Articles From Whole Latte Love

What's in the Name?

Posted: 02/20/08

coffee beans and globeWhat’s in a name? A lot, according to European Union leaders. For more than a decade, grape growers from around the Champagne region of France have been reaping the benefits of EU laws that protect regionally grown products from unfair competition.

We’ve all seen the ads and heard the catchphrase “It’s not champagne, unless it’s from Champagne,” right? Fine wines, cheeses, olives and coffee are now shielded by either Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) laws. The list of protected products by the PGI is extensive - so extensive in fact, that even Colombian coffee has protection.

So why were these laws enacted and what exactly do they protect?

In 1992, legislation came into effect protecting the reputation of regional foods and eliminating confusion with non-genuine products. Ruthless competition and shrewd marketing tactics were allowing some producers and growers to gain a lot of false notoriety by passing their products off as the real thing.PGI logo

As the demand for high-quality coffee increased, coffee growers in Colombia immediately applied for protection through the PDO and PGI, in spite of the fact they’re not part of the European Union. Since then, other producers who are non-EU members have applied for protection as well – Darjeeling tea from India for example and wine from Valle del Maipo in Chile.

Officials from Jamaica have yet to apply for protection for Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee though. The Coffee Industry Board, an organization based in the capital of Jamaica began regulating the standards more than 50 years ago. They have maintained their identity by creating a logo, certifying its authenticity as 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.

PDO logoAccording to Tammy Griffith, the legal manager for the CIB, there are advantages to their decision to stay out of the PDO and PGI – such as independent niche marketing, brand development and securing customer loyalty through their CIB mark. However, the CIB regulates only four plantations in Jamaica that are producing Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. And with the rich flavor and strong aroma of this exclusive coffee, it’s surprising the growers in Jamaica haven’t applied for protection.

Keep that in mind the next time you pass Jamaica Blue Mountain or Colombian coffee in the grocery store. There’s more to a name than meets the eye.