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Why is Coffee Called Java? Colloquial Coffee Synonyms

Why is coffee called Java

Do you wake up to the smell of your morning perk? Stop by a café for a good ole cup of Joe? Maybe make a fresh brew? Down some mud? Grab a cuppa? Drink some dirt? Get a caffeine infusion before studying?

Whoa, there are just so many names for coffee! Commonly called Joe, coffee is also colloquially referred to as Java. Coffee originated in the Ethiopian province of Kaffa, named after the Arabic quahwah meaning “a drink from berries.” Is Java another form of the word Kaffa? Who called coffee java first?

Java Island

Java is the name of an island in Indonesia located between Sumatra and Bali. The name java means home or distant. It is fitting for coffee since the beverage comes from a distant land but makes us feel at home.

Located at the equator with many mountains, its geography and fertile land creates an ideal microclimate for growing coffee. From 1699 until present-day this region has produced and spread coffee throughout the world.

Blame it on the Dutch!

Coffee may be the beverage of choice for many people nowadays but it was only introduced to Western society for widespread use a few hundred years ago.

The Dutch East India Company brought coffee seedlings to Batavia (present day Jakarta), which was their former capital city on the island of Java in 1696. By 1706 the first sample of Java coffee was sent to Amsterdam for sampling along with one coffee plant.

FUN FACT: This plant was nurtured by Hortus, the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens, and was the ancestor to coffee plants brought to Brazil and the Caribbean!

In the 19th and early 20th century, coffee from the island of Java grew more and more popular. This is one reason why Java became synonymous with coffee. The island reference had coffee called java.

Java Trade

For the most part the Dutch ruled Indonesia from 1627-1942. Their primary interest was exploitation of both commerce and the plantation agriculture, especially coffee. They implemented a system of forced labor that was quite successful in Java.

By the 19th century the island of Java was the world’s number one producer of Arabica coffee. Disaster struck in the late 1880’s when a plague ruined a lot of the coffee crop population.

After the plague destroyed most of the Arabica plants, the Dutch introduced Robusta. This is generally considered an inferior bean compared to Arabica, but it was favorable because of its ability to withstand the disease that plagued the Arabica plants.

Eventually Arabica production came back to the island. Even though imported Java coffee to the United States and Canada is mostly Arabica, Robusta production still encompasses 90% of the Java coffee crop.

Java Island Now

The island of Java gained independence in 1949, and is the most developed island in Indonesia. Traditionally, Java is dominated by an elite class, whereas the lower classes work in agriculture. Although Java is modernizing, only 75% of the island has electricity.

Coffee fueled the development of the island. Railway networks were built due to the need to transport coffee from the plantations to the harbor. Even today, the island of Java helps Indonesia remain the world’s fourth largest coffee producer after Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia.

Java is home to four of the largest coffee plantations: Djampit, Blawan, Pancoer and Kayumas Together they produce 85% of coffee in East Java.

Java Arabica Coffee

Although Java is another term used to refer to a cup of coffee, it is also a specific type of arabica coffee bean. As you might have guessed, Java Arabica coffee is grown on the island of Java at an elevation of about 1,400 meters on the ljen Plateau.

This coffee is wet processed (washed). This means that selectively picked green coffee cherries are washed right after harvest while still moist to remove the coffee’s fruity material. This process produces a very clean taste; however, it causes the coffee to lose a lot of its body.

Java Arabica coffee has a heavy effervescent body, nutty aroma, bright acidity, and lasting finish. It has a rustic taste with hints of nutty, malty, chocolate, bright and sweet flavors.


Along with wet processed Java Arabica beans, Java coffee is also known to be monsooned, or aged. This process of “monsooning” exposes unroasted green coffee beans to the moist, warm air of the rainy season. This process can last up to three years!

Monsooned coffee beans create an excellent drink. Acidity is weakened producing a sweeter woody roast taste with a stronger body and almost no acidity.

Java Computing Language

Java may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking about coffee. Many people associate Java with computer programming language of the same name! What does coffee have to do with computing?

James Gosling is the inventor of the Java computing language, which is a general-purpose client-friend computing language. The product was originally named Oak after an oak tree that could be seen from Gosling’s office.

Due to trademark issues the name had to be changed. In early 1995 the company got together to brainstorm new names. It is believed that one member called out Java as an example of a name that would not work.

After brainstorming, Java in fact did make the list along with DNA and Silk. In the end the computing language was named Java. They wanted a name that would reflect technology without being nerdy.

What better name than Java when looking for a name that is dynamic, unforgettable, cool and unique. Like coffee, they wanted the name to appeal to everyone.

What About You?

Whether it is the drink or the computing language Java is universal, easy and common place. The island of Java not only is a name associated with coffee, it is also the origin of Brazilian coffee.

In this sense, the island of Java is responsible for the global spread of coffee. It is only fitting that that one of the many synonyms of coffee is Java!

What about you? Do you call coffee Java? If not, what is your favorite coffee term? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up in a tweet @LCoffeePlace #Java. In the meantime, have yourself a fresh mocha Java!