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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.

Coffee in the modern-day comes in all shapes and sizes. Steeped in history, the long journey of coffee drinks means we now have choices galore when it comes to our favourite brews. Standing the test of time, the cappuccino remains an intrinsic favourite on our beverage list. We’ve taken the time to research the historical path of the cappuccino, to find out how the drink we know today ended up in our mugs.

Origins

It is thought that the coffee in general first appeared in Italy during the 17th century. During this time, coffee houses were becoming increasingly popular in Europe, after Italy inherited the idea from the Ottomans. The first European coffee houses were an instant success and quickly became venues for socialising and debate. As with many coffee drinks, the original cappuccino may have been somewhat different in style to what we know today. The earliest iteration of ‘coffee with cream and sugar’ that bears the closest resemblance to the modern drink is known as kapuziner. From the coffee houses in Vienna in the 1700s kapuziner maintained is popularity in Austria and it first appeared in the Wörterbuch (German dictionary) in 1805. As coffee drinks evolved, further evidence of coffee blended with milk or cream, and sometimes sugar, can be found under different names.

cappuccino coffee on a table in white mug

20th Century

It wasn’t until the 20th century that the term cappuccino was coined. Photographs from 1930s Italy depict a coffee topped with whipped cream and dusted with cinnamon or chocolate. It wasn’t until later that frothy steamed milk would be added. The word cappuccino is Italian, and as the legend goes, the drink is named after the Capuchin friars, an order of the Catholic church. The friars wore hooded robes of dark brown, similar to the drink. While this is the most widespread theory, there is also legend that the Capuchin friars invented the drink, thereby giving the drink its name. Fast-forward to the 1950s when the first coffee machines able to steam milk were invented. As a consequence, the drink gained popularity in the UK as Brits’ traditional custom of drinking milk with hot drinks met the espresso. In the United States, the cappuccino was bought over and spread by the new wave of Italian Americans. New York City’s Caffe Reggio, which was founded in 1927, claims to have been the first café in America to sell the drink.

Modern Day

It seems that popularity remained consistent throughout the 20th century, resulting in the drink being found across the globe from Australia to the Americas. In the UK, the classic cappuccino consists of 1/3 coffee, steamed milk and micro foam, sprinkled with chocolate or cinnamon powder. Variations of the drink are also spread worldwide, and it’s common to find flavoured and iced versions. At Esquires Coffee, our cappuccinos are served in a modern British style, and you can put your own twist on it with our range of syrups and alternative milks. We offer three different alternative milks, soy, oat and coconut, each adds its own unique quality and flavour.

dusted cappuccino coffee in white mug on brown wood table

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 drink-related articles such as our Guide to Coffee Drinks. Is cappuccino your favourite coffee drink? Do you add an extra something to give it a unique twist? We want to know your delicious and wonderful coffee creations! Let us know in the comments or tag us on Twitter or Facebook.

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