Cappuccino: the most famous Italian drink abroad
Cappuccino is one of the most well-known Italian beverages in the world: an espresso in a large cup with hot milk, the characteristic foam. His fame is as must as the carbonara and tiramisu. Some chefs for example offer versions of this dessert in which the savoairdi (ladyfingers) are soaked in the cappuccino and not in the coffee.
Even if, in words, it seems a very easy practice, only a small minority of Italian baristas is able to prepare a cappuccino in a workmanlike manner. Then, lately, there are also real cappuccino artists who engage in the so-called “latte art” (milk art), that means the decorations of various shapes (heart, bear, flower, etc.). They are made with the milk itself and with the aid of a toothpick: there are used to decorate the cappuccino.
In Italy it is consumed mainly in the morning, at breakfast, together with a croissant, and never after meals, when they are accompanied by a simple espresso. In many European countries, but also outside Europe, the habit of eating cappuccino after meals or at other times of the day has become widespread.
But let’s find out more about this bubbly drink.
Cappuccino: a bit of history
The term cappuccino derives from the resemblance to the brown color of the habit of the Capuchin Friars Minor, but its origins are linked to the spread of coffee in Europe, between the XVII and XVIII centuries. A legend tells how Marco d’Aviano, a Capuchin friar for the note, was sent in September 1683 to Vienna by Pope Innocent XI. He had to convince the European powers to form a coalition against the Ottomans who were besieging it. It happened that being in a Viennese coffee shop, he corrected his coffee, that was very strong for him, with some milk. From here the new drink was nicknamed kapuziner, meaning “cappuccino” in German.
Another story tells how a certain Johannes Theodat, owner of one of the first Viennese coffee shops, had already experienced some variations to simple coffee. According to another version, the coffee maker Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki in 1685 to make sweeter than the Turkish coffee left by the Ottoman army on the run corrected him with milk and honey.
The cappuccino was enriched with new flavors, aromas, spices and whipped cream on top, spreading in Friuli Venezia Giulia and throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The manual preparation of this drink involved the creation of the milk froth on top. With the introduction of the first espresso coffee machine, at the beginning of the 20th century, the drink began to have the shape that is known still today, milk froth prepared thanks to the steam spout.
Cappuccino: Italian style
In Italy it is usually drunk sweetened and accompanied by a croissant, as mentioned before. The foam should look good, dense, and should be about a third of the cappuccino cup. According to the Italian National Espresso Institute, a quality cappuccino, respecting tradition, must consist of 25ml of espresso and 100ml of milk whipped with steam. To complete the work, a sprinkling of cocoa or cinnamon powder is often added.
Every year the bartenders compete for the title of best cappuccino: in Italy the first Italian Barista Coffee Championship took place in 2002.
Cappuccino: about milk art
Regarding the cappuccino decorating technique, we must know that the pioneer of this art was David Schomer, an American owner of the Vivace Cafe in Seattle, who in the 80s signed his cappuccinos with his heart.
Currently there are two decoration techniques:
- the one made by hand, free, which is made while pouring the milk and the foam into the cappuccino;
- the one in which the shapes are drawn directly on the foam by pouring the coffee cream with a dispenser.
Try it yourself and try to prepare a real Italian breakfast!