Why Is Coffee Called A "Cup of Joe"?

Don't you love waking up and gulping down that strong, frothy, delicious cup of coffee? Everything about coffee is brilliant. No wonder it is so loved all around the world. As tasty as coffee is, it is also deeply interesting, with too many stories around it. One of the most interesting things about coffee is the many names that are associated with it.

A cup of Joe is a nickname frequently used for coffee. It instantly makes you wonder if there was a Joe somewhere who loved making coffee, but this is not where the name comes from. So, where did this nickname arise, and why is it so popular?

Why Is Coffee Called a "Cup of Joe"?
A cup of Joe is not the only other name coffee has. Other phrases and words, such as Java, battery acid, and more, also know it. For many of these names, such as Java or a hot mug of Java, the origin story is known worldwide. However, things are a bit different and murkier for a cup of Joe.

Several theories address why coffee is called Joe, but none has solid evidence. So, a cup of Joe is still a major mystery. But these theories do give some idea. Let's find out what they say.

The Real Life Josephus Daniels or "Joe"?
The theory regarding Josephus Daniels is the most commonly narrated one to address the mystery of a "cup of joe." The name is believed to have originated between world war I and the 1930s. In this famous tale, Josephus Daniels was the appointed secretary to the Navy under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson during World War I.

Daniels was known for forming and imposing strict rules on the Navy, and one such rule came when he banned the consumption and use of alcohol for all naval bases. With alcohol gone, coffee was the only strong beverage for the officers. To mock this decision of Josephus Daniels, the sailors started referring to coffee as a cup of Josephus. Since this was too wordy, it was quickly shortened to a "cup of Joe."

However, this theory is widely criticized by experts and historians. The wide criticism of this theory came because the earliest mention of the nickname was in 1930, more than a decade after Daniels first issued the order, which doesn't seem too likely. However, it is not completely impossible either. So, this theory largely remains unconfirmed.

Chaos In The Language
Another theory that is floated around is simpler and may be true. It comes from our love for shortening long phrases and complicated words. It is the effort to soothe the chaos in the language and make it simpler.

In this theory, it is believed that the word Joe comes from the amalgamation of two other nicknames of coffee – Java and Jamoke. They are popular names for coffee with known origins. Jamoke itself is known to be another combination of Java and Mocha. And Joe is believed to be an even shorter word formed by bringing together Java and Jamoke.

This theory is not completely unbelievable, as it is common for youngsters to mix words and use shortened versions as slang. Again, there is no solid evidence for this, but it is another famous theory.

A Drink for the Average Joe
Coffee is popular for being a drink for the common man. In American culture, the common man is called the average Joe in slang terms. After World War II, restaurants and food places popped up everywhere, and common people often came to different places to have breakfast. Coffee is commonly consumed with breakfast, and it was popular with people having their everyday breakfast at those places.

So, coffee became known as a drink for the average Joe or a cup of Joe. Another theory does not have strong evidence and is only used sparingly.

The Good Old Days Of Martinson Coffee
Today Martinson Coffee is not widely known, but back in the late 1890s, it was a grand coffee company. It came into being in 1898, and the founder was Joe Martinson. He was known to have a big and grand personality, so much so that coffee was soon popular with "Joe's coffee" or "a cup of joe."

The company got a trademark for the phrase "a cup of joe" as they were adamant that the slang term was coined by the Martinson Coffee company. The business grew, and the slang term went from a local name to an international one and was soon widely popular in the 1930s and beyond.

Fun Fact: Martinson coffee appeared in the second season of the highly popular show Mad Men in episode 7.

What's The Most Popular Theory?
The first theory where the term came from amidst the grounds of World War I is undoubtedly the most popular one. While there isn't any written record during that time, the mention of the phrase "a cup of joe" in 1931 was found in a report written by an official military Erdman.

Coffee was also a very loved drink in military circles. So, while there may be no record at the time, the theory of Josephus Daniels is not too unlikely.
During the early times, the George Washington company was the first ever to mass-produce coffee. George was an immigrant who used to supply coffee in different forms to the military. This is a different George Washington than the president. Due to the name George, the soldiers started referring to the coffee cup as a cup of George which was later shortened to a cup of Joe. It is another theory related to the military during the same time.

The Verdict
Considering how largely coffee is related to the military in so many theories, it is no wonder that the first theory is the most popularly quoted one. Some may argue that the Jamoke theory is more likely as we have often seen it happen other times too.

A cup of Joe could have come from any one of the theories. What you believe may vary with your research and perception. But the bottom line remains the same – we love coffee. If you want to get fresh-roasted coffee right from the best farms, Altruistic Joe is the solution. What's even better is that you'll be buying coffee, where a portion of your sale will be going to a charitable cause that matters. Drink coffee and make the world a better place!