The History of the Cappuccino

From its legendary origins to the drink we know and love today, the cappuccino has a rich and flavourful history. How has this classic drink evolved?

Nowadays, we enjoy coffee in all shapes and sizes, but the cappuccino remains a UK coffee shop staple and a favourite with coffee lovers everywhere.

With a rich and interesting history, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to this coffee drink that has stood the test of time. So, where did it all begin?

What is a Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an Italian coffee beverage with an espresso base. It is made from equal parts coffee, milk and foam for a perfectly balanced drink.

Some will also top the drink with a sprinkle of cinnamon or chocolate powder. Another variation of the drink will substitute steamed milk with whipped cream for an extra indulgent cappuccino.

A cappuccino with foam art

What’s the Difference Between a Cappuccino, Latte and Flat White?

Although all three classic drinks are made with espresso shots, their differences lie in the ratio of coffee to milk and steamed foam.

A cappuccino is made with one part espresso, one part milk and one part foam. To find out more about the different coffee drinks and their ingredients, check out our ultimate coffee drink guide.

guide to coffee drinks

Coffee Drinks Before the Cappuccino

Coffee as we know it traces back to 15th century Arabia.

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 rather than boiling it. It’s around this time that we first see the term 'cappuccino’ being used, although it was not yet used to denote the drink we know and love today.

The Origins of the Cappuccino

The earliest iteration of the drink comes in the form of ‘kapuziner’, a drink popular in 17th-century Viennese coffee houses that was recorded as being made of coffee, cream, sugar and spices. A similar drink called ‘franziskaner’ also arose in popularity around the same time.

The ‘cappuccino’ as it is called today first appeared in Northern Italy but was made in this Viennese style until the addition of steamed milk became the norm in the 20th century.

A cappuccino paired with a slice of cake

How Did the Cappuccino Get its Name?

Both of these drinks are so called because their colour resembles that of the robes worn by Capuchin and Franciscan monks.

The term ‘cappuccino’ was also an Italian word for ‘hood’, another way you can trace the name of the drink back to the way the coffee’s colour matched the robes of the monks.

Cappuccinos in the 20th Century

By the 1930s, ‘cappuccino’ was a coined term for coffee topped with milk. We can first see it recorded by a French writer while in Venice in 1937 and then in the Italian newspaper La Stampa in 1939.

The beginnings of the modern cappuccino arose in the 1950s as authentic espresso machines became popular and more widespread.

Because of this, people started to make cappuccinos with espresso instead of standard coffee, which is where the flavourful cappuccino we recognise today starts to take shape.

As espresso machines improved, the concept of a cappuccino was refined to include quality espresso and the recognisable frothed milk.

The drink gained popularity in Britain during this time because of the traditional and familiar customs of drinking milk with hot beverages.

In the United States, the popularity of the cappuccino spread in Italian American communities. New York’s Caffe Reggio, which was founded in 1927, claims to have been the first café in America to sell a cappuccino.

A man holding a cup of cappuccino

The Modern Day Cappuccino

The popularity of the cappuccino remained consistent throughout the 20th century, which has resulted in the drink now being a go-to option for coffee drinkers around the world.

While the UK version of a cappuccino consists of equal parts espresso, milk and foam, there are variations of the beverage worldwide, with additional flavourings and iced variations also available.

Cappuccinos at Esquires Coffee

Here at Esquires Coffee, our cappuccinos are served in the modern British style that’s also a hit with customers.

Our drinks are also available with additional syrups and alternative milks, including soy, almond, oat and coconut, to ensure we always bring you a high-quality coffee experience and outstanding flavour.

Esquires is a UK coffee shop franchise dedicated to bringing coffee lovers delicious organic coffee made by our highly-trained, professional baristas.

If you want to turn your love of coffee into a business venture, why not consider franchising with us? Discover more about the requirements for partnering with Esquires as a franchisee.

Esquires Coffee frequently asked questions about franchising

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