The Slow and Steady Evolution of the Cappuccino

Given the popularity of large coffee shop chains, recent years have seen the invention of many trendy new coffee concoctions. But you’ll find some classics on most menus as well — for instance, the cappuccino has origins that date back hundreds of years.

The evolution of coffee preparation in Europe

When coffee first arrived in Europe, it was prepared by bringing the water and coffee beans to a boil and then adding sugar as desired. This is similar to modern-day Turkish coffee preparation.

But by the 1700s, the British and French began filtering the coffee beans from the beverage. This gradually became the more popular method for preparing coffee across the continent.

Care for a Kapuziner?

The cappuccino as we know it today was developed from the “Kapuziner,” a beverage that first appeared in Viennese coffee houses in the 1700s. A description of the Kapunzier dated 1805 describes it as “coffee with cream and sugar,” while a later recipe from 1850 also lists “spices” among the ingredients.

The Kapunziner was named for the Capuchin (‘Kapuzin’) friars in Vienna since the drink was a shade of brown that resembled their robes. 

And it wasn’t the only beverage named after religious figures. A similar drink called the “Franziskaner” was also popular around this time. It was made with more milk, giving it a light brown color that resembled the robes of the Franciscan monks, hence the drink’s namesake.

The cappuccino’s grand entrance

While the “Kapunziner” originated in Vienna, Austria, the cappuccino was first made in Italy in the early 1900s, shortly after the popularization of the espresso machine. The earliest recorded appearance of the cappuccino on a menu comes from northern Italy in the 1930s

Early cappuccinos were made “Viennese style” — with a whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon or chocolate.

But the evolution of this drink still wasn’t finished. The modern style of cappuccino many of us are familiar with today, made with espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk, came about following World War II as espresso machines continued to improve and become more widely accessible.

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