Did you ever wonder where the expression “cup of Joe” came from? After discovering that the original theory could not be true, I decided to dig deeper. For the record, the original theory dated back to the World War I era when Josephus Daniels became secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson and banned the consumption of alcohol, which, it was said, led to the stewards increasing their purchases of coffee. As a result, the coffee became degradingly known as a “cup of Joe”. This theory was faulty because of the timing of the General Order 99 in 1914 and the spirit ration being abolished in 1862 to already dry ships. Over history, calling the beverage “joe” had 2 stronger theories, but no proof. One of them affirms that “joe” is a contraction of two other jargon terms for coffee: java and jamoke, jamoke being formed by the words java and mocha. Thus it went from a “cup of jamoke” to “a cup of joe”. The last theory stated that since “joe” was a term used for “typical guy, fellow, chap” (dating back to 1846), “a cup of joe” referred to a common man’s drink much as it was used with any other member of a group having common interests like “the average Joe”, “Joe College”, “G.I. Joe”. “Cup of Joe” seems to go with the beverage of the common man with this theory. The best theory seems to be jamoke changing to joe since Java was the primary source of where the world’s coffee came from in the 19th century.
It was believed by historians that coffee plants were found in the year 850 in Ethiopia and then 50 years later were taken to the Arabs. Despite the Arabians guarding their coffee seeds, some were smuggled to the Dutch and in turn made their way to Indonesia in the 17th century and were planted in Sumatra and the island of Java.
Thus java was one of the earliest plantations of coffee and still exports coffee now. THASC artist Christopher Kuster titles his painting “JAVA’ for the reason that, like wine, coffee is classified by its region and species. By saying, “ I’ll have a cup of Java” is similar to saying, “I’ll have a glass of Chianti”.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a coffee drinker in my life unlike my mother who downed at least 8 cups a day, including at bedtime. She was like most of the 80% of adults who consume caffeine every day. According to the FDA Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee a day, which is equivalent to 146 billion cups a year. Some other interesting facts about coffee are that dark roasts have less caffeine than lighter roasts, even though the flavor is stronger.
Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, the first being oil. The majority of coffee (40%) is produced in Brazil which is twice as much as Colombia and Vietnam, it’s second and third place competitors. Believe it or not, Hawaii is the ONLY U.S. state that commercially grows coffee! However, New Yorkers drink seven times as much coffee as the rest of the country. Finland is on top for being the most caffeinated country where average adults consume 4-5 cups a day. I’m sure coffee drinkers must know there are two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. 70% are Arabica but Robusta has twice as much caffeine.
I really wonder where my taste for coffee flavors comes from as I don’t like coffee. For example, my favorite ice cream, by far, is coffee and I love coffee syrup used in milk to make frappes or, as we call them in Rhode Island, “coffee cabinets”. I suppose that is what intrigued me to find out so much about “Java”.
Coffee beans are grown on bushes and are actually the pits of a cherry-like berry, making it part of a fruit. It is a called a bean because it resembles real beans, but is actually a seed. Imagine that! The prettiest cup of coffee, or cappuccino, that I’ve seen was in Florence’s famous ristorante BUCA MARIO. This past May I had the delight of taking my nephew Scot there for his birthday and I must say we were both surprised to see the decoration on the steamed milk.
I’ll close by saying I hope all of you coffee drinkers enjoy your “cup of Joe” as Scot did in Firenze.
Thank you for your painting of “JAVA”, Christopher. It taught me a lot!
This blog is dedicated to my brother Joe.
See you on Thursday!