If you travel to Jamaica, there’s bound to be someone just waiting for you to get home. Someone wondering if you remembered them at all while you were on holiday. Since we haven’t yet figured out a way to bottle our sunshine, here are some other ideas for the perfect gift from Jamaica.
Naturally you have to think about the recipient – what’s good for your 5 year old niece may not be quite the thing for Uncle Joe with the one good eye!
I’m writing primarily for the budget-minded. I am presently unable to think like someone who has money, but hopefully that will change one day soon! Happily, some of the nicest things from Jamaica aren’t at all expensive. So while these ideas are value oriented, they should be pleasing to just about anyone who receives them.
Rum – Jamaica is rum country. You can chose from a variety of ages, blends and colours. Our most popular producer is J. Wray and Nephew. Appleton Estate VX is a deliciously smooth, well aged, red rum. I’ve not come across the casual drinker who doesn’t enjoy this one. Another red rum, very enjoyable, but a little less smooth than VX, is Appleton Special. More serious drinkers, or those who want to make rum punch, will enjoy the stronger J. Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum. In Jamaica we call this simply “white rum”.
Rum Cream or Liqueur – The ladies may prefer these milder, sweeter drinks. Sangster’s Rum Creams (in different flavours) are particularly good.
It’s best to buy your alcohol at one of the duty free shops at the airport. It’s practically the same price as at local supermarkets, but more conveniently packaged.
Jamaica makes so much good music it’s mindblowing. However, not all of the lyrics can be easily understood if you don’t speak Jamaican patois. You might want to choose carefully if you want to understand what’s being said. Recent CDs by Beres Hammond, Tarrus Riley, Etana, Queen Ifrica, Morgan Heritage are a great place to start.
By no means should you discount the dancehall artistes, even if you can’t understand all the words. Most of the music is infectious whether you get the words or not! Sometimes the words are blatantly sexual, or somewhat violent, so ask before making your purchase.
For music collectors, classic CDs by Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Beres Hammond, John Holt, Bob Marley are really good choices. You could also ask for recordings of traditional Jamaican folk songs.
Visit local supermarkets for Jamaican coffee. Larger supermarkets will have a wider range. Choose from whole or ground beans. Coffee labelled “Blue Mountain” is usually the best quality, having been grown at the highest altitudes. The “High Mountain Coffee” brand, although not Blue Mountain, is a very good brand. Coffee is also available at duty free stores in the airport.
If you travel to Jamaica, a visit to a good bookstore can solve many of your gift problems. Jamaican cookbooks for those who like to experiment in the kitchen. Books of Jamaican poetry for those with a poetic soul. Jamaican novels for those who like a good story. Jamaican stories and colouring books for the children. Books on Jamaican culture and lifestyle for those who want to know our island better. When buying books, remember to consider the weight of your suitcase – books can be quite heavy.
Accessories like bracelets, earrings, necklaces and anklets have the great advantage of being small and easy to carry. Remember not to buy jewellery made from turtle shell or black coral – these are protected species, and it is illegal to have items made from them. Trendy bags come in all shapes, colours and sizes, made from different materials. Rasta belts and tams are perfect for those who want to look ‘rootsy’.
As much as the Tshirt idea might seem overdone, there are actually a lot of attractive shirts on the market. Jamaican colours (black, green and gold) or Rasta colours (red, green and gold) are easily available. Bob Marley is still a great seller, and there are a lot of great shirts which show the many sides of Bob.
Also popular are Jamaican-coloured shorts, flip flops, caps and beach wraps. Or you may like to try some of the more subtle clothing now available in earth tones.
For the kids
In addition to books and clothes, there are traditional cloth dolls, playing cards, small percussion instruments like drums and shakers which make good gifts for children. Some very funky pencils with a dreadlocked head at one end are cute and inexpensive.
Many people enjoy the adventure of tasting food from different cultures. For these people, the supermarket is the perfect place to find something they’ll enjoy. Here are a few ideas:
* Jamaican Guava Jelly – made from the guava fruit. Delicious on bread or crackers.
* Tamarind Balls – for those who like tangy sweets. Made from the flesh of the tamarind fruit rolled with sugar. Jamaican children (and many adults too) adore this.
* Banana Chips – the perfect salty snack, made from green bananas! Just as tasty as potato chips, but more nutritious.
* Jerk Seasoning/Sauce – those who like to cook can try making their own jerk chicken.
* Spicy Sauces – there’s a whole range of these, but our Pickapeppa Sauce is outstanding. Mango chutney is really good too.
Lookout for authentic Jamaican prints and paintings. These come in a range of prices, depending on the popularity of the artist, and the size and quality of the work. Wood carvings and ceramics are available, but again, you need to think about the weight as well as the packaging for your trip.
I hope these gifts ideas will be useful if you do indeed make the great decision to travel to Jamaica. In the event that you do make the trip, be sure to enjoy our wonderful Jamaican culture while you’re here.
Allison Morris’ website about St. Elizabeth, Jamaica is also a storehouse of information about Jamaican culture. Visit this entertaining and information-packed site at http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com.
Tags: appleton estate
, bob marley
, duty free
, jerk chicken
, queen ifrica
, tarrus riley