Do you know where the expression 'cup of joe' comes from?

Whether you call it 'Cup of Joe', 'Cuppa Joe' or 'Cup O' Joe' this commonly used phrase used to signify a cup of hot coffee has an enigmatic origin. Although it's not 100% certain, there are a few clues as to where this term originated from. Did you know that one of them actually has roots in North Carolina history?! 

  1. "Cup of Jamoke" - There is one theory that the term 'Cup of Joe' derived from this expression which was a shortened combination of the words 'java' and 'mocha'. This origin was given in a military officer's manual from 1931, around when the term first appeared.
  2. Just an average 'Joe' - It could also be that coffee was considered the drink of the common man and perhaps using "joe" signified the average “fellow" or "guy”.
  3. "Cup of George" - During World War I, US soldiers referred to a serving of instant coffee made by the G. Washington Coffee Refining Company as a "cup of George". This could mean that the common abbreviation of the name "George" ("Geo.") was then read as "Joe".
  4. US Navy Use - Josephus Daniels, the Secretary of the U.S. Navy who was born and raised in North Carolina, was said to have abolished the ship officers' wine mess and made coffee the strongest drink available on ships. Some critics consider this is unlikely because there is no mention of the phrase "cup of joe" until 1930, over 15 years after the 1914 order banning the wine mess. Other sources consider the Daniels derivation unlikely for the opposite reason: they say "cup of joe" predates the order.

No matter which way you say it or where you believe it came from, we still appreciate the reference and nickname for our favorite beverage. The term, in its not-so-literal sense, is also used to figuratively describe one's personal preference. We may always keep guessing why such a commonly used expression has no single origin, but we can say with all certainty that coffee is our 'cup of joe'. ;-)

You may also be familiar with the local coffee shop in downtown Raleigh, NC called 'Cup A Joe' which has been serving up this hot beverage for over two decades. We are actually long time customers of the local cafe and have enjoyed their coffee and lunch sandwiches for many years. You could say our love and appreciation for coffee was fulfilled at Cup A Joe with a 'Cuppa Joe'. 


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