Romancing the Joe, How Coffee Got It’s Nickname

It’s a lazy summer day and your on a tropical beach with the man of your dreams. “I love you,” he says as a warm breeze sweeps down from the sand dunes and tumbles through his sun bleached hair. “Marry me.” You start to say yes, but your voice comes out sounding like a fog horn. Lover-boy pops like a pin-pricked balloon, the sand dunes turn into your unfolded laundry pile, and you identify your alarm clock as the sound of your beautiful voice. You wipe the slobber of Mr. Right, who has sadly morphed back into a pillow, and sigh. Don’t be disappointed just make some coffee! It is scientifically proven to be the next best thing to a man after all. That’s why it’s called Joe, isn’t it? Well, it depends who you talk to.


Josephus Daniels, possible Lord of the Coffee.

A Tale of Two Joes

History presents us with two Joes who at different times were credited with being the Joe.  Neither of them, however, have a reputation for winning the hearts of fair ladies merely by espresso power.

Joe Martinson was a coffee connoisseur living in New York in the late 1880’s. Apparently he had a knack for picking the best coffee beans from the ships at the local port. He would then take them home for roasting, a process which filled the town with their delicious smell. Everyone started talking about Joe’s coffee until finally, forced by his adoring fans, he opened his own factory. Happiness and Joy reigned everywhere. The people were so thankful, and so devoted to Joe and his beans they renamed the beverage after him. So I lied, this Joe may have won the hearts of fair ladies with by the power of the bean.

Josephus Daniels, on the other hand, had no intention of filling society with coffee joy.  Josephus was Woodrow Wilsons secretary of the Navy, and  in 1914 he issued an alcohol ban on all Navy ships. The infamous General Order 99 supposedly left the men with nothing harder to drink than coffee.  When the sailors asked for a Cup of Joe, it was more along the lines of a curse than an ode of love.


guy with coffee
Does she want me? Or my coffee?


Will The Real Joe Please Stand Up?

Unfortunately, neither  of these Joes gets the title of coffee-god extraordinaire. Both are good stories, but  the term cup of Joe didn’t come into use until the 1930’s. It’s unlikely then that either of these Joes could be our man. It’s much, much too late to refer to Joe Martinson, and General Order 99 only affected officers. The enlisted, who were the bulk of the men, had been dry since 1862.

So who’s the real Joe? Well, the real Joe, it seems is  Jamoke.

Who The Heck Is Jamoke?

Well he’s not a he for one thing. Jamoke is a slang term for Java and Mocha, the ports where the first coffee blends came from. That makes Joe a slang for a slang. That’s cool, I understand. People were too tired to say the full name that’s why they needed the coffee in the first place.

So there’s no Joe in shining armor coming to the rescue?  I’m afraid not.  Never fear dear romantic, you may be able to squeeze something out of this story yet.  How about a little trip some place exotic, some place like this:


Governors villa in Mocha


Ok, so it’s a little rustic, but that’s part of its charm. Bare with me here will ya. Just look at that house and tell me you can’t imagine yourself reclining in a four poster bed while Mr. Right get’s you a steaming latte. You can have as many cups as you want because he owns the whole coffee plantation. This villa you see, is located in Yemen’s port of Mocha AKA the -moke of Jamoke. Mocha has a long history in growing coffee beans, with its zenith being around 1720. Beans still grow here, but it’s no longer on the list of big time market producers so I can’t quite guarantee the current condition of your beautiful villa.

Still not what you wanted? Well,  if you’re looking for something a little more five star, I know just the place for you.


Baturraden in Java


Strangers In the Night…

You’re destined to look across a crowded room and find tall, dark and gorgeous here. At least in your coffee cup, anyway. This is the Indonesian island of  Java! It’s the 13th largest island in the world and is still a major player in the coffee market. Even cooler, some of the colonial era plantations still produce coffee beans. The beans are super special because they are processed in a way that makes it more like the beans back in the day.

See, back when Jamoke was king, the beans had a totally different taste. Mocha beans were sweet, but acidic. Java beans had less acidity  so the two together were like the yin and yang of coffee, together they created perfect balance. Unfortunately todays Mocha-Java blends aren’t the same. For one thing the Mocha bean isn’t as chocolaty as it once was and the Java bean has become more acidic. All the Java beans that is, except the plantation beans which are known as old government. (They can also  be called old brown or old Java.)  These beans are left to cure for about 3 years before being roasted.  This process gives the flavor more body and reduces acidity, what’s not to love about that?


A Joe By Any Other Name Still Keeps You Awake

We may not be able to trace the roots of  a cup of Joe back to a man, but that’s ok. Just think about it: This Joe is always ready to give you some morning lovin’ and is always there when you need him. Not only that, this Joe can keep you warm without complaining about your feet being cold. That, my dears, is one awesome Joe. So coffee is the next best thing to a man after all. Now if only we could teach it to take out the trash.




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About The Author

Nicol Valentin

Nicol Valentin is a homeschooling mom of nine who loves history, fiction, and fun.

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  1. Randa Sharpe | 18th Aug 17

    Meet me at the coffee shop, Nicol!! Joe’s buyin!

  2. Raynna | 28th Aug 17

    Fun Nicol! Your kids have it made with you as their history teacher.

    • Nicol Valentin | 29th Aug 17

      Well, their history teacher really likes coffee 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. Randi Anderson | 6th Sep 17

    HAHA, love this!!! I’d never thought about where the term “cup of Joe” came from. Also, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s interesting to me how the taste of coffee has actually changed…I’d like to try some of that old Java Joe. 😮

    • Nicol Valentin | 6th Sep 17

      Me too! I’m really tempted to order some of those old government beans. Hum, early Christmas present to myself?

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