You’re probably familiar with the movie cliche: A roadside dinner, an overweight cook with a cigarette in his mouth, and a sarcastic waitress holding a pot of Coffee. And what does she say when the main character walks in?

“Lemme get you a cuppa Joe, hunny.” Which prompts the question: “Why is Coffee called Joe in America?” It’s time everyone NOT from the States found out!

Whether you’re from New York or “old” York, Texas or Sydney in Australia, the answers are waiting to be discovered in the following article.

Perhaps best of all, regardless of where you call home, The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company offers the finest Coffee Beans around. These we pack fresh to order - along with some 1,000 types of Loose Tea - ensuring quality and consistency.

American Coffee History

American Coffee History

If you’re a Coffee fan - and we suspect you are! - you might well have wondered, “Who Discovered Coffee and Where Did it Originate?” The short answer, at least according to legend, is a goat herder from Ethiopia.

But what about the history of Coffee in America? Suffice to say, it’s not quite as old as the African story, although it still has countless elements of intrigue!

It was the British who introduced these much-loved beans to the New World in the mid-17th century. Though relatively popular at the time, widespread consumption took off following the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

This would be one of the sparks that led to the American Revolution (1775-1783) when quintessentially English Loose Tea was replaced by red, white and blue Fresh Coffee.

Around a hundred years later, during the American Civil War (1861-1865), soldiers continued to brew up for the caffeine energy boost. The 26th President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt would later drink it as if it was going out of fashion!

From the Wild West to Washington, D.C., Coffee became a distinct part of the culture. But the question remains over why is Coffee called Joe in America?

Why is Coffee Called Joe in America?

You know the basics around the history of Coffee culture in America. Allow us now to move on to the reason you’re here. There are several theories surrounding the term “Cup of Joe”, the most famous stemming from a controversial figure and former United States Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

In 1914, Daniels banned alcohol consumption on all Navy ships - not a popular move, to say the least.

Since Coffee was the next strongest substitute, seamen and women deemed it “a cup of Josephus” out of spite. But it was a bit of a mouthful. Instead, sailors shortened it to - you guessed it - Joe. So that’s that, right? Wrong.

The story appears to be unfounded as the term only appeared in writing for the first time in 1930 - several years after the U.S. Navy’s ban on alcohol.

Another potential answer to the question, “Why is Coffee called a cup of Joe?” is a matter of linguistics. According to the theory, “Joe” is the simplified form of the word “jamoke,” which, in the 19th century, was a nickname for Coffee.

This, in turn, was a blending of the words ”Java,” referring to renowned Java Coffee, and Mocha, denoting Ethiopian Mocha Coffee. We’ve come full circle!

Yet there is still one more theory that the word “Joe” is slang, such as “They’re just an average Joe.” The chances are you’ve heard it before, typically in association with a common man - or woman! - on the street.

Perhaps a neighbour, a friend of a friend, or your local goat herder (that last one was a joke). Ordinary they might be, but the Joe they drink is, without a doubt, extraordinary.

Summary to Why is Coffee Called Joe in America

Why does Coffee get called Joe in the United States? The most likely tale is the second one, that “Java” and “Mocha” made “jamoke,” which was then shortened to “Joe.”

All that’s left, it would seem, is to buy the best Coffee beans from The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. We stock around 70 types, so you’ll almost certainly be spoilt for choice. Start your journey today. 

Author: Richard Smith

Partner at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company

Richard Smith is a Tea expert, entrepreneur, and owner of The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. Part of a family of renowned Tea planters dating back four generations, he was born in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, where he spent his childhood between Tea Estates in Assam and Darjeeling.

In the late 1970s, having accumulated years of knowledge in the industry, Mr Smith and his mother, Janet Smith, moved to Kent, South East England, to establish a Tea business in the village of Pluckley. Their early days of packing Tea Bags by hand from chests of 10,000 prompted the creation of the company’s flagship infusion known as Pluckley Tea. It remains our most popular product today.

Mr Smith, who studied economics at London Polytechnic, has since specialised in over 1,000 types of Loose Leaf Tea - in addition to around 70 varieties of Roast Coffee - from around the world. These are now available at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, where everything is still packed by hand and fresh to order, not only to honour tradition but to ensure the utmost quality and consistency.