The Indonesian island of Java is not only a prolific agricultural exporter, it’s also a beautiful destination for tourists with lush scenic views and a warm and friendly culture.
Characteristics of Java Arabica Coffee
A good Java coffee exhibits
- a relatively heavy body, though lighter than some other Indonesian coffees and also less acidic.
- somewhat rustic in the overall flavor profile
- a lingering finish and herbaceous subtleties in the aftertaste.
A fine Java coffee has a low-toned richness that is typical of Indonesian and New Guinea coffees, but with a full body that is clean and thick, and a medium acidity (brighter than New Guinea coffee) along with earthy qualities, but less earthy than some other Indonesian coffees such as Borneo, Sulawesi and Sumatra.
While the finish of Java may be a bit quicker than some other Indonesian coffees, it often contains a slightly spicy or smoky twist. Java coffee leaves a sweet impression overall, very smooth and supple.
Java Arabica Coffee Growing Areas
The finest Java coffee comes from plantations on the five largest estates established by the Dutch government in the 18th century when Java was part of the Dutch East Indies.
The largest coffee estates on Java, encompassing more than 4,000 hectares of coffee plantings, are Djampit, (the biggest producer) Blawan, Pancoer, and Kayumas. Coffee has been growing in this area since the 17th century and has historically been enjoyed by people all around the world.
After harvest the coffee fruit (cherry) is fermented and washed using the wet-process, which removes the pulp.
Early Java Coffee Plantation Stocks
During the 1880s when the island of Java was leading the world in coffee production, Java’s coffee crops were devastated by a rust plague. This plague occurred first in Sukabumi and then throughout Central Java and areas of East Java. Many plantation stocks were lost.
After the plague the Dutch first planted Liberica (Coffea liberica) and then Robusta (Coffea canephora var. robusta), a species highly favored for its ability to resist disease, though considered inferior to the finer Arabica coffee beans when it comes to producing a fine cup of brewed coffee with a wide range of flavors and aromas.
While most java coffees imported into the United States and Canada are Arabica, the higher price reflects the agricultural situation, where approximately 90% of the coffee crop is Robusta.
Java’s Old Colonial Plantations
The old colonial era plantations on Java now grow just a small percentage of the island’s coffee, though these revived old estates grow most of the island’s premium gourmet Arabica varietal coffee.
Monsooning Java Coffee Beans
Some of the coffee beans from Java’s old estates are aged, or monsooned, a process that exposes the unroasted green coffee beans (milled but not yet roasted) to moist, warm air throughout the rainy season. These monsooned coffee beans are labeled as Old Java Coffee, Old Government Coffee., or Old Brown Java Coffee.
The monsooning of the Java coffee beans may continue for as long as three years, resulting in a strengthening of the coffee’s body and taste, increasing the sweetness and weakening the acidity.
The coffee beans also undergo a distinct color change from their original green tint to a light brown color and often exhibit intense woody roast tastes along with a heavy body and almost no acidity.
Tradition of Mocha Java Coffee
The history of coffee grown on Java began in 1690 when the Dutch were finally able to smuggle coffee plants out of the Arab port of Mocha and quickly began growing it in Java, which was an East Indian colony, and also in Ceylon.
To read about these events and how they fueled the European coffee trade see the World’s Best History of Coffee.
Java Arabica Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips
For some really helpful tips on brewing the perfect cup of premium Java Arabica coffee see our comprehensive section on Coffee Brewing. You can also read detailed coffee taste profiles of Specialty Coffees and instructions on preparing a whole range of Espresso Drink Recipes.
Some mocha java espresso blends have been known to add robusta beans, which have higher caffeine content than arabica beans and produce a thicker, richer crema. Any coffee roaster looking to make their own mocha java blend would be advised to buy the green coffee beans separately from a distributor and blend it themselves, for greater control over the final flavour.
For detailed definitions of coffee as well as espresso terminology see the Coffee and Espresso Glossary.
Other Agricultural Exports
Indonesia and Java especially are blessed by good soil and abundant rain, which makes it a natural agrarian society and exports form a large portion of their trade. Aside from coffee (which makes it the third largest coffee exporter in the world), they export palm oil, tobacco, cocoa and tea, as well as spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar cane.