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Why is Coffee Called Joe?

Updated: May 12, 2020

Countless times you have heard coffee referred to as a "Cup of Joe". It is coffee's most common nickname. Another common nickname is "Java", but that nickname can be traced back to a specific coffee-growing region in the world. But have you ever stopped to think why coffee is referred to as Joe? We decided to do a little digging here at Cortado to see if we could figure this mystery out. We found a few different theories for this coffee nickname and we will let you decide what to believe.

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

Secretary Josephus Daniels cup of joe

One of the more popular theories come from Josephus Daniels, who was Secretary of the Navy during World War 1. Secretary Daniels banned all alcohol consumption on U.S. Navy Ships in 1914. Because coffee was the next strongest substitute, that was the popular drink aboard ship. American sailors sarcastically referred to coffee as a "cup of Josephus." The nickname for coffee stuck and was shortened to a cup of Joe for short. As we looked deeper into this theory we found that the term "cup of joe" does not appear until the 1930's, nearly two decades after the fact. It first appeared in a book in 1936. For this reason, we don't believe this theory is how the "Cup of Joe" nickname started.

Martinson Coffee

For those Mad Men fans out there, you may remember Martinson Coffee making an appearance during Episode 7 of Season 2. Martinson Coffee was Founded in the Big Apple back in 1898 by Joe Martinson, who was know for his big personality. Some say Martinson Coffee was called by locals as "Joe's coffee" or a "cup of joe". You may not be familiar with Martinson Coffee, but the company was so popular that the picture in this blog was actually painted by Andy Warhol, who loved to paint their cans. You can still buy Martinson Coffee today!

The Common Man's Drink

Joe refers to the average man - think fellow, guy, sport, chap. Some call coffee "the common man's drink", which could be the reason why the phrase Cup of Joe started.


Another theory claims the answer to our question is quite simple. "Joe" is a simplified form of the nickname "jamoke", which combines the words "java" and "mocha". So, someone would say a "Cup of Jamoke" which would get shortened down to a Cup of Joe.

No one actually knows why we call coffee a Cup of Joe. All we know is that it was first used during the 1930's and has grown in popularity since then. These are different theories we have found, but if you hear of anymore, send them our way!


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