Coffee has many names. Some, such as “espresso,” and “drip” refer to how coffee is made. Others, such as “mocha” and “cappuccino,” refer to a specific beverage made with coffee. Still others refer to coffee’s origins and history. “Java” falls into this third category.
During the 1600s, the Dutch introduced coffee to Southeast Asia. They brought coffee trees to places like Bali and Sumatra, where it’s still grown today. Another island they began planting coffee on was Java, and it’s from this island that the name “java” arose.
It’s not known specifically known how the term was first used. The Dutch were likely the first to use the name, and they may have used it to refer to single-origin coffee from Java. As the coffee trade grew, though, the term was adopted by more and more people throughout the world, and any specificity was lost. Today, “java” has become a generic term for coffee and no longer refers only to coffee from the Island of Java.
Coffee continues to be grown on Java today, and much of the island’s arabica production comes from estates that were originally built by the Dutch.
In the 1880s, coffee leaf rust decimated many of the trees on the island, and producers responded by substituting arabica lots with liberica and then robusta ones. Liberica and robusta coffees are both more resistant to leaf rust, but their traits aren’t nearly as desirable as arabica’s. Thus, the coffees produced by these trees are usually used in lower-quality, commercial-grade coffees, not in specialty-grade coffees.
Five plantations, however, still grow coffea arabica and have decent processing facilities. These plantations produce good coffee that meets the standards of specialty-grade coffee.
The higher-quality coffees that come from these plantations are often used in two distinctive ways:
Java has never been a popular name for coffee, although it’s consistently been used and most coffee drinkers are familiar with the term. The name has, however, left an interesting legacy in the computer programming world:
Java may not be the most common name for coffee, but it stands alone as the only name that has inspired a computer programming language.
Do you call coffee “java,” or do you have a different name you like to use? Let us know by tweeting us your favorite name for coffee!