Posted in Kafevend Blog

Java coffee

Carrying on from Thursday's blog about the little known tea industry on the island of Java and Indonesia as a whole, today we are switching tack to the island and country's more popular product, coffee. Later we are going to look at aged coffee, a speciality in Java. Before that however, let's look at how coffee farming got started in Indonesia.

Dutch East Indies

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Indonesia back in 1522. Although they were confined to Malacca with a treaty between them and the native Sunda kingdom, the position meant that back in Europe they held a monopoly on the hugely valuable spice trade. Dutch merchants from Amsterdam weren't terribly impressed by this, and sent Cornelis de Houtman with a small fleet to discover as much about the spice islands as possible.

In every aspect of how it played out, the voyage could be considered a disaster: disease, quarrels, diplomatic incompetence and possibly even dastardly, underhanded poisoning by Houtman himself. Despite these many problems, the overall effect of the voyage was a good one- for Dutch merchants, at least. The knowledge gleaned on the route to this prized land and where to find the valuable spices meant that soon many more Dutch ships were plying the waves between Amsterdam and Indonesia, and set the foundation for Dutch colonialism in the east.

The Dutch began successfully cultivating coffee on the island of Java in the early 18th century. At first, Java had been something of a bread basket for the wider Dutch East Indies empire, growing and exporting rice to feed other workers. The value of coffee soon saw this role decline and coffee production increased massively. Along with their control on the spice trade, which they had wrestled from the other European powers, they now also held the monopoly on coffee.

Aged coffee

It isn't just pu-erh tea that benefits from ageing. Coffee can be subjected to the same ageing process in order to develop its inherent characteristics. Not just any coffee will do. As you might have suspected, starting out with a good quality coffee means you get a good quality result at the end; the ageing won't turn a bad batch good! The ageing process takes several years; often two to three, though it can vary. The main effects of ageing coffee are a reduced acidity and an improved body- that is, the feeling of heaviness and texture.

This process was accidentally discovered by the Dutch as they transported their cash crop back home through the sweltering tropical weather. Piled up at the bottom of the ship as ballast, the coffee beans were subjected to the elements and aged. This somewhat slapdash method isn't advisable though, unless you are looking for a briny twang! If you'd like to try some aged coffee from Java itself, then Whittard have you covered with their Old Brown Java Coffee.


Java history
Aged coffee

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