Coffee goes by many names. Some, such as espresso or mocha refer to a specific type of coffee. Others are more synonymous with “coffee” as a general term for the beverage that we love so much. Here’s a look at two of the most common alternative names for coffee, “cup of joe” and “java,” that don’t refer to a specific kind of coffee.
Four Theories Behind “Cup of Joe”
As we’ve previously written in “Why is coffee called a ‘cup of joe?,’” there are four main theories that try to explain where the term “cup of joe” came from:
- Martinson Joe was a well-known coffee roaster in New York City in the early 1900s, and it could be a reference to his coffee
- Secretary of the Navy Josephus “Joe” Daniels banned alcohol from U.S. naval ships in 1914, making coffee the strongest drink allowed aboard
- Jamoke, which is a combination of “Java” and “Mocha,” was a popular term for coffee in the 1930s, and it may have been shortened to “joe”
- the term may mimic the saying “the average joe,” as coffee is the average person’s beverage
Which of these theories is true, as we commented in our previous blog post, remains uncertain.
The Origins of Java Are More Certain
Where “java” came from is much more clear than the history behind “cup of joe.” In the 17th century, the Dutch brought coffee to Southeast Asia, specifically to Bali, Sumatra and the island of Java.
“Java,” we might assume was an early term used to describe single-origin coffee that came from Java. It was probably only used by Dutch traders at first, but the term eventually was adopted by people throughout the world. As its use expanded from traders to the general public, so did its meaning. Thus, today it’s widely used by many people not as a technical term for single-origin coffee from Java but as a general term for coffee.
The many different names used for coffee reveal its long history and many variations. Coffee is a complex beverage that can be enjoyed many different ways, whether you call it “coffee,” “a cup of joe,” “java” or something else.