Why Is Coffee Called Java?

All nicknames come with their own unique story. If you're wondering, “why is coffee called Java?” the answer is that “Java” has its roots in the island of Java.

Why is coffee called java?
“Java” for coffee has its own story

There are many nicknames for coffee, including “cup of Joe” or “bean water”. Many people also use the nickname “Java” for coffee.

As is the case with all nicknames, the nickname “Java” comes with its own story. If you're wondering “Why is coffee called Java?” here's the short version of the story:

Many moons ago, the Dutch planted coffee on an Indonesian island called Java. It subsequently became a popular export hub. If you want to know why people refer to their morning brew as a “cup of Java”, here’s some more information on how coffee found its way to Java.

How Coffee Came To Java And Why Is Coffee Called Java

Coffee is believed to have originated in Africa, and more specifically, Ethiopia. From there, it was exported to the port of Mocha, in Yemen, by Somali merchants. The first evidence of knowledge of coffee or coffee drinking in the area dates back to the late 15th century. 

By the late 17th century, Dutch traders and colonialists had brought coffee from Yemen to Indonesia. Since the geography and climate of Indonesia are well-suited to coffee plantations, coffee production quickly increased and became a very profitable industry. Indonesia was the first area outside of Ethiopia and Arabia where coffee was produced on a large scale.

Some of the first plantations that the Dutch established were in East Java, Central Java, and West Java. Apart from the fact that Java was one of the first places outside of Arabia where coffee plantations were cultivated, coffee plants did very well in the area, which meant that a lot of coffee was exported. The bags of coffee that were exported were marked with the name “Java”, and because there was such a large supply over a prolonged period of this coffee, the term Java became synonymous with coffee.

Which Coffee Species Was Brought To Java?

A transparent glass full of coffee beans.
Arabica species was brought to Java

The coffee seeds that the Dutch brought to Java back in the day were of the Arabica species. Arabica is the most known commercial coffee species because it tastes better than any other species. It contains twice the amount of sugar present in Robusta, which is the second-most cultivated coffee species.

Arabica also contains by far less acid than Robusta. Because of these characteristics, Arabica is not bitter and has a cleaner mouthfeel.

The production of Arabica coffee in Indonesia went very well until 1869, when the coffee rust disease struck the area. This outbreak marked the first time that a coffee rust epidemic was recorded. The fungus caused the decimation of coffee plantations in Indonesia on a large scale, leading to many Dutch owners abandoning their estates.

As a result, local laborers took up small plots of land and started to plant the Robusta species since it is harder and more disease resistant than Arabica. However, this coffee species produces a lower-quality coffee than Arabica, which is why it’s mostly sold as instant coffee.

The Coffee From Java

Today, when people talk about coffee from Java specifically, they refer to Arabica coffee, not Robusta instead of just nicknaming all coffee Java. Javanese coffee is known for its earthy and savory flavors. These characteristics are partly due to the climate and soil of the area but can also be attributed to how the beans are processed post-harvesting.

This processing style, which is called Giling Basah or wet hulling, involves removing the hulls of the coffee cherries when they are still relatively wet. After the hulling, they are then further dried until they reach a moisture content of 12%, at which point they're exported. The process of wet hulling is thought to decrease the acidity in the coffee and increase the body.

What Is Mocha Java?

coffee beans with a coffee
Mocha Java is a blend of Yemen and Java coffee

Mocha Java is a term that can be confusing for modern coffee drinkers since many associate the name with a type of coffee beverage. However, Mocha Java refers to a coffee blend, of which one half comes from coffee produced in Yemen and the other from coffee produced in Java. The port-city Mocha, in Yemen, was a major marketplace for coffee from the 15th to 18th centuries, which is why the term also became synonymous with coffee over time.

What Coffee Is Still Grown In Java?

Today, high-quality Arabica coffee is still grown in Java, specifically on the Ijen Plateau at the eastern end of Java. The coffee is primarily grown on five large plantations built by the Dutch back in the 18th century.

These plantations produce excellent coffee that meets the standards of specialty-grade coffee. This coffee is typically used as one component in the traditional and ever-popular Mocha Java blend.

Conversely, some estates choose to age their coffees for up to three to five years, during which time the beans turn from green to light brown. The aging process increases flavor while also decreasing acidity, resulting in a deliciously mild cup of coffee. If you’re interested in tasting these aged coffees, be on the lookout for the names Old Government, Old Brown, or Old Java.

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