How Java Got Its Name, How Indonesia Taught America How to Drink Coffee, and How Indonesia Contributed to the Birth of Starbucks

By N. Mark Castro

No, this isn’t exactly about the island of Java, information of which you could easily Google, but rather how the ubiquitous computer programming system Java got its name.

Legend has it that Dr. James Gosling, father of Java Programming, had called for a brainstorming session to brand their product, which eventually became more popular than its parent company, Sun Microsystems, which was eventually bought by Oracle. According to Java World:

“We were really disgusted and tired from all the marathon hacking we’d been doing at the time, and we still hadn’t found a name that we could use,” said Sun engineer Timothy Lindholm. “We were pressed for time, as adopting a new name meant a lot of work, and we had releases coming up. So we set up a meeting to thrash out a list of names…. The meeting went on for quite a while, and I remember there wasn’t anything that jumped out as obviously the right thing to do. We were talking in despair about dumb names like Rover. We ended up with a final list, and Java was one of the top choices along with Silk, as in what you spin webs with.

And, of course, the woman who green-lighted the brand was Kim Karin Polese.

According to the same source:

“I named Java,” said Kim Polese, then the Oak product manager and now CEO of Marimba Inc. “I spent a lot of time and energy on naming Java because I wanted to get precisely the right name. I wanted something that reflected the essence of the technology: dynamic, revolutionary, lively, fun. Because this programming language was so unique, I was determined to avoid nerdy names. I also didn’t want anything with ‘Net’ or ‘Web’ in it, because I find those names very forgettable. I wanted something that was cool, unique, and easy to spell and fun to say.

“I test-marketed the names at parties, and on my friends and family members,” Polese recalled. “And Java got the most positive reactions of all the candidates. Because it wasn’t certain that we would get any of the names cleared through trademark, I selected about three or four and worked with the lawyers on clearing them. Java passed, and it was my favorite, so I named the language Java and subsequently named the browser HotJava, a much better name than WebRunner. The engineers had a hard time parting with Oak, but they finally got used to it…. I felt that branding was very important, because I wanted Java to be a standard. So I focused on building a very strong brand for Java.”

To credit this incident, the team used a magic number as a header to all the Java bytecode class file. The number: 0xCAFEBABE

Yes, these are all readily available, but the question is:

What Java Coffee were they drinking?

According to Timothy Lindholm:

Timothy Lindholm’s complete remarks.

“I believe the name was first suggested by Chris Warth,” said Arthur van Hoff, a senior engineer on the project and now CTO of Marimba Inc. “We had been in the meeting for hours and, while he was drinking a cup of Peet’s Java, he picked ‘Java’ as an example of yet another name that would never work. The initial reaction was mixed. I believe the final candidates were Silk, DNA, and Java, however. I suggested Lingua Java, but that didn’t make it…. We could not trademark the other names, so Java ended up being the name of choice. In the end, our marketing person, Kim Polese, finally decided to go ahead with it.”

So there you have it, Pete’s Java from Peet’s Coffee & Tea.


Alfred H. Peet was a Dutch-American entrepreneur and the founder of Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Berkeley, California, in 1966. He is most famous for introducing custom coffee roasting to the United States, which is why the term “Java” has become a slang for coffee. But the Indonesian phrase Kopi Jawa refers not only to the origin of the coffee, but is used to distinguish the strong, black, very sweet coffee, with powdered grains in the drink, from other forms of the drink.

Among coffee historians, Peet is labeled as “the Dutchman who taught America how to drink coffee.” He is widely credited with being the pioneer in the American coffee revolution, providing gourmet coffee at a time when most everyone drank coffee like the popular rationed ones during World War II.

What many do not know is that Alfred Peet worked as a taster in the Dutch East Indies, which exactly on this day … became known as the Republic of Indonesia. So before Alfred Peet migrated to San Francisco in 1955 to work in the coffee importing industry, Peet picked up a thing or two about processing coffee from what would become Indonesia.

And it would be the same process and style of roasting beans that Peet taught  to Jerry BaldwinZev Siegl and Gordon Bowker, who took the technique to Seattle and founded a small company called Starbucks.

But they remained his loyal students, and according to Sfgate:

In 1971, the first Starbucks store opened in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, with coffee roasted by Peet’s. The company’s co-founders, Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker, learned about roasting from Peet.

Peet sold his business in 1979 but stayed on as a coffee buyer until 1983. In 1984, Starbucks co-owner Baldwin and Reynolds, the roastmaster, with a group of investors bought Peet’s four Bay Area locations. In 1987, Baldwin and Peet’s owners sold the Starbucks chain to focus on Peet’s, and Baldwin and Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ new owner, entered into a no-compete agreement in the Bay Area. In 2001, Peet’s became a public company.

Inadvertently, Indonesia contributed to the branding of JAVA System Programming (which would later evolve into Android, yes, that system you use in your smartphone), mold the coffee knowledge from its earth a young man named Alfred Peet, who basically introduced gourmet coffee to America, and influenced three men who would give the world Starbucks.

Ah, Indonesia … if you would only know the contributions you give to the world. You would truly know that you deserve the Independence you celebrate, fought by your founding fathers … and not let it be ruined by inept politicians and noisy few religious radicals.

But despite all that …


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on August 17, 2012, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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