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Why is Coffee Called “Joe”?

If you’ve ever wondered why coffee is called “Joe”, you’re not alone.

It’s a common question and there are a few different theories out there. But the truth is, no one really knows for sure.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at all theories related to how people started calling coffee “Joe” as well as how coffee actually got its name in the first place.

8 Theories About How “Joe” Became Synanomous of Coffee

These are all the possible theories that led to the now immensely popular way of referring to coffee as “Joe”:


1. The Josephus Daniels Theory

It is believed that coffee got the nickname “Joe” during World War II.

The story goes that naval personnel would nickname their morning cup “a cup of Joe” in reference to then-popular Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

He was the man who prohibited the use of alcohol on ships and naval bases. So what did sailors substitute alcohol with? That’s right – coffee!

And because it couldn’t provide the effects associated with booze they gave coffee the supposedly derogatory name “a cup of Joseph”, which then simply became the shortened “a cup of Joe”.


2. The Jamoke Theory

Another possible explanation is that earlier coffee that came about during the 1930s alias known as “Jamoke”, was replaced with a simplified and more convenient version in the form of “Joe”.

Jamoke itself is a combination of two words related to coffee – mocha (a coffee drink with chocolate and milk) and java (an island in Indonesia where dutch sailors began planting coffee beans).


3. The Joe Martinson Theory

It is thought that the term cup of joe came from the company’s early years

Locally (New York), coffee may have been called “Joe’s coffee” or a “cup of joe” as the company grew hence the founder’s name – Joe Martinson.


4. The Joseph Fry Theory

Another theory is that coffee got its nickname from Joseph Fry, who invented instant coffee in 1853.

According to this theory, people started calling coffee “joe” because it was a convenient way to refer to Fry’s instant coffee.


5. The Joe Palooka Theory

It’s also thought that it comes from the 1930s comic strip Joe Palooka, in which the titular character was often seen drinking coffee.


6. The Joseph Duncan Theory

One story suggests that the term was coined by American sailors in the early 1800s who nicknamed their morning cup of coffee after Joseph Duncan, the first mate on their ship.


7. The Average Man’s Drink Theory

Another possibility is that it is derived from the term “average Joe” or ordinary man.

The idea is that this is done as a way to make coffee seem more relatable and down-to-earth for everyday people.


8. The New York City Advertising Executive Theory

Another theory goes that a New York City advertising executive was looking for a way to sell more coffee and came up with the catchy name “cup o’ joe.”


Why is coffee called Joe, a man drinking a cup of coffee


How Coffee Got Its Name

The first known reference to coffee as a beverage comes from the writings of the Spanish friar Bartolome de Las Casas in the early 1500s. The first reference to coffee as a drink is from a Turkish document written in 1550.

One theory behind the origin of the word coffee is that it comes from the Arabic word “qahwa”, meaning “beverage.” Another explanation is that the word derives from the Latin coepiscimus, meaning “to drink together.”

The word “coffee” also has Spanish roots. It comes from the word “café,” which means “coffee bean.”



The term “Joe” for coffee is thought to have originated in the early 1900s and as you now know there are a few theories about how it came to be.

Whatever its origins, the term “joe” is now used quite commonly in English vernacular and is considered perfectly acceptable terminology for coffee.

What do you think – will “Joe” continue to be used as a synonym for coffee? Or will it eventually be replaced by another term?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.

In the meantime, enjoy your cup o’ joe!



  1. https://www.rd.com/article/reason-coffee-called-cup-of-joe
  2. https://theroasterie.com/blogs/news/where-did-the-term-cup-of-joe-come-from
  3. https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-is-coffee-called-a-cup-of-joe
  4. https://driftaway.coffee/why-is-coffee-called-a-cup-of-joe/
  5. https://coffeeaffection.com/coffee-called-joe/

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