When you wake up in the morning, do you ever awaken to the wonderful aroma of something brewing in the kitchen? Hearty and rich, the smell of a freshly-brewing pot of coffee can bring you to life and lift you right out of bed. Are you ready for a big cup of joe? How about a hot mug of java?
Coffee is a beloved drink of millions of people around the world. It is so loved that it has spawned all sorts of endearing nicknames. Two of the most common are “java" and “cup of joe." So how did coffee come to be known by these interesting nicknames?
When it comes to the nickname java, the explanation is fairly straightforward. When coffee became quite popular way back in the 1800s, the main source of the world's coffee at that time was the Indonesian island named Java. So it was only natural that a mug of hot coffee would come to be known as java.
But what about a "cup of joe?" That common nickname has been around a long time, but its origins are still a bit mysterious. There are several theories that have been put forth, but none of them can claim to be the definitive explanation.
Some believe that the origin of “cup of joe" stems from a 1914 ban on alcohol on U.S. Navy ships imposed by the Secretary of the Navy Josephus “Joe" Daniels. After his order, imposed near the beginning of World War I, the strongest drink a sailor could get on a ship was black coffee.
Those who believe this theory claim that sailors, angry about the ban, began to call coffee a “cup of joe" in protest. However, historians have cast doubt on this theory. For starters, alcohol was not widely available on Navy ships prior to the ban, so the ban would've had very little, if any, practical effect.
More importantly, historians believe that “cup of joe" didn't first enter the English language until about 1930. Linguists believe it came into being at that time as a corruption of another nickname common at that time: jamoke. Jamoke was itself a combination of nicknames java and mocha. Experts believe that, over time, jamoke may have transformed into joe, since it's natural for slang terms to shorten over the years.
Another theory holds that coffee came to be known as joe, because joe itself is a slang term for a common fellow, guy, or chap. In other words, coffee became a cup of joe because it was considered the common man's drink.
Which theory makes the most sense to you? After all these years, it's basically impossible to definitively prove one way or another how these terms came to be. All of the theories might hold some bit of the truth, or they could all be wrong! Perhaps it's a debate best left as a discussion amongst friends…over a cup of joe, of course!