The Reason Coffee Is Sometimes Called 'Java'

Shakespeare may have said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, " but he could just as easily have said, "Coffee by any other name would taste as good." The humble cup of coffee has been given many nicknames over the years, from a cup of Joe to Java. And no matter what it is called, it's adored by the masses for its flavor and caffeine.

Drinking coffee by the cup has been around for centuries, with it gaining popularity in the United States during the Revolutionary War when consuming tea was viewed by some as being loyal to England. While drinking coffee may have started mostly as a political statement, it remained more popular than tea even after the American Colonies beat the British Empire. A recent Tasting Table survey found that about half of the 567 respondents drink one or two cups of coffee per day.

Like tea, coffee has long been a major export. According to Driftaway Coffee, Dutch traders brought coffee to Southeast Asia in the 17th century. It is on a little island there that coffee got one of its most famous nicknames.

A centuries-old name

In 1696, the Dutch East India Company took its first coffee plants to Southeast Asia with the intent to plant them there, per Coffee Affection. Prior to that, the coffee the Dutch traded and sold came from Arab countries, but they wanted to have more control over their product. The company began to grow coffee on several small islands in Indonesia, including Bali, Sumatra, and Java (via Driftaway Coffee). Of the three islands, the Dutch found that Java was the best coffee producer and decided to focus on growing the plants there.

A problem arose when the Dutch wanted to sell their coffee. Arabic coffee was viewed as being exotic and high-quality, but coffee grown by the Dutch might not be as well received, according to Coffee Affection. A name change was in order. The Dutch traders sold their product as Java coffee in the Netherlands. With the popularity of coffee remaining high and the Dutch being the primary traders of it, the name Java stayed, reports Coffee Affection. Coffee is still grown on the island of Java, according to Driftaway Coffee, with some of the early Dutch coffee-growing estates still in existence. In the beginning, arabica beans were primarily grown on Java, but after a fungus killed off many of the plants, liberica and robusta plants began to be raised on the island.

Whether you call it java, coffee, or joe, enjoy your cup and know that it has a long, worldly history.