Mocha-Java: Myth and Magic

One of my favorite blends from a roaster I’d frequent was a Mocha-Java blend. So when I started roasting my own beans, some of the very first greens I roasted were samples of Yemen Mocha, and Java Blowan Estate. I was quick to blame my initial failures at recreating the artisan roaster’s flavor profile on my own inexperience… Yemeni beans, I had read, were notoriously difficult to roast — or to roast well, anyway. Only later did I learn an altogether more likely culprit: Mocha-Java isn’t so much a blend these days as it is a myth.

Mocha-Java [or Moka Java, Mokka Java, Mocca Java, etc.] is today more the stuff of myth and legend than the constituents of a particular blend. A hundred years ago a roaster could take the sweet, acidic coffees of the Arabian port of Mocha, and the very low acid, syrupy bodied coffees of the East Indies, and create a blend that hopefully married the best of both worlds.

Today the port of Mocha lies in Yemen… and some mighty fine beans are still grown in the area. The coffees of the East Indies are what we now know as Indonesian coffees, and would include Java, Celebes [Sulawesi], Sumatra, Indian Arabicas, Timor and New Guinea.

While the geography is largely the same, Don Schoenholt, one of the giants of coffee who sometimes visits our lil’ newsgroup, explains that the flavors of these coffees have changed over the years. Today’s Mochas aren’t quite so chocolaty as they used to be. Today’s Javas are… well, most of them are both pricey and icky. Let’s say, today’s Indonesian coffees are more acidic than they used to be. Don suggests that the closest thing today to the Old Brown Java of yesteryear is an Indian Monsooned Malabar.

If your roaster is offering a Mocha-Java blend, then the beans *really* should be from Yemen [or Ethiopia], and from Java. [There’s a “truth in labeling” law on the books, ya know.] It’s likely, though, that what’s offered is a blend *styled* after the Mocha-Java legend… a mix of bright, sweet beans, and low-acid body building beans.

Whatever the origin, melding bright beans with big-bodied beans is an enduring recipe for success in terms of coffee blending. Tasty, too.

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