Rowan's RoyaleRowan's Royale Coffee
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Our History

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 coffee plantations covering 30,000 acres. In 1814, 34 million pounds of coffee was exported.

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 4000ft (1220m).

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 became.

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

Coffee Processing

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.



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 fields.

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 coffee.

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 but:

I cares for none of it!
The only thing for me
is my bowl of boiling coffee in the morning!

Join us in a cup

Non EU Agriculture
NOP # 45017
JAPAN # 45018
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