Why Do We Call Coffee A “Cup Of Joe”?

Why Do We Call Coffee A "Cup Of Joe"

Find and bookmark our home page at http://www.coffeetimeuk.com/

Also see:

The origins of words are often surprising, sometimes unusual and often weird. Who would’ve thought that the beautiful orchid, resplendent in all its colourful glory is derived from the Latin “Orchis”…which means testicle. Apparently it has something to do with the shape of the bulb.

We borrow words from other languages, we change their meaning over time and sometimes - we just make them up. While in a coffee shop last week I heard someone order an “Expresso”. It’s enough to make anyone flustrated.

So, armed with a dictionary and the contact details of Stephen Fry, we’re going to take a look at the wonderful world of coffee, and examine how many of the words we hear so regularly got their name.

Cup of Joe

There are a number of theories as to why we refer to coffee as a cup of Joe.

The first and refers to Joseph “Joe” Daniels. Secretary of the Navy during World War I banned alcohol aboard US Naval ships. You can almost hear the Navy weep. With nothing stronger than caffeine to fuel their war bound bodies, naval men turned to coffee. As a sad and possibly angry homage to the man who banned their grog, they nicknamed their new found drink a cup of Joe.

The second theory is that “Joe” is compression of the slang term “Jamoke”. A word that was regularly used to describe a cup of Java and Mocha. It’s certainly possible that the linguistically lazy shortened the word to give their over-used vocal chords a rest. At least it’s better than Mochva…..which sounds like Russian missile.

The final theory refers to the use of the word Joe as a description for a regular guy, chap, fellow, bloke, geezer and/or dude…..depending on your own preference or affinity with surfing.

The English lexicon is full of instances where “Joe” is referred to as the common man or “average Joe”. Therefore a cup of Joe would be the fuel and drink for the common man.


Often comprised of an espresso and hot milk, the beloved Cappuccino is the diminutive form of Cappuccio, which sounds like a very short Italian. But it actually means 'hood' or something that covers the head. Cappuccino literally means small capuchin.

I always thought Capuchins were tiny monkeys, which admittedly there are, but the name also refers to the Capuchin order of monks and nuns who got the name for their brown hooded habits or robes.

Their brown robes were so distinctive that the word capuchin became a recognised word to describe the red/brown colour of their robes. Which remarkably resembles the colour of a cappuccino coffee. You can probably figure out the rest yourself.


The origins of the word espresso are derived from the Italian “caffe espresso” which means “pressed out coffee”. It refers to the idea of "expressing" or squeezing the flavour from the coffee using the pressure of the steam. Mmmm hot steam.

Others contend that the word refers to the notion of doing something "expressly" for a person. The first Bezzera and Pavoni espresso machines in 1906 took 45 seconds to make a cup of coffee, one at a time, expressly for you.


Not a difficult one to figure out. Java coffee is, well, from Java. The Dutch East India Company starting planting and trading coffee from the Indonesian island as late back as 1699. The beverage became popular in the 19th century and the primary source of the world's coffee that it wasn’t uncommon for coffee to be simply called Java. A term that’s still used in some countries today.

A Triple venti grande Americano chai vanilla minty mochachino caramel macchiato, half-caf, half-decaf, one Equal, skinny organic extra virgin olive oil soy breve with no foam, extra whip…..extra hot.

No-one knows where this came from, but it should stay there.