Coffee has a lot of nicknames: java, joe, dirt, mud, brew, cuppa, daily grind, lifeblood, tar, rocket fuel, even worm dirt. But have you ever considered why coffee is called java? The word java has assimilated into our vernacular as another nickname for coffee. While coffee can be described by how coffee is made––like espresso or drip––or by referring to the many different types of coffee beverages––like a cortado––some of its nicknames stem from its origin. Java is neither a specific type of coffee drink nor a way it’s made––in fact, the origin of the term derives from the history of coffee.
Let’s take a look at coffee’s past. The Dutch are credited with introducing coffee to Southeast Asia in the early 17th century. Bringing seeds with them on their travels, they planted coffee trees in places like Bali and Sumatra, as well as on a small Indonesian island called Java. After this expansion, coffee became a major trade item and was exported from Java to the rest of the world. Although it’s not known how the word was used originally, java was presumably the term selected to specify coffee that originated from the island. And as coffee continued to be traded around the world, the word became more generic as another synonym for coffee.
Think of calling coffee java like referring to wine by its region. "Java" was likely only java when it was grown and cultivated on the island itself, just as Champagne is only Champagne when it comes from the Champagne region.
Coffee may have many nicknames with a bit of their own history to unravel, but whatever you call it, it will always taste pretty damn good.