wraps, bagels, gourmet breads, soups, vegetarian and vegan dishes, salads, as well as pastries, muffins, cakes, and puddings.

THE NEWCOMERS

Starbucks Coffee

It was only a matter of time before coffee giant, Starbucks, set up shop in Kingston. The impressive new building opened in June in Liguanea Plaza, and already it’s become a favourite among coffee lovers. The interior at Starbucks is fabulous with a huge mural of a lion by talented artist, Fiona Godfrey. They serve the usual Starbucks fare, introducing a variety of new products with a Jamaican twist. There is also another outlet in Montego Bay at the Sangster International Airport, and at the Falmouth pier.

Toyota Café

Located upstairs in the new Toyota showroom on Old Hope Road, it is surprisingly spacious and peaceful. While you sit and enjoy your coffee you have a panoramic view of the mountains, or you can look at your dream car in the showroom immediately below. The venue occasionally hosts intimate art and cultural events.

Café Dolce

The newest addition to the cafes in Kingston, it’s a smart new hot spot, ideally located between two home décor outlets on Constant Spring Road. Fast becoming a favourite with Kingstonians it offers two levels, with a cozy lounge on the mezzanine level. The menu is varied and different, and they serve Café Dolce signature blends. They have also opened another branch at the KIG showroom on Spanish Town Road.

Press Café

Here you can, ‘print relax, eat and sip’ in this novel new café located on the upper level of Ardenne Emirates, the recently constructed business complex on Ardenne Road. A full-service print and graphic design facility, you can sit and enjoy your coffee and snacks while you wait.

Cannonball

With locations at Sovereign North, Loshusan Shopping Centre, New Kingston and Manor Park, it has become a trendy meeting spot.

Island Coffees

There are two cafes in Kingston, one at the new Victoria Pier on the waterfront downtown, and the other at Devon House. Serving ‘bean to cup’ they create superb capps’ and lattes. There is also another outlet at Island Village in Ocho Rios.

Susie's Café

It started as a small coffee shop serving baked goods, and the brand soon developed a loyal following of regular customers. It now offers a full menu, and has become a popular entertainment venue in the evenings.

Wholesome Café

Located in the Digicel food court downtown, you can get morning coffee to go, or have it right there in the spacious food court overlooking the harbour.

Hotel Cafés

PEGASUS HOTEL 24/7 Café

Located in the main lobby at the Pegasus Hotel it is a popular choice in the New Kingston business district and is a constant hub of activity. Open 24-hours a day, it offers a full menu.

SPANISH COURT

Tucked away in a quiet nook off the main lobby, don’t be surprised if the time flies by without you knowing! This small in-house café has a varied and enticing menu.

Mountain Cafés

As you work your way up to the Blue Mountains via Irish Town and Newcastle, there are a few cafes en route. First stop CAFE BLOOM, a rustic new thatch and bamboo spot that hugs the roadside at a narrow bend, it is gradually expanding down the mountainside. It has the best view and offers coffee, light snack and vegan meals.

Further up on a wide curve is the all-time favourite CAFE BLUE. The first company to create an authentic Caribbean lifestyle embracing coffee culture, there are several locations islandwide (Sovereign in Liguanea, and another on its way, as well as in Montego Bay and at both international airports). It is one of the most pleasant places to stop. Here you can enjoy the best freshly-brewed Blue Mountain coffee from the Clifton Mount Estate on the newly built wooden deck (which adjoins the Crystal Edge Restaurant). The tiny Café serves delicious snacks, pastries and cakes and there is a gift/souvenir display of Café Blue products as well as condiments, crafts and aromatherapy products.

Further up at the 17-mile post is EITS CAFÉ. It’s a small restaurant that operates an organic farm and hostel. Here you can enjoy your brew on the multi-leveled terrace, or the wooden deck overlooking the river valley.

At the end of the trail, after Holywell Park is THE GAP CAFÉ. Here you can sit on the terrace and take in the breath-taking view while enjoying your coffee.

Other Cafes in Kingston

THE DEAF CAN BARISTAS

The Deaf Can Baristas is a social enterprise that shows deaf people can do anything. You will see these trained baristas, who are hearing-impaired, working in cafes at special food and coffee events. The business operates from Cassia Park, where there is a small café, open by appointment.

ART GALLERIES, MUSEUMS & BOOKSHOPS

How about coffee and art? You can get a great cup at the NATIONAL GALLERY, downtown after browsing the exhibitions, or at the small café at GROSVENOR GALLERY in Manor Park; If you like to take your brew with a little reggae then head to the ONE LOVE CAFE at the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road; or if you prefer it quiet then sit back with a good read at BOOKOPHILIA on Hope Road where they serve brewed coffee throughout the day. F&B DOWNTOWN on Harbour Street is a unique restaurant and café within the Swiss Store jewelry store. You can window shop, buy a watch or a piece of jewelry and enjoy your brew. They also showcase the stunning photography of Craig Phang Sang, and prints are available for sale.

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