The legend of Tia Maria dates back to the mid-17th century, when a beautiful young Spanish aristocrat fled the turmoil colonial war brought to the island of Jamaica. Her maid saved one family treasure, a small jewelry box with black pearl earrings, and an ancient manuscript with the recipe for a mysterious liqueur. The recipe was named after the courageous woman: Tia Maria.
In the immediate post-war years, life in Jamaica continued much as before with the colonial community enjoying cocktails on the veranda to accompany the usual stunning spectacle of sundown. One of the most sought-after social invitations was that of local microbiologist Dr. Kenneth Leigh Evans. An invite to the Kingston country club always caused a stir as society’s finest had the chance to sample his latest homemade liqueurs.
This often led to a convivial conversation about the evening’s concoction. One night an unexpected experience occurred when Dr. Evans was served an intense and intriguing coffee liqueur at the home of friends. Immediately enthralled with his discovery, he begged his hostess to give him the recipe.
Once in possession of this treasured family heirloom, made to the original 17th Century Caribbean formula, he set about perfecting it. Dr. Evans found by combining the richest roasted Arabica coffee with refined Jamaican rum from local sugar plantations close to the sea where the air was fresher and the soil naturally fertile – the flavours started to intensify. After the unveiling at the country club and further discussions, he found the finishing flourish in a touch of exotic vanilla, and so it became the Tia Maria as we know it today.