Do you love a cappuccino? Who doesn’t? This vastly popular version of a cup of coffee has attained world wide popularity since the 1980s and any coffee shop which can’t produce an authentic, quality cappuccino, may as well not claim to be a coffee shop at all! Today, a modified version of cappuccino is even served by McDonald’s fast-food chain. A genuine cappuccino, made true to its Italian prototype, however, is a drink which only those establishments who are really serious about their coffee-making, manage to create authentically and well.
A large Italian beverage prepared with espresso coffee, hot milk and milk foam, cappuccino is generally only drunk with breakfast In Italy, excect after a night out, when Italians often have a cappuccino and croissant before retiring.
Besides a quality shot of espresso, the most important element in preparing a cappuccino is the texture and temperature of the milk. The milk for a cappuccino is steamed to produce microfoam, by introducing very tiny bubbles of air into it, giving it that important velvety texture and subtle sweetness.
A cappuccino is generally made from 1 or 2 shots of espresso, half a cup of steamed milk and half a cup of milk foam. There are also “wet cappucinos”, made with three quarters milk to one quarter foam, “dry cappucinos”, the other way round, and even “bone dry cappucinos” which consist of just the espresso and a whole cup of foam. A cappuccino should always be prepared in a ceramic coffee cup, which retains heat well. The foam on top insulates the drink further, keeping it really hot, so don’t burn your tongue!
Cappuccino originated in Italy after the Second World War. It was named after the colour of the habits of the Capuchin monks, which is light to darkish brown with a white hood, and in Italy, the word for hood, cappuccio, is often used colloquially to describe this now universally popular beverage Largely enjoyed only in Europe, Australia and in North America’s most sophisticated, cosmopolitan cities till the mid 1990s, cappuccino achieved its current huge popularity in the USA and Canada when up-market European style coffee bar chains such as Starbucks swept across the continent. In Zimbabwe, it is vastly popular too, and is served in all of the large and growing number of up-market coffee shops across the country, as well as in many hotels, restaurants and even in a number of pubs.
Next time you order one, check out the consistency of the foam – is it thin and tasteless or velvety and sweet? Can you taste the espresso or does it taste bland? Become a connoisseur! A very sparse sprinkling of sugar, balanced on top of the foam, but not stirred in, is a fine way to sweeten it a little without losing any of those tiny but all important air bubbles.