Origins of a “Cup of Joe”

30th September 2022 Off By Marketing

You have all heard the saying, A “cup of joe” and we know it means a cup of coffee. However, the question remains, where did it come from? Here are a few of the theories on how it all started.



There are various theories on where the term cup of joe originated, however, the creation has not been traced to just a single point. They are all pretty good stories that stand up well, but none of them is definitive. Here are 3 of the most popular theories.

  • Slang word in the Navy as well as a rule in the officer’s manual
  • Martinson Coffee Trademark
  • A common name for the average person’s drink

All theories come with their own background and story and they all sound reasonable enough to be true.


The Navy

It all started in 1914 when the secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels banned alcohol onboard U.S. navy ships. Sailors more than just liked their alcohol and the U.S. naval force wanted to get the problem under control. Because it was so close to the start of World War I, sailors soon found the strongest drink available was coffee.

It was no secret that this ruling annoyed the naval men. They couldn’t insult or talk back to one of the highest officers so, they started referring to their drinks as their Cup of Joe. Unfortunately, this theory doesn’t account for the twenty-year gap from when Daniels banned alcohol and the rise of “cup of Joe” in the 1930s.


The second theory started in the late 1800s when marketing was one of the major forces of pop culture. So, to answer the question “Why is coffee called a cup of Joe” comes down to some creative marketing.

It started at a New York-based company called Martinson Coffee, founded by a man named Joseph (Joe) Martinson. One of the earliest companies in the United States that sourced high-quality coffee beans from various locations around the world. Locals soon started calling the coffee at his establishment Cups of Joe or Joe’s Coffee.

It stuck, and in 1898 he trademarked the nickname. The brand is still alive today and very popular in New York, Boston, and Florida.

Average Joe

This theory doesn’t have much hard evidence behind it, but it might just be true, no one knows. Joe is a ubiquitous name, and coffee is the common man’s drink. During the 1930s and 1940s common men were called Joe, thus the phrases such as average joe, Joe six-pack, Joe schmoe and even Joe Coffee.


No one really knows where the phrase came from, so, we can conclude coffee is more than just the drink of a common man. Remember caffeine can keep you awake, try and avoid drinking coffee right before bed.