We’ve all heard the saying. A “cup of joe” means a cup of coffee. However, where did this slang come from? It is known to most Americans, especially the coffee drinkers. In this article, we will go over why coffee is called joe and the origins of other coffee nicknames.
Joe is slang for coffee and dates all the way back to the World War I era. There are many theories about how this popped up. Today we will go through all the reasons why Coffee might have been called Joe.
Theories why Coffee is called Joe
There have been many theories on how coffee got the nickname joe. We first heard it in an old (the 1940s) movie, used by blue-collar type characters.
The expression has been used in the American Northeast and Industrial Midwest primarily, especially among the veterans. It is still being referenced today. For example the new company “Joe and the Juice“. It is a part of American culture. However, the creation cannot be traced to a single point. These are the theories we have about how coffee got its nickname.
Many veterans are familiar with the term “cup of joe”. In other words, joe has a military origin. This is the most popular theory and the one with the most proof. In 1914, Navy Secretary, Josephus Daniels banned alcohol on all his navy ships.
On the Navy ships, there is a very limited variety of drinks available. Therefore, once alcohol was prohibited, coffee became the drink of choice.
Navy sailors began drinking coffee every day and called it their “daily cup of Joe” to mock their superior’s decision. Originally, they would call is a cup of Joseph Daniels, and it was later shortened to a cup of Joe. This spread from all the navy officers to many of the port cities. From there it became ingrained in our American vocabulary.
The first usage of this phrase was in 1931 in a Reserve Officer’s Manual. The ban happened in 1914 so we are skeptical about this theory. Another issue is coffee was regularly available on ships while alcohol was never in abundance. Even with the ban sailors may not have been affected much.
Another military-based theory may be from U.S. Soldiers in World War I. All the coffee issued to Amry men were from the G. Washington Coffee Refining Co. Soldiers may have referenced the brand “Geroge” and called their coffees cups of George until it was shortened to Geo. which was pronounced “Joe”.
The Average Joe
Coffee, the people’s drink. The average joe’s morning beverage… People may have associated coffee with a common name such as Joe as it became readily available and popular. During the 1930s and 1940s common men were called Joes. The average man who was in the military was referred to as a G. I. Joe.
The common man’s drink. We like the sound of that. This is a good theory and could be the explanation of why coffee is often called Joe.
Joe could have come from the combination of two different names of coffee at the time. In 1930, the most common names for coffee was mocha and java. By combining these two words together you get the word “Joe”.
Jamoke is another combination of the slang words java and mocha. Jamoke itself is a nickname and could have been shortened to a cup of joe as well.
This could be a possible explanation, but would not explain how the word caught on so easily and why it became a widespread nickname for coffee.
Martinson Coffee Company
A cup of go might actually be a long-forgotten form of advertising for a coffee company. Martinson coffee company trademarked the term “cup of Joe”. This company was founded in New York City in 1898. For instance, coffee at this establishment was frequently cups of joe or “Joe’s Coffee” and was known by this by all the locals.
By being at a cultural hub in the center of New York City it is possible that this lingo has spread from one coffee roaster in 1898. Millions of people travel to and from New York City and they could have picked up this nickname for coffee during their time there.
Perhaps A Combination of Theories?
After researching all the theories for calling coffee cups of joe some seem more believable than others.
Our insight is it might be a combination of many of these theories. All we know is the nickname has stuck and we’ll continue using it for years to come!
Why Is Coffee Called Java?
Coffee got its nickname java from the Island from Java during the 1600s. This is when the Dutch introduced coffee to Southeast Asia. The island where they began planing coffee was on Java and therefore they called the coffee “java”.
It is believed that the Dutch were the first to use the name for the island and the coffee. It was used to refer to the origin of the coffee from Java.
Nowadays, Java no longer refers to the island, but the coffee itself. Coffee is still grown on java today, and a lot of the arabica production originates from the original plants that were brought over by the Dutch in the 1600s.
In the 1800s a coffee disease wiped out many of the coffee trees on the island. Many of the desirable arabica trees have been replaced by heartier robusta coffees.
Just remember that good authentic “java” comes from the island of Java and is an arabica coffee.
Interestingly there is a programming language named after Java. It debuted in 1995 with a cup of coffee as the icon. This programming language is still used and taught today. In other words, it’s interesting to know that an island in Southeast Asia would become the nickname for good coffee and a programming language!
Why Is Coffee Called Mocha?
To understand why coffee is called “mocha” we have to go back to the origins of coffee. First, I will explain why we call it coffee.
The earliest documentation of coffee growing, drinking, and trade is in Yemen. This is in the Middle East on the very bottom of the Arabian Peninsula. It has been around since the 1400s. However, coffee was originally used for religion. It quickly grew beyond just religious uses. As a result, coffee culture spread as well.
The Dutch had the word Koffie, which is the Turkish version of an Arabic for coffee. This eventually turned into the word coffee after hundreds of years.
Similarly, Mocha was a generic term of coffee in Yemen. The popularity of coffee spread from Yemen so the did the slang. As a result, mocha spread along the trade routes. However, the term mocha became popular in Europe via trade routes to Egypt, Malta, Syria, and Turkey.
Yemen still exports coffee branded as authentic “Arabian Mocha”.
Some of Our Favorite Nicknames for Coffee
- High Octane – This is mainly used for gasoline used for high-performance race car engines.
- Jamoke – A nickname make from the combination of Java and Mocha.
- Jitter Juice
- Rocket Fuel
- Brain Juice
- Battery Acid
- Bean Juice
- Black Ichor – Ichor is the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods.
- Black Tea
- Caffeine Fix
- Cupped Lightning
- Kaffe – The Swedish word for coffee.
- Rocket Fuel
- Juan Valdez’s Best – Juan Valdez is the fictional character used in advertisements for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia.
Thoughts On Coffee
There are many names for coffee. In other words, this is the result of the passion of millions of coffee lovers.
Whatever you prefer to call your coffee it is one of the healthiest and tastiest drinks you can make. In conclusion, lets cheers to another cup of coffee!
Above all, please comment below what you call your coffee and we can add it to the blog!