As one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, Indonesia has some unique facts which relate to its coffee history, presentations, drinking habits, and their addiction to instant coffee. In this article, we will discuss, among others, the reason why the coffee is called java, and why crashed java has nothing to do with the computer.

Why it’s called “java”

Back in the 17th century when the Dutch began their coffee plantation project in Java, they did not intend to brand their product with the island’s name. It was only later, when Javanese coffee became popular in the West and people started to call the beverage with the shortened name version. And it stays until today.

Other types of coffees were also present in Europe at the time, such as from Arabia and Ethiopia, but Javanese coffee triumphed over them. (It was only in late 1840s that Brazil took over the position as the world’s major coffee supplier.)

The plantation project had made the Netherlands the biggest coffee supplier in Europe, yet it brought a lot of misery to local farmers. It was only stopped in 1870s, ten years after a Dutch official namely Douwes Dekker, through his novel Max Havelaar, expressed his criticisms upon the practice.

Crashed Java

Javanese coffee culture is built upon two things: clove cigarettes and a glass (or a mug) of “crashed” java, the translation for the classic kopi tubruk. To make kopi tubruk, one has to pour boiling hot water into finely ground coffee and white sugar. This act of “crashing” the water into the coffee inspired the name “tubruk” (crashed).

For some people, kopi tubruk and clove cigarettes have become more important than daily meals. It’s not difficult to find someone who chooses to skip their meals than to leave these two. They can be found in almost every place where people hang out or take a break from work. This coffee ritual is deemed perfect if it’s accompanied with traditional snacks.

In Bali, people often include a cigarette and a tiny cup of coffee in their offerings.

Civet Coffee “Kopi Luwak”

Knowing well where luwak coffee beans are from, we might wonder how the “inventor” first got the idea. How one could be so desperate as to pick a coffee bean from a civet’s poop, we may ask.

Many people linked the discovery to an event occurred during the coffee plantation era: Farmers were banned from picking coffee beans for their own consumption, so they had to harvest them from the animals’ poop. There wasn’t much food during the time, and the bitter beverage helped suppress the appetite. It also kept the farmers awake during the long work hours.

Later, the farmers found that poop coffee tasted better than regular java. As this news reached the colonists’ ears, they gave it a try and soon they became fond of with the drink. Kopi luwak thus transformed, from hungry overworked farmers’ drink, into a prestigious beverage consumed by meneers and their families.

But those were the days when luwak (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) roamed freely among the trees and was able to select the finest coffee cherries. They lived in their natural habitat and fed on varied sources of food. Nowadays, to keep up with the high demand of one of the most favorite coffees, many farmers catch and put luwaks in cages where they exclusively feed on the provided coffee cherries.

Naturally, there’ll be a decline in quality. Not only because the beans are produced by sick farmed animals, but also due to the fact that the cage system skip the "instinctive" berry selection process—which can only be done by wild luwaks.

Many people in the industry are aware of these situations, and some of them have been working toward a more responsible business to provide authentic luwak coffees.

“Pulled” Coffee “Kopi Tarik”

Indonesian’s coffee drinking culture also gained some influence from its neighboring country Malaysia. Aceh’s kopi tarik was an adaptation from the same beverage which was long known in Malay.

Kopi tarik was brought to Malaysia by Indian immigrants, and then it was adopted to Indonesia by Acehnese. It has since become a part of Acehnese coffee culture. And as Acehnese food restaurants developed and spread across the country, kopi tarik became known to a wider Indonesian public.

Kopi tarik is made by pouring coffee from one container to another, which results in foamy texture. During the pouring process, the coffee shares a resemblance of a ribbon being pulled, hence the name “tarik” which means “pulled” in both Malay and Indonesian.

“Inverted” Coffee “Kopi Terbalik”

Drinking coffee in the same old way can be a bit boring at times, hence the invention of kopi terbalik. It is kopi tubruk “crashed java” with a twist. The difference lies on the presentation, in which the coffee is served in an inverted glass on a large saucer, with a plastic straw placed under the rim of the inverted glass.

It requires some skill to drink kopi terbalik, otherwise one will mess it up. Kopi terbalik is popular in Aceh, yet there is also similar coffee in Java called kopi kualat (sometimes written as kuwalat), which literally translated to “damned coffee”.

Charcoal Coffee “Kopi Joss”

In Jogja (Yogyakarta), we have kopi joss by Lek Man (Uncle Man). When you order a glass of kopi joss, expect to witness a red-hot charcoal being dipped into your coffee, and you’ll have to let it there for a moment.

The word joss is originated from the way locals imitate the sound of hot charcoal touching the coffee. Lek Man has been selling the drink from his street food stall since 1960s. Kopi joss has become his signature drink and “inspired” other sellers to make the same product.

No health problems due to kopi joss have ever been reported. Charcoal has been known for a long time to heal stomach-related ailments. But, if you’re not sure about your glass of kopi joss, feel free to skip it.

Cigarette Painting

Still related to Javanese coffee culture which includes clove cigarettes and crashed java is cethe, or cigarettes painting. What’s unique about this painting is people use coffee residue, mixed with condensed milk, in replace of ink to paint the cigarettes. This practice is popular in Tulungagung, East Java, and is also known in some regions in eastern part of Central Java.


The strong coffee drinking culture in Indonesia can be a curse and blessing for modern café owners. A blessing because we will likely love their products; a curse because we may prefer to go to warung (local restaurants), which sells cheaper coffee.

Starbucks, however, has developed fast in recent years with the business contributing more than a half of the parent company’s revenue. Thanks to their smart marketing strategy aiming at upper class Indonesians.

Instant Coffee

Less wealthy laymen, who dislike going to warung due to cigarette smoke issue, mostly prefer to buy a lot of instant coffee mix and brew it at home. We may drink it alone, or with friends on special occasions. There are many traditional ground coffee sold at cheaper prices, but we tend to choose instant coffee despite the fact.

Don’t be surprised if you buy a local instant coffee and find it to leave some residues. Many locals love drinking coffee with residue, hence such products exist.

Published by Putri Hapsari