Java Coffee has a very special place in the hearts of coffee lovers. The word Java is even used as a nickname for coffee, internationally. Though not the largest island in Indonesia, Java is one of the main islands where the capital city, Jakarta is located. That means the island is very crowded, with immigrants coming from all over the country to work and make a better life. Today it is home to a roughly 145 million people. It is currently the most populated island in the world.
Being one of the world’s oldest coffee producers, coffee plants were first brought to Java Island in 1699 by Dutch colonialists. Since Java was the main island where the Indonesian capital was situated, the majority of coffee beans were exported from here. Indonesia –particularly the island of Java at the time– quickly became the world’s leading coffee exporter. Most of the coffee bean bags that came into Europe were labeled as ‘Java’. That’s how the nickname got around. The term ‘A Cup of Java’ was widely used to describe brewed coffee, proving just how popular Java coffee is.
Unfortunately, in the 1880s when Java was a world leader in coffee production, Java’s coffee crops were devastated by a rust epidemic. This plague occurred first in Sukabumi, then all over Central Java and eastern Java regions. A great deal of plantation stocks was lost. Initially, Java coffee plants were mostly Arabica. But after the plague, the Dutch decided to plant more Robusta beans than Arabica, as Robusta is more disease resistant and produces higher yields. Although in terms of taste, Robusta was considered inferior to the finer Arabica coffee beans that are surely richer in flavors and aromas.
Located between Sumatra and Bali, Java has a very volcanic soil, similar to Sumatra. It is the ideal climate for coffee plants to thrive and produce high quality coffee beans. The Java Arabica coffee plantations are centered on the Ijen Plateau, the volcanic complex at the eastern tip of Java, with an altitude of more than 1400 meters above sea level.
Currently, most coffee plants in Java are grown in government-owned estates that were built by the Dutch in the 18th century. The five largest estates are Blawan, Tugosari, Pancoer, Jampit and Kayumas, all situated in the Ijen Plateau with a total area of about 4,000 hectares. However, small scale coffee farmers in Java have also been developing high-quality coffee in recent years, offering more variations to the consumers. Moreover, todays’ coffee plantations in Java are developed not only for coffee planting purposes, but also for tourism. Hence, people can visit the plantations for coffee-tasting and learn more about the coffee.
As far as the flavor profile, Java coffee is wet-processed (washed), which produces a clean taste, and a very subtle body. Java and Sumatra coffee have similar tastes, but Java is slightly cleaner and sweeter, while Sumatra tends to be more spicy and earthy. Java coffee leaves a sweet impression overall, very smooth and supple. Needless to say, it’s still a legendary coffee, one of Indonesia’s most valuable commodities to date.