Why Is Coffee Called “A Cup of Joe”

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and it has a fascinating history. The term “coffee” is derived from the Arabic word “qahwa,” which also means “dark in color.” 

The coffee tree is cultivated in Ethiopia, but Arab traders spread it around the world in the 15th century. Many cultures have introduced coffee into their daily lives.

But enough about the history lesson, let’s talk now why it’s called “a cup of joe”. This is actually interesting, because we still don’t know how it originally got this name. We do though, have some theories to share with you!

Let's Go Back to WW1

why coffee is called cup of joe

The first theory says that the man who made it happen was Josephus Daniels, who was a secretary of the U.S. Department of the Navy in the early 1900s.

The theory says that he wanted his troops to stay awake and alert, so he discouraged them from drinking alcohol. But he knew that they needed some kind of stimulant, so he decided to try coffee. The troops called it “a cup of Joe” in his memory , and this became the name of the beverage we know today.

The "Average" Man

Another theory says that because coffee was so common among people in the early to middle 1900s, it was just like water. So they called it “cup of joe” to portray the fact that you can drink it anytime, anywhere by anyone.

If you think about it, this makes sense! In America, “average joe” refers to a regular person. It’s a polite way of saying that the person isn’t important or noteworthy in any way

It’s also a way of saying that the person isn’t a problem or won’t cause any problems. It’s another way of saying “average citizen.”

All About Marketing

The last theory, (well it’s not a theory it’s a fact!) says that a company named “Martinson Coffee Company” was marketing their coffee and wanted to increase their brand awareness.

They wanted to have coffee as an iconic symbol of the company and so they came up with the idea of trademarking the term “cup of joe” due to its growing awareness.

This worked great for them because they could use the same term to describe a wide variety of products. They could say that their coffee was the best ‘cup of joe’. This boosted sales because people loved the idea of something so simple being called “cup of joe”.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ image

What are other nicknames for coffee?

 Coffee has many nicknames. Some are common, and others are more obscure. Below is a partial list.

  • cup of joe
  • mud
  • java
  • caffeine infusion
  • brew
  • rocket fuel

Why is coffee called Java?

Java, the name given to coffee in Indonesia, is a tribute to the island and its culture. Java is as much a part of Indonesian society as it is one of the world ‘s greatest coffee producers.

The Dutch traders (1600s) that traded with the Indians adopted the word “java” from them and began bringing it back to Europe where they started calling it that way,

Why do we call it Coffee?

The word “Coffee” comes from the Arabic phrase “qahwa”. This is because the first coffee was grown in Ethiopia and was referred to as “Qahwa”. The Dutch translation of that phrase is “kaffee”… However, it has become colloquial throughout Europe with the word “coffee”!

Last Thoughts

Although all of this is debatable, we can all agree on one point: coffee is one of humanity’s greatest inventions. It brings us all together on a deeper level. Even in our daily lives, we use coffee to not only stay awake, but also to connect with friends, family, and coworkers. 

Coffee is indeed a very social beverage, which is what makes it different.