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Coffee Tips

Why is Coffee Called a “Cup of Joe?”

Coffee has a ton of nicknames, and one that has become popular over time is “cup of joe.” The nickname is quite confusing, with no distinctively known origin. Other coffee nicknames like Java are unlike “cup of joe” because the name associates with a particular coffee-growing area.

cup of joe

The name “cup of joe” is believed to rise from four theories, two of which arose from language and another two arose from history. The first written documentation being in the 1930s, precisely 1936.

Martinson Coffee is trademarked as Joe’s Coffee.

This has a historical note to it. The nickname “cup of joe” was branded by Martinson Coffee. They suggested that the nickname originates from the early years of the company. Joe Martinson founded Martinson coffee in 1898 in New York. The founder was someone who attracted a lot of attention and, without doubt, could have made coffee to be referred to as a cup of joe or joe’s coffee by the locals as a form of reference to his name. In the 1930s, it could have subsequently been extended beyond just an alias to a commonly used nickname.

(Martinson coffee remains a classic despite it might be unfamiliar to many. Andy Warhol often painted the cans of the coffee. The coffee recently appeared in the series Mad men, in episode 7 of the second season.)

The ban of Alcohol on ships by Josephus “Joe” Daniels

This is another historic event that supports the theory of the nickname. In order to prepare young men towards the beginning of world war I, Josephus “Joe” Daniels, the navy secretary, banned Alcohol in 1914 from all Navy ships in the U.S. the available alternative was coffee as the closest strong drink available on the ships.

The few men who were used to drinking Alcohol referred to coffee as a “cup of joe” as a way of voicing their opposition towards the navy secretary’s ban.

Although, the account of this theory does not provide a complete sequence of events. There is a gap between when the ban occurred in 1914 and when it became widely used in the 1930s. To account for the gap, it is believed that the nickname “cup of joe” lost approval on the sailor’s return in the 1920s. It resurfaced later in the 1930s during the prohibition.

Language origin from Java and Mocha

Coffee has some other nicknames, and two of them (which are still popular among modern-day coffee lovers) are Java and mocha. The language origin believes that the nickname joe arrives from the abbreviated combination of Java and mocha called Jamoke. The 1930s saw the nickname Jamoke as a common word for coffee. In a bid to abbreviate the nickname Jamoke, it gave rise to “joe”; hence a “cup of joe.”

The Ordinary Man’s Drink

The name joe in simple English translates as an ordinary man. Coffee became the drink of the ordinary man after World War II. The 1940s and 1950s came with various restaurants and cafes; this made coffee a common drink served alongside breakfast for the working-class men of the time. This frequent patronage from ordinary men is believed to be the origin of the nickname “cup of joe.”

Every single theory cannot distinctively account for the specific origin of the nickname “cup of joe.” The only certain fact is that the nickname first came on records in the 1930s. And from the 1980s has gained so much popularity.