All you serious coffee drinkers will know this, but the Cappuccino is not some modern fad that hipsters invented about 50 years ago.
No, this is a drink that has developed over the centuries. Here we'll look at how that happened and why the Cappuccino is now a coffee loved the world over.
Each Cappuccino is made with coffee beans honed by craft, skill and Mother Nature, and it's well worth knowing a little of the heritage behind your favourite brew if you're a budding coffee connoisseur!
What is a Cappuccino?
A Cappuccino is such a common, popular coffee that it's easy to forget what goes into each cup that makes it taste so great - a perfect balance of bitter and sweet, earthy rich coffee and silky smooth frothed milk.
The basics are that a Cappuccino has an even ratio of espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk.
It's made like this:
- The bottom layer comprises one or two shots of espresso.
- Next, you get a steamed milk layer.
- The final layer is thick foam, providing that velvety texture.
Cappuccinos taste much stronger than a latte since they have a lower milk concentration and more espresso.
A perfectly made barista Cappuccino has a 1:1 liquid to foam balance, and an expert will know the difference solely from the cup's weight.
History of the Cappuccino
Cappuccinos were first popular in present-day culture in about the 1980s, branded a 'new' drink in the States - although they were anything but.
Europeans drank coffee quite similar to Turkish coffee back in the day, boiling water and coffee beans and sometimes adding a sprinkle of sugar.
In the 1700s, British and French coffee drinkers first discovered the joy of a coffee filter. More intricate blends started to develop, but the first Cappuccino wasn't the same coffee you'd pick up from your local barista today.
We know that Cappuccinos were first made in the 1700s, and a coffee description from 1805 described it simply as coffee with added cream and sugar - a later recipe from 1850 mentions spices (although not in any further detail).
The first trace of Cappuccinos as we know and love them was after World War II.
The blend became popularised with some tweaks to the way baristas made it, owing to newer, more slimline coffee machines and the introduction of the crema.
Modernised Cappuccinos had a quality espresso base, frothed and steamed milk, served in warmed porcelain cups with a visible crema.
Ever bought a Cappuccino from an automatic coffee machine? It's something different again.
Mostly found in the US, this version is normally made with brewed coffee or instant powder, with a milk substitute or powdered milk, without the foam or froth, but whipped instead.
This coffee isn't particularly great on the palate, but it's a cheap replica that'll do in a real pinch.
Where Does the Name 'Cappuccino' Come From?
The cool thing about a Cappuccino is that you can order an (almost) identical coffee, whether you're sightseeing in the heart of Roma or picking up a caffeine hit on your TFL commute into the West End.
Cappuccino gets even more unusual when you consider it is one of the only popular coffees that isn't an abbreviation for the way it's made.
- Espresso means pressed out in Italian - i.e. the water is pressed out through the grinds.
- Macchiato means (loosely) a coffee with a dot of milk.
Cappuccino, perhaps unexpectedly, is named after a friar or monk!
The Viennese called it a Kapunizer - reworded as Cappuccino in Italian, after the Capuchin monks.
Those friars were founded in 16th century Italy. They were dedicated to simplicity and austerity, so perhaps a nod to the basic combination of coffee and milk that creates a delicious coffee drink.
Capuchin monks wore simple brown robes with pointed hoods; that hood is called a cappuccio, hence Capuchin friar and their favourite coffee: a Cappuccino.
Now you'll find a million variants of this most historic coffee, from Babyccinos for little ones to Puppuccinos for dogs.
Don't believe us? Check it out on the Starbucks Secret Menu!
The background of a Cappuccino is a bit of a lesson in how modern beverages and trends often originate in distant history.
Now you know your coffee was first invented a whopping 600 years ago; we hope you go forth and brew equipped with a little more wisdom.