Coffees from India and the Pacific : Java

The Dutch planted the first coffea arabica trees in Java at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and before the rust disease virtually wiped out the industry, Java led the world in coffee production. Most of this early acreage has been replaced by disease-resistant robusta, but, under the sponsorship of the Indonesian government, arabica has made a modest comeback on several estates originally established by the Dutch at the turn of the century and situated in the dramatic mountains of East Java. In many of these estates the original machinery the Dutch introduced is still in use, maintained perfectly and as neat as a museum display but infinitely more useful.

Java coffees share some of the low-key vibrancy of the best Sumatra and Sulawesi coffees, but tend to be lighter, cleaner, and brighter in the cup owing to having been subjected to sophisticated wet-processing and drying methods on large farms. At best they can be astoundingly sweet, buoyantly fragrant, and alive with nut, spice and vanilla tones. At worst they can display hardness or mustiness owing to the same moisture-interrupted drying that plagues all Indonesia coffees. Nevertheless, a really fine Java is a coffee treasure: restrained in acidity, yet light-footed, spirited and complex with nuance.

Of the four revived "old" estates that provide most of the good Java arabica — Jampit (or Djampit), Blawan, Kayumas and Pancur — Jampit and Blawan are the most likely sources of the Java coffee in American specialty stores.

Old Government, Old Brown, or simply Old Java describe Java arabica that has been held in warehouses for two to three years. Such matured coffee turns from green to light brown, gains body, adds pungency, and loses acidity. Old Java was a celebrated gourmet coffees until it disappeared from the market after World War II. It has been revived, although it remains difficult to obtain in the United States. A somewhat similar taste is offered by aged Sumatra and India Monsooned Malabar coffees.