The History of the Cappuccino

Find out how the modern cappuccino as we know it came to be, from its origins in 17th-century coffee houses to its popularity in coffee shops around the world.

Find out more about the rich history of one of the most popular types of coffee, the cappuccino. We’re going to be travelling back to its origins in the 17th Century to find out more about this espresso-based drink.

In our modern-day, we enjoy coffee in all shapes and sizes. Coffee itself is steeped in history. Because of its long journey, we all now have our preferred method of how we take our coffee; whether it’s a skinny vanilla latte, flat white or black americano.

Standing the test of time, the cappuccino remains an intrinsic favourite in every coffee chain in the UK. To celebrate one of our favourite coffee drinks, we’ve decided to take a look into its rich heritage and how it became one of the world’s most enjoyable coffee drinks to date.

Guide to Coffee Drinks

What is a Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an Italian coffee beverage that has an espresso base. The coffee drink is traditionally served with steamed milk foam which is topped with sprinkles of cinnamon or chocolate powder, although there are variations that substitute the steamed milk with whipped cream.

A cappuccino on a wooden table


The earliest credible evidence for creating coffee drinks was in the middle of the 15th century, in the accounts of Ahmed al-Ghaffar in Yemen. It was in Arabia that coffee seeds were roasted and brewed, similar to our current methods.

When coffee had spread to Europe, coffee drinking was originally based on the Ottomans’ traditional style of preparation, which was to boil water and coffee beans, sometimes adding sugar.

By the 1700s, the British and French had begun to start filtering their coffee, which evolved as filtered and brewed coffee and soon became more and more popular in comparison to the traditional brewing methods. Around this time, the name ‘cappuccino’ was applied.

The Name’s Origins

Originally, the term Cappuccio was an Italian word for ‘hood’. In the 16th Century, the Cappuccini or Capuchin friars began as a reform movement among the Franciscans, who called for the return of a hard, simple life.

Their brown tunics are thought to be the reason their name was given to Capuchin monkeys and coffee which is lightened by milk, cream or in some cases, egg.

By the 1930s, cappuccino was a coined term for coffee topped with milk. A French writer recorded it in Venice in 1937 and in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, in Turin in 1939. Although surprisingly, it was in German that “Kapuziner’ was first applied to coffee.

Coffee & Cream

The earliest European iteration of coffee and cream that bears the closest resemblance to the cappuccino that we know and love to this day, is the kapuziner. A kapuziner is somewhat different in style to what we recognise as a cappuccino.

Kapuziner first appeared in the 1700s Viennese coffee houses. The coffee was combined with cream, sugar and spices and topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate and cinnamon. Outside of Vienna, it can be referred to as “Viennese Coffee” or “ Café Viennois”.

The Cappuccino first appeared in Northern Italy, but it wasn’t the cappuccino we know today as it made in “Viennese” style. The steamed milk variant appeared much later.

A cappuccino on a table with toast

20th Century

Authentic espresso machines became widespread in the 1950s. Because of this, people started to make cappuccinos with espresso, instead of standard coffee, which is where the cappuccino we recognise was finally crafted into fruition as the authentic Italian drink that we sip and savour today.

The drink gained popularity in Britain because of the traditional and familiar customs of drinking milk with hot beverages. In the United States, the cappuccino spread a new wave of Italian Americans. New York’s Caffe Reggio, which was founded in 1927, claims to have been the first café in America to sell a cappuccino.

Modern Day

The popularity of the cappuccino remained consistent throughout the 20th century, which has resulted in the drink being found across the globe from Australia to the Americas. In the UK, the classic cappuccino consists of 1/3 each of coffee, steamed milk and microfoam, which is then sprinkled with chocolate or cinnamon powder.

There are variations of the hot beverages worldwide with additional flavourings and iced variations also available.

Here at Esquires Coffee, our Cappuccinos are served in a modern British style. Our drinks are available with additional syrups and alternative milks, which include soy, oat and coconut, adding to the unique flavour and quality of your desired drink.

Esquires Coffee is a coffee franchise dedicated to bringing you fantastic Fair Trade and organic coffee made by our highly trained, professional baristas. If you love coffee, why not check out more of our coffee-related articles? You can also find us on our social media channels to stay up to date with our latest news!

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