1 The Trademark of the Nickname
The nickname “cup of joe” has been trademarked by Martinson Coffee. Probably, they are trying to suggest that the term came from the early years of the company. The company was founded by Joe Martinson in New York, 1898. There are possibilities of coffee being called a “cup of joe” or “Joe’s coffee” after him, who had a larger-than-life kind of a personality. As the brand grew, the local nickname may have emerged into a more commonly used nickname by the ‘30s.
2 Several Theories and Ideas
The very common nickname of coffee, “a cup of joe” has been around for a very long time. Interestingly, there is a mystery to the origin of this endearing nickname. Many theorists, experts, and coffee lovers have come up with their theories but none seems to present a definite explanation. Nobody is certain of which theory is true or partially true. Interestingly, the term got even more popular after 1980.
3 Is it because of an Alcohol Ban?
Some credit the origins of “cup of joe” stemming from the alcohol ban in the ships of the U.S. Navy. This was imposed in the year 1914 by Josephus “Joe” Daniels, the Secretary of the U.S. Navy. This order was imposed when World War I was about to begin and black coffee was the strongest beverage that sailors could drink on the ship.
It is claimed by the believers of this theory that sailors started calling coffee “cup of joe” as a sign of protest against the ban. Historians, however, doubt and even shun this theory. Before the ban, the Navy ships didn’t even alcohol available widely. Hence, the ban would have had little to no practical outcomes. According to them, “cup of joe” became a part of the English language after 1930.
4 Did it Come from ‘Jamoke’?
As per the linguists, the nickname is nothing but a product of another nickname gone corrupted over time. During that time “jamoke” was another common word used for coffee. Java and mocha, two other popular nicknames, combine to form “jamoke”. Experts are of the opinion that “jamoke” evolved into “joe” through the course of time as slang terms naturally get shortened over a time period. (See What are the health benefits of drinking Green Tea?)
5 A Common Man’s Beverage
An interesting theory also claims that the name Joe was given to coffee because the word is actually slang for the common guy, chap, or fellow. To put it simply, coffee turned out to be a “cup of joe” as it was regarded as the “common man’s drink”.