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Blue Mountain Coffee owner Edgar Munn, far left, samples coffee Friday with Norman W. Grant, CEO of Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, at Munn's on Hwy. 369. - photo by Jim Dean

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International dignitaries visited a north Forsyth business on Friday.

Representatives from the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries made the trip from the island nation to spend the weekend with Edgar and Christine Munn at the couple’s Blue Mountain Coffee Inc. on Hwy. 306 in north Forsyth.

Roger Clarke, minister, and Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary, joined Norman W. Grant, CEO of Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, for the visit.

Edgar Munn began Blue Mountain in Forsyth three years ago, but he’s been around fine coffee his entire life. A native Jamaican, his grandfather began the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory in 1921.

Munn lived in Jamaica until the late 1970s, when he moved to Florida. He and Christine relocated to Forsyth County about six years ago after spending several years in North Carolina.

Today, Munn is approved by the Coffee Industry Board, which certifies production and export of Jamaican coffee, to import and sell the rare Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, which is grown in a specific region of the country.

He is one of just a handful of licensed importers and distributors of the coffee in the U.S., and he’s the lone North American representative of the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory.

He was eager to welcome Clarke and Stanberry on their first visit to the storefront.

“[Clarke] and I go back 30 years, it’s a good friendship,” Munn said. “These are exciting times for us. Despite the economy, we seem to be holding our own.”

Clarke praised Munn for helping to improve the Blue Mountain Coffee market, which was hard hit by difficulties in Japan in recent years.

For many years, Jamaica sold about 99 percent of its coffee to Japan.

“You have been able to promote this product in a very, very unique way,” Clarke told Munn. “What that’s doing is enabling us to begin to grow our markets in a significant way.”

Clarke added that he was impressed with Munn’s operation, which includes a gift shop, machines used to roast the green coffee beans after they are imported from Jamaica, and packing and shipping areas.

The majority of Munn’s business comes from the company’s Web site, from which customers can order the Blue Mountain product, as well as other fine coffees from around the world.

Also available are other products such as rum cakes and jerk seasoning blends from Jamaica.

“This is giving me some ideas,” Stanberry said. “We need to look at ways to move to the contemporary from the traditional means [of selling Jamaican products].”

The dignitaries also got a lesson from Grant in the art of “cupping,” or tasting fine coffee, similar to what is done by wine sommeliers.

Grant explained that in coffee cupping, experts sip the dark liquid and swish it around their mouths before spitting it out.

However, he didn’t expel any of Munn’s coffee.

“This coffee is so beautiful that I refuse to spit it out,” he said.

Clarke said Munn’s operation would likely play a large role in the recovery of the Blue Mountain Coffee business, which is a major Jamaican industry, over the next few years.

“In agriculture, the important thing is the market,” Clarke said. “Once you establish the market, you can grow to fit the market.

“One of the drawbacks we’ve had in Jamaica is sometimes people produce when there is no market. Our emphasis now is that we’re trying to work from the market back.”

He added that Munn will “play a major role in how we go forward” and how the “demand will rise over the next few years.”