Why Is Coffee Called Joe?

There’s no question that coffee is one of the most versatile drinks. For one, it exists in many forms, from mocha to latte, espresso, among others. Secondly, it can be prepared in a dozen different ways. You can choose to take iced, drip, brewed, or steamed coffee.

But there’s one question that lingers in the minds of many coffee lovers. Why is coffee called a cup of Joe? In the following post, we’ll explain the origin of this term, and other nicknames given to coffee.

Why Is Coffee Called A Cup of Joe?

A ‘cup of Joe’ is one of the most popular nicknames for coffee, and it has some pretty intriguing origin stories. 

According to one theory, it all started with Josephus Daniels, former secretary of the Navy during World War 1. Daniels had initially worked as a newspaper editor and publisher in North Carolina. But as luck would have it, he was appointed Secretary of the Navy by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. 

As secretary, Daniels tried to instill a sense of morality into the Navy. So, he imposed a ban on alcohol consumption and even increased the number of chaplains in the Navy. Following the alcohol ban, coffee was the next most potent substitute that the American sailors had on board of U.S. Navy Ships during and after World War I. 

Not surprisingly, these sailors on U.S. Navy Ships named it ‘a cup of Josephus’ after Josephus Daniels, which later came to be shortened to ‘a cup of Joe.’ 

Although it’s a fascinating concept, this tale probably isn’t accurate. This is because the phrase ‘cup of Joe’ wasn’t documented until 1930, long after the prohibition of alcohol consumption in the Navy.

Another legend has it that the term was shortened from coffee’s nickname: ‘Jamoke’. Jamoke is derived by combining the words ‘java’ and ‘mocha.’ 

Still, others claim that the name ‘Joe’ is used in reference to an average man, So, the term cup of Joe stands for the average, no-fuss coffee for the average, no-fuss person. In slang, the word is used to refer to a ‘fellow, guy, or chap.’ As such, people likely called coffee a ‘cup of Joe’ to refer to a beverage taken by any average individual and using it to describe a common man’s drink.

No matter where it came from, if you order a cup of Joe at your favorite coffee shop then the barista undoubtedly knows what you want! Common man’s drink or not, everyone knows that you want a cup of good coffee when you order a cup of Joe!

Why Is Coffee Called Java?

Another name that is used instead of joe’s coffee for this popular drink is ‘Java’. 

While many legends are surrounding the coffee plant’s origin, what is certain is that it was first discovered in the Ethiopian plateau. When Arabians got to know about the plant’s potential, they took it back with them to Yemen. 

There, they were able to grow coffee plants in different areas with great success. Growing coffee on a commercial scale became so profitable that a ban was imposed to prevent the plant’s export. 

Despite this prohibition, a group of Dutch merchants remained undeterred. Their determination saw them steal a couple of coffee plants, which they took back to Indonesia, which was then a Dutch colony. Here, coffee was grown on several islands such as Sulawesi, Sumatra, and, you guessed it, Java!

Java became the main island and source of coffee exported to other parts of the world. It did not take long before Indonesia became a significant exporter of coffee worldwide. 

As the coffee trade expanded, so was this term adopted in many other countries. Currently, ‘Java’ is a general term used to refer to coffee, not just coffee exported from the island of Java. 

What Does Jamocha Mean?

Jamocha is another name for jamoke; hence, it originates from the same combination of the words ‘Java’ and ‘Mocha.’ The two are some of the most popular coffee-growing areas in the world. 

As we explained earlier, the Dutch established large coffee plantations on the Indonesian island of Java. Mocha, on the other hand, is a port on Yemen’s southwestern coast, and it borders the Red Sea. This region was and still is a significant producer of some of the world’s most excellent coffee.

When the term ‘Jamocha’ first appeared in the 19th century, it was only used to refer to coffee. But nowadays, it’s used in reference to coffee or chocolate mixed with ice cream and other frozen confections. 

What Are Other Names for Coffee?

Coffee goes by so many other names such as cuppa, rocket fuel, and more. Here’s a breakdown of coffee’s other nicknames:

Rocket fuel 

One of the main reasons why people take coffee is because of the energy boost it provides. 

A reasonable amount of coffee can increase your energy and make you feel less fatigued. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as rocket launch/fuel.

Jitter juice

Unfortunately, this nickname is used in reference to the negative effect of taking excess coffee. For most healthy adults, the recommended amount of coffee intake is 400 milligrams (equivalent to 4 cups) per day. 

Above this, the beverage causes adverse effects, one of which involves jittery sensations. This explains why coffee is also called the ‘jitter juice.’ Other results you can experience if you drink too much coffee are insomnia, irritability, and increased thirst. However, if you order a cup of jitter juice in a coffee shop, you might get blank stares. Stick with ordering just a cup of Joe instead!

How Is Caffeine In Coffee Affected By Sugar And Cream?

High octane

Coffee is sometimes called high octane. The concept behind this nickname is not that different from why it’s also called rocket fuel. Essentially, taking coffee gives you an instant energy boost in the same way that high octane powers gasoline engines. 


Another common nickname for coffee is ‘cuppa’, which is the short form for ‘a cup of’. In our case, this means a cup of coffee. But in some regions, mainly England, a cuppa is slang for a ‘cup of tea’.


In some parts of the world, coffee is also referred to as mud. This term is mainly used to refer to Israeli/Turkish coffee. It’s given this name because the coffee grounds (Reusing Coffee Grounds several times – Can I do that?) don’t dissolve entirely in water; hence, leaving a grainy mixture that resembles mud. 

Cupped Lighting

Although the percentage of the global population that takes coffee is pretty high, there are a few tea diehards. 

If you’re a tea-lover or have never taken coffee in your life, drinking coffee for the first time is quite an experience. Some people have described this feeling as being hit by lightning, which is why coffee is sometimes called ‘cupped lightning’. 

Final Thoughts

Have you ever wondered why coffee is called Joe? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is because it’s a beverage that’s taken by the average man, or rather the average Joe. 

Another school of thought has it that the cup of Joe was named after Joe (short for Josephus) Daniels. As secretary of the Navy, he’d banned alcohol consumption, leaving American sailors with coffee as the only substitute. In return, the sailors sarcastically named the drink after him. 

For such a versatile drink, it comes as no surprise that it has dozens of other nicknames. These include Java, Jamocha, cuppa, cupped lightning, rocket fuel, high octane, jitter juice, and mud.

However, the best known is the cup of Joe. Ordering a cup of Joe in any coffee shop or restaurant will get you want you want!

Please use the above image to share the history of why coffee is called Joe on social media!
Please follow and like us:
Exit mobile version