Trust me, Jetsetters: When you’re in Jamaica there’s NEVER an excuse to buy one of those knitted hats with the fake dreadlocks attached. Not when the island offers so many other stylish and useful souvenirs. Here are a few that make my shopping list:
Ex-model and Playboy bunny Bridget Brown now keeps Jamaica’s fashionistas well shod with her exquisite line of handmade sandals that combine supple leathers, unique style and outstanding quality (I own three pairs, and even the 10-year-old pair looks nearly new). Prices start at around $100 and the sandals are available in most hotel gift shops. But for the best selection I recommend a trip to her home/atelier in Kingston, where Bridget’s son and CEO Jonathan Buchanan will help you find the perfect pair. (Bonus: He’s attentive, good looking and single, too!) I made a little video the last time I was there; check it out here.
Margaret McGhie ceramics
The best souvenirs combine form and function, and this Kingston-based potter’s work fits the bill beautifully. I’ve been collecting Margaret McGhie’s botanical themed ceramic tableware for years now, and while it’ll be a long time until I finally have a full 8-person setting I’m enjoying each and every piece as I add them. Buy a mug or cereal bowl embellished with a hand-painted ginger lily or guava and you’ll be transported back to the Caribbean from your breakfast table. Find Margaret’s wares in the gift shop at Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios or at Craft Cottage in Kingston or give her a call at 876-977-0453
Starfish Oils candles
I’m not a big coffee drinker but the smell of it always makes me think of Jamaica. That’s because way back in the way back I used to work for Starfish Oils, makers of the original (and best!) Blue Mountain coffee candle, and my office space was right next door to the candlemakers, whose labors filled the entire building with the heady scent. Not a coffee fan? Try soothing Island Mint, the citrusy Ortanique scent or the intoxicating Sweet Jamaica, made with essence of vanilla and nutmeg.
Patties are to Jamaicans what burgers are to Americans: cheap and cheerful comfort food that always brings back the taste of home. Local patty lovers fall into two camps, devotees of either the Tastee or Juici brand, but friends back home will be grateful for a half-dozen of any of either company’s delicious meat, seafood or veggie filled pastry pockets. Pick them up by the dozen, frozen and boxed for export, at the airport in Montego Bay or Kingston.
Blue Mountain Coffee
Coffee connoisseurs claim it’s the world’s best, and I believe them. Grown on a mere handful of estates 7,000 feet up in the island’s famous mist-crowned mountain range, most of the prized beans are exported to Asia, and a pound of the remaining crop will set you back about $50 Stateside. It’s slightly cheaper, however, when you buy on island, and I find the best prices at the supermarket (try the Shoppers Fair in the Blue Diamond Shopping Centre in Mo’Bay) rather than at the airport. Pick up a pound or two as a present for your coffee-craving boss and get ready for a bonus. Country Traders, Jablum and Wallenford Estate are all excellent brands, but whichever you choose, just make sure the label has the “100% Blue Mountain” seal; a Blue Mountain blend just won’t do!
Have you found any other must-have Jamaican souvenirs? Share your stash!