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A Taste of Jamaica: How to Experience the Best of the Food and Culture

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Chris Osburn
Written by Chris Osburn

I’m back from a delicious trip to Jamaica. The weather was perfect and so were the beaches, with the water at the beach –and in the pool – at an ideal temperature for quick dips and long soaks. While drying off between my dips and soaks, there was plenty of time to sample an amazing array of local food and drink.

Indulge me while I reminisce about the tastiest highlights of my stay.

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Rum-Soaked Days & Nights

Sugarcane is one of Jamaica’s most important crops, and its most potent by-product – rum – is among the country’s biggest exports. With good reason too! Jamaica produces some of the finest rums in the Caribbean. Bars and restaurants throughout the island offer local rums in an assortment of classic and custom cocktails, reserving the top shelf stuff to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.

For a chance to improve your rum proficiency to pirate level, head to premium distillery Appleton Estate, where tours are conducted Monday to Saturday. Here guests are guided through the process of distillation and granted an up close look at Appleton’s famed copper pot stills and the estate’s aging house stacked high with barrels, while also learning about the history of rum in the Caribbean and how Appleton became such an in-demand brand. Of course, a visit to the distillery also yields an excellent opportunity to enjoy a taste of Jamaica’s finest spirit at the source of its creation.

Artist1704 / Shutterstock

Artist1704 / Shutterstock

Beautiful (and Rare) Blue Mountain Coffee

Another top Jamaican export – one which is quite exclusive – is coffee grown in the Blue Mountains. To see (and taste) what the fuss is all about, consider organizing a tour of a coffee farm while you’re in Jamaica. The first coffee estate in the Caribbean to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification, the UCC Blue Mountain Coffee Craighton Estate, invites visitors to tour its grounds (no pun intended!). In addition to seeing how coffee is grown, tours at this historic property take guests through a lush wooden route with stunning vistas of the island.

Blue Mountain beans are as rare as they are delicate and well balanced, lacking bitterness but creating a smooth flavor. Most of the beans are sold to Japan, which make them both difficult and expensive to purchase. They could cost as much as 20 times more than beans of a lesser quality.

Anna Jedynak / Shutterstock

Anna Jedynak / Shutterstock

Flavorful Fish and Festival

One must-try meal to experience in Jamaica is a fish and festival feast on the beach. This double “F” combo of yum consists of fish (usually fresh caught snapper prepared Jamaican style with fiery scotch bonnet chilies – spicy and oh so moist!) accompanied by festival – irresistible fried cornmeal fritters that are perfect for sopping up all the juices on your plate as well as any additional hot sauce you might have added. With a chilled cocktail or maybe an ice cold Red Stripe beer, a help-yourself buffet of fish and festival is one of the most flavorful ways to enjoy the best of Jamaican culture.

For exceptionally delicious fish and festival served in an authentic local setting by the sea, visit the legendarily laid-back Screechies at Hellshire Beach outside of Kingston.

RELATED: Looking for more great beaches to lounge on while in Jamaica? Check out our list right here!

T photography / Shutterstock

T photography / Shutterstock

Juicy Jerk Ecstasy

Leaving Jamaica without tucking into a plate of properly smoked local BBQ will have you feeling like a jerk! So be sure to include some jerk chicken or pork during your stay. Seasoned with a blend that usually includes allspice, scotch bonnets, and thyme, and cooked over wood fire at a low temperature for a long time for maximum tenderness and flavor, Jamaican “jerk” meat is both succulent and satisfying. You’re sure to savor a flavor explosion in every bite!

Should you find yourself in Montego Bay and have the munchies, seek out local favorite Scotchies for a bite of some of the best-rated jerk chicken in Jamaica.

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So Much More

There is so much more great food to try in Jamaica. Patties, curried goat, callaloo, the national dish ackee and saltfish, and of course fresh coconut water and all those lovely tropical fruits – papaya, jackfruit, bananas and plantains, mangoes … are but a few of the best-known treats! And don’t get me started on the lavish buffets and upscale international dining available at resorts and upscale hotels across the island!

In Kingston, a popular local haunt with a friendly vibe and a menu jamming with the best of Jamaican cuisine is M-10 Bar and Grill.

Hungry for a taste of Jamaica? Pack your bags and book your flight now!

What are some of your favorite things to do and eat in Jamaica? Have we missed anything? Please let us know some of your favorites in the comments section below.

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About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.

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