Cedar Valley in the 1970s
Rowan's Royale farm is part of
Jamaica's rich coffee history and heritage.It is the southern,
uppermost portion of a plantation, Cedar Hurst or Valley (which
eventually included Wallenford) in the Parish of Portland. It
began growing coffee in the 1770's.
The machinery for the water wheels
In literature of the 1790's Cedar Valley is described as a
coffee factory and plantation. In fact, the design of the great
house accommodated a narrow aqueduct leading from the river
beside the house to a large water wheel which was used to process
the coffee. It boasted a large water tank exquisitely decorated
with Italian tiles.
Looking south up the river
from Cedar Valley
Coffee was brought to the island in 1728 when Jamaica was a
colony of Britain. It was introduced by the then Governor Sir
Nicholas Lawes who himself owned several large estates. Coffee
quickly became an important export. By 1799 there were 686
covering 30,000 acres. In 1814, 34 million pounds of coffee was
A coffee tax imposed by Britain to fund the Napoleonic wars,
the abolition of slavery and thus free labour heralded the
decline of the industry.
Today, more modest coffee plantations emphasize quality rather
than mere quantity. Rowan's Royale brings the ORGANIC dimension
to Jamaica's quality Blue Mountain Coffee.
In 18th century Cedar Valley was a sprawling plantation of
some 3000 acres (1215 hectares). The Great House was situated, at
about 2000ft (610m) beside a swiftly running tributary of the
Buff Bay River but the coffee lands surrounding it rose to over
Rowan's Royale, the south eastern tip of the property is
situated at over 4000ft.
It was known once as Brown's Piece, Wallenford and was sold to
the Rowan-Campbell family, long-time friends of the owners of
Cedar Valley, in 1964.
The Buff Bay River close
to the House
In 1921 Cedar Valley became linked to the Mount Holstein
coffee property owned by the Benn family since 1868. The Cedar
Valley property was bought when the son married. It was a
neighbouring property and thus a convenient place to which his
mother and unmarried sisters could retire.
It was originally called Cedar Hurst, (which in German means wood
and suggests some early German influence for both Cedar valley
and Mount Holstein).
However, as one of the family remembers:
Our dear Aunt Helen (Dot), who was the artist and
seamstress, used to say, Hurst sounds too much like Hearse. I
don't like that; we must call it Cedar Valley. So the family
began to call it Cedar Valley. And Cedar Valley it
At that time the Benn holdings were over 4000 acres including
Wallenford, of which Rowan's Royale was part, Cedar Hurst, Spring
Hill and Mount Holstein. Although much of the vast acreage was
sold off in the 1970s the Benn family still retain the Great
House and surrounds.
Old Monklands Works C 1890
from Jamaica Surveyed by B.W.Higman
In the 18c century coffee plantations, as do many of today's
factories, used to
have acres of concrete drying grounds called "barbecues". Some
barbecues had depressions in them so that the beans could be
shovelled into them, covered, and kept dry in case of rain.
The old coffee plantation, Potsdam
The Barbecues at Munro College
This old coffee plantation, Potsdam, is now a prestigious
boy's boarding school and the barbecues have been transformed
into tennis courts. The circle in the foreground of the
photograph might have been one of the bean storage areas.
COFFEE IN JAMAICA'S SOCIAL LIFE
On the big plantations before the 1930s, they always seemed to
be eating. Coffee was served early in the morning in large cups
or steaming bowls. This was with the "little breakfast" taken
just before dawn prior to going out to setup workers in the
At about 10.00h the planters would return home and have
breakfast; a huge meal of fruit, eggs, fried fish, ham and other
meats, and yams and plantains, and, of course, coffee. A large
luncheon would be eaten at about 14.00h and coffee would be taken
afterwards. Some may also have had coffee at tea-time about
16.30h. Dinner was served about 21.00h with coffee, demitasse,
and liqueurs to end the day.
Drinking coffee wasn't and isn't restricted to the Great
House. It is an important social mechanism shared by all social
classes but not all ages. Young children are never given
Drinking coffee, is a great morning ritual which, in small
villages, is still turned into a social event. The older people
often stop in with neighbours to visit and drink an early coffee
on the way to their "grounds" or farms. Different areas of the
island prepare their coffee in various ways. In some a pinch of
salt is added to the brew, in others a grain of pimento and in
others it is always drunk either black or with coconut milk.
Old and young are nostalgic for the days when the coffee was
placed in a long muslin "sock" and the boiling water slowly
dripped through it as the scent invaded the entire house. No
coffee maker can replicate that scent, or, the sense of
anticipation waiting for the drips to end!
Our Coffee is immortalised in folk song. An old lady declares
that she might forget to say her prayers but she never forgets
her morning coffee. Anyone, she says, can make choices about what
they want to drink, black teas, herb teas or even lemonade
I cares for none of
The only thing for me
is my bowl of boiling coffee in the morning!
Join us in a