Why Is Coffee Called Joe?

Coffee lovers refer to their jitter juice as their morning cup of joe — but why is coffee called joe, though? Read on to know more about it's exciting history.

old look of a coffee beside a journal notebook - why is coffee called joe
Coffee has rich history if we delve more on its names over the years

You know you love your morning cup of joe — but did you ever stop to think where the common name for coffee originated?

Coffee wasn't always called joe, and has gone through many nicknames over the years. 

Here, we'll take a look at how coffee got the nickname joe, and how other lesser-known nicknames became a part of the coffee lover's vernacular. 

Where Did Coffee Come From?

Storied legends abound on the origins of coffee, but one fact is clear: the bean originated in Ethiopia. The story says that a goat herder named Kaldi discovered the beans. After his goats ate coffee beans, Kaldi noticed that they were so energetic they had trouble sleeping at night. 

Upon recognizing the power of coffee consumption, Kaldi went to his local monastery and alerted monks of his discovery. The monks worked to create a hot drink, and thus, coffee was born. 

Long before anyone imagined lattes and espressos, coffee traveled far and wide around the world. From Ethiopia, word of the magic of a cup of coffee traveled to the Arabian Peninsula and soon became well known in Egypt, Persia, Turkey, and Syria. 

Old-world coffee houses weren't too far off from the java spots we know and love today. People would gather to enjoy a cup of joe, talk, listen to music, watch performances, and play chess. 

By the mid-1600s, coffee made its way to London, with more than 300 coffee houses in the city alone. Soon after, coffee was found in New York (called New Amsterdam at the time). At first, an afternoon cuppa was still heavily favored over coffee.

After the Boston Tea Party, preferences changed fast, and Americans began to flock to coffee shops to make conversation, see friends, and stay up to date on the latest news. 

Coffee And The Military

Man drinking coffee on fenced ranch in the morning
Soldiers were encouraged to drink coffee instead of whiskey in an effort to increase their morality

Just before prohibition began in the United States, there was a push to increase the morality of the military. Soldiers were encouraged to swap out their whiskey for a cup of coffee (for the long version of this story, check out 1914's General Order 99). This push was led by none other than the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels.

How Secretary Of The US Navy Josephus “Joe” Daniels Became Coffee's Namesake

Soldiers knew that the man behind the sudden push for a new moral standard was none other than Daniels. A push to give up booze wasn't Daniels' only crusade in upping the military standard. He also increased the number of chaplains employed by the military and worked to discourage soldiers from patronizing prostitutes. 

Quickly, soldiers began referring to their morning pick-me-up a cup of joe. The name caught on quickly, both on U.S. Navy ships and around the world. 

Another Theory: Martinson Coffee

In 1898, Joe Martinson founded a coffee shop called “Joe's Coffee,” and it's possible that this is another reason why the moniker “cup of joe” caught on so quickly. While the Martinson name might not ring a bell with coffee lovers today, fans of the AMC drama Mad Men may remember a mention of the Martinson brand during season two. 

Other Slang Terms For The Common Man's Drink

While a cup of joe is one of the most well-known nicknames for coffee, it's not the only one out there. 

Other slang terms for coffee include: 

Java

Also known as “coffee island,” the island of Java is a large area in Indonesia with copious amounts of arabica coffee plants. 

coffee cherries harvest held by two hands
The name Java is inspired from an Indonesian island with a dedicated number of Arabica coffee plants

Jamocha

The slang term jamocha comes from combining the words Java and mocha, a chocolatey delight for coffee drinkers around the globe. Over time, this term transformed into “jamoke,” and was used as an insult. 

Jitter juice

If you've ever had one too many cups of joe in the morning, you know exactly how this common nickname became a part of the coffee lovers' vernacular. A little bit of caffeine is a great way to get going, but too much can make you feel like you can't sit still. 

The Final Word on Why Is Coffee Called Joe?

It's likely that the common coffee nickname “cup of joe” originated from Secretary of the Navy Josephus “Joe” Daniels, with some influence from Joe's Coffee in New York. No matter where the name came from, it's become a common part of speech for coffee lovers everywhere. 

FAQs On Why Is Coffee Called Joe?

Why is coffee called a cup of joe?

The term likely originated when Josephus “Joe” Daniels, US Navy Secretary, pushed soldiers to drink coffee instead of alcohol in an attempt to boost the morality of the military.
 

What are some other common nicknames for coffee?

Common nicknames for coffee include Java, jamocha, and jitter juice. 
 

Author

  • Amanda Turner is a runner, writer, mom, and military spouse living in San Angelo, Texas. A former track coach, Amanda loves encouraging and working with new runners who are just beginning to love the endorphin rush that hits a few strides after the finish line. When she's not running or writing, Amanda, her husband, and their three-year-old love traveling and spending time outdoors.