The Caribbean is home to more than beautiful beaches, though beaches certainly make the list of attractions. While exports that make their way around the world are widely known to come from Caribbean isles—like Jamaica’s contribution of reggae—others are less known. These 7,000-plus islands are the source of many everyday products you may love and use at home, such as cinnamon and cane sugar, each of which provide a sense of the rich, varied cultures found in the region today.
While many people do know the Caribbean is famous for rum (since it’s used in many tropical cocktails), even this favorite has a more storied history than most realize. True, one of the best ways to get acquainted with these goods and where they’re produced is to set sail to these tropical waters. But in the meantime, there are other ways to get a taste.
Check out these products that can bring a bit of the Caribbean to you:
Jamaica has famously given the world must-try dishes like jerk chicken, but it’s also famous for Blue Mountain Coffee. Grown on its namesake mountains—which are also part of an enormous national park—this coffee is known for its smooth, mild taste that comes from the cool air, ample rain and rich soil high up in the mountains. But this prized coffee doesn’t come cheap—because it’s in such high demand as an export, it’s between $50 and $60 per pound!
Known as “the spice island” but not for spicy foods. The beautiful Grenada once was home to sugar production, but as prices declined, the rich soil was used to grow nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa and cloves. You can discover the island’s cultural heritage through the spice trade, and even see how these spices are cultivated by hand. Grenada is perhaps best known for nutmeg, which was introduced to the island in the mid-1800s and continued to grow from there; the island now produces more than 20% of the world’s nutmeg exports. There’s a fair chance even you have a taste of Grenada in your kitchen cabinet!
Cane Sugar, Various Islands
Sugar was one of earliest cash crops in the Caribbean dating back to at least the 1600s. It was grown widely—from the Virgin Islands to Jamaica—as Dutch, Portugese and British colonies became major production centers. Today, the Caribbean remains a leading sugar producer, and the crop makes up more than 20% of exports from islands like St. Kitts and Nevis. It also supports a large portion of local jobs. In Barbados, sugar fields still cover about 60% of cropland, and the nationwide, carnival-esque festival of Crop Over was started to celebrate the end of the sugar harvest.
Rum, Puerto Rico
Bacardi is synonymous with rum, and it’s one of the largest and most well-known producers of the spirit. At Casa Bacardi, a top attraction in Puerto Rico, you can learn about its history on the island and of course sample some of the finer, aged bottles. But since rum is made from distilling sugar cane molasses or sugar cane juice, it’s no surprise many Caribbean islands have their own distilleries. Mount Gay in Barbados is the world’s oldest commercial rum distillery (open since 1703) and has many renowned rums like their popular “Eclipse.” Rhum Barbancourt distillery in Haiti produces highly rated rums as well, especially their “5 Star” variety which is aged for eight years.
These items are far from the only famous Caribbean goods—like spiny lobster in The Bahamas—and one way to enjoy them all is right in their country of origin. If you’re looking forward to taking a trip to the Caribbean, check out your options to head there on a cruise here.