Who among us, as adults, either from the bookstore café menu, the nearby coffee shop, an endless stream of trendy TV commercials, or our own interest in beverages have not heard of the gourmet beverage Cappuccino? Cappuccino: that frothy, smooth style of coffee with an ever-elusive recipe for perfect taste; even more so than regular coffee. Whether you get your Cappuccino from a corporate establishment like Starbucks or you’ve already mastered that ever-elusive recipe for great Cappuccino (please share), Cappuccino is arguably the most popular style of gourmet coffee there is besides traditional coffee itself, and just may be one of the most recognizable and oft-imitated beverages in the world.
The traditional Cappuccino is made with espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk foam. Such a simple ingredient list made it an ideal beverage for the clergy and upper-class of 16th century Italy, where some believe Cappuccino originated. However, the true origin of cappuccino is considered somewhat of a mystery. While it’s mostly certain that Cappuccino existed in some form before the 1900’s, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that Cappuccino became truly renowned in Italy thanks to Luigi Berezza, who invented the first Espresso machine. Espresso machines would see an explosion of popularity in post-World War II Europe; a popularity that gourmet Cappuccino would share as well.
The espresso machine, along with the CD player and the Waterbed, became a favorite of “young professionals” in the 1980’s, and by 1995, an espresso machine was a must-have in many suburban households “Cappuccino Parties” were not unheard of, and the rise of the Internet allowed people to share their favorite gourmet Cappuccino recipes with others across the world. Cappuccino is largely responsible for the current success of the Starbucks café franchise, and they’ve found even more success through creating their signature beverage from it: the Frappucino, a combination of frappe and Cappuccino.
Cappuccino is versatile, meaning it can be mixed or prepared any number of ways and still retain its gourmet taste. Even alcoholic mixtures of Cappuccino, such as the Cappuccino Cocktail or the Vodka Cappuccino can now be found in high-class dinner clubs and local “dives” alike. For those interested in making gourmet Cappuccino, a common rule for beginners is to first obtain an Espresso/Cappuccino machine. It’s possible to make Cappuccino with a normal coffee machine, but a good Cappuccino machine cuts down on the frustrations of getting the taste just right and creating that delicious froth. When making Cappuccino with or without a machine, a preparer follows the “rule of 1/3” when mixing each basic ingredient, those again being espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk foam. Vanilla extract, cinnamon, and strawberries are often favorite additions to many Cappuccino recipes; most Cappuccino recipes do not include any sort of artificial flavoring as they make Cappuccino taste far different than it should, and not in a good way.
Etiquette-wise, cappuccino is considered a “higher class” form of coffee, so drinking Cappuccino with your friends out of a Styrofoam cup might earn you some unwelcome stares. Socially, Cappuccino can be consumed at almost any time of time, especially in a coffee café with a barista; the stereotype of the “Bohemian” who drinks Cappuccino with every meal is hardly a stereotype, as many of them hold great pride in their exotic recipes.
Why shouldn’t they? To master the making of Cappuccino, one of the finest and allegedly oldest forms of coffee, is an art that can elude even a master chef.
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