Cappuccino: the most famous Italian drink abroad

Cappuccino is one of the most well-known Italian beverages in the world. It’s an espresso in a large cup with hot milk, the characteristic foam. His fame is as must as the carbonara and tiramisu. Some chefs use cappuccino to replace the coffee inside of this dessert.

Even if, in words, it seems a very easy practice, it is not so. In fact, 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). This one means the decorations of various shapes (heart, bear, flower, etc.). The bartender made them with the milk itself and with the aid of a toothpick. It’s a real form of art to decorate the cappuccino. 

The people usually consume it mainly in the morning, at breakfast, together with a croissant. In any case, Italians never take it after meals: they have a coffee. In many countries it is customary to consume cappuccino after meals or at other times of the day.

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. Its origins correspond to the spread of coffee in Europe, between the XVII and XVIII centuries. A legend tells how Marco d’Aviano, a Capuchin friar, 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 corrected the coffee left by the Turks 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. Barmans, in fact, preapre the milk froth thanks to the steam spout.

Cappuccino: Italian style

Usually, Italians drink it sweetened and accompany it with a croissant, as mentioned before. The foam should look good, dense, and it 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, you can add a sprinkling of cocoa or cinnamon powder.

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

As for the cappuccino decoration technique, the pioneer of this art was David Schomer, American owner of the Vivace Cafe in Seattle, who in the 1980s 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!

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