For the latest post in our Winter Sun series, we're heading to Jamaica with writer and Caribbean travel expert Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon who shares an insider's guide to the best souvenir shopping on the island.
Sarah has lived - and shopped - in the region for more than two decades, and as deputy editor of Caribbean Travel + Life magazine, she transports readers to the beach and beyond, writing about all aspects of Caribbean travel and lifestyle. Sarah also hosts the brand's TV show and digital series, Best of the Caribbean, which airs in the U.S.
Jamaica's Perfect Presents
I’m a black belt shopper who lived in Jamaica for half my life, so trust me when I tell you that when it comes to island souvenirs you can do waybetter than a $10 T-shirt or – God forbid – one of those rasta tams with the fake dreadlocks attached. This diverse and culturally rich island offers a trove of souvenirs that friends and family back home will actually love, not just politely accept and then toss in the nearest bin. My pick of Jamaican mementos includes something to suit everyone on your list, so get shopping!
Considered among the finest (and, at more than £20 per pound, one of the most expensive) coffees in the world, Blue Mountain coffee is grown on a mere handful of small estates on the mist-crowned peaks that overlook Jamaica’s capital of Kingston. The mountains’ mineral-rich soil, warm sun and cool shade give these slow-maturing beans a distinctive taste that any coffee craver is bound to love, and visitors can pick up a pound (or two) in gift shops and supermarkets islandwide; just be sure to look for the 100% Blue Mountain certification on the package.
From kiln to kitchen
Potter Margaret McGhie has been turning out stunning ceramics from her small Kingston home studio for more than a decade, and her signature tableware collection, embellished with hand-painted botanical motifs in vivid hues, tops many Jamaican wedding lists. But you don’t need to be a bride to appreciate Margaret’s stunning bowls, plates and mugs, which are not only beautiful to look at but functional to boot.
Find them in the gift shop at Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, or call Margaret at 876-977-0453.
I’m not quite sure how one segues from being a model and Playboy bunny to becoming the island’s foremost shoe designer but Bridget Brown, owner of 20-year-old boutique Bridget Sandals, has made the transition with ease. Her Kingston home/workshop/store is chockablock with a vast collection of leather sandals that are stylish, comfortable and frequently spotted on some of the island’s most fashionable feet. My favorite: the classic Rose Sandal, which features a small wedge, delicate ankle strap and a colorful leather rosette, which “blossoms” between the toes.
Available in hotel gift shops islandwide and online at bridgetsandals.net
Don't worry, beer happy
Jamaica’s world-famous brew, Red Stripe, now lends its logo to a hip line of merchandise, and beer lovers can proclaim their allegiance with T-shirts, hoodies and even caps with built-in bottle openers. For the latest and largest selection, check out the Red Stripe store on the departures concourse at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.
Spice it up
Made from the petals of a locally grown hibiscus-like plant, ruby-red sorrel chutney is a flavourful accompaniment to meat and cheese. I’m completely addicted to the unique spicy/sweet/tangy taste, and reckon it beats the pants off boring old Branston pickle any day. Available in supermarkets islandwide.
Even if you’re a die-hard tea drinker I’m willing to bet you’ll love the scent of Starfish Oils’ Blue Mountain Coffee Candle.
The hand-poured luminary instantly fills the air with the heady and evocative scent of Jamaica’s finest and has got to be the most elegant way to get your caffeine kick without the crash.
Ten minutes from Mo’Bay’s city centre, The Gallery of West Indian Art is a kaleidoscopic wonderland of handmade furniture, gifts and original art. But the 40-year-old shop is most famous for its menagerie of multi-colored “spotties,” hand-carved wooden animals painted in bright hues and stippled with polka dots of white acrylic.
While you’re there, browse the expertly curated collection of original canvases by Jamaican and Caribbean artists, and pick up a handmade Christmas tree ornament from the gallery’s year-round collection. Forget something? Just purchase online and have your treasures shipped right to your door.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.