The Mythical, Possibly Historical, Beginnings of the Cappuccino

This is a Capuchin friar. An offshoot of the Franciscan order that began in 1525:Capuchin Monk - cappuccino Origins - Always A Cappuccino

This is a Capuchin monkey. You know, Night at The Museum?Capuchin monkey - Cappuccino origins - Always A Cappuccino

This is a cappuccino:

Cappuccino Origins -Always A Cappuccino

If you’re thinking to yourself, I wonder if there is a connection between all of these because I’m reading a post from a site entitled ‘Always A Cappuccino’, why then, yes, you my friend are assuming correctly.

Indeed, the friar, monkey and cappuccino are connected. (Or I accidentally stumbled upon a great joke setup. A friar, a money and a cappuccino walk into a bar…)

I digress. So where did the name Cappuccino come from? Let’s get into it, shall we?

Where Did Cappuccino Originate?

Now, according to the folklore and maybe coffee history: A group of Franciscan Friars decided to create their own order. You can imagine at this time, 1525, the powers that be in the church, might not be happy with a group deciding to do their own thing. Well, this new order of men had to go into hiding, luckily, a group of monks called Camaldolese gave them shelter during this upheaval of a time.  Once things were smoothed over and there was no longer a need to hide, the new order of friars decided to show their thanks by wearing the same hooded habit of the Camaldolese. Did you know that the Italian word for hood is Cappuccio? These friars with the distinctive pointed ‘cappuccio’ (hooded) habit called themselves The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

Monkeying Around With the Origin Of The Word Cappuccino

Shortly after the friars became part of the populace, Portuguese explorers in the Americas came across a new species of monkey. The monkey’s white faces and brown bodies reminded the explorers of the friars, so the monkey was promptly named a Capuchin.

So now the Capuchin friars have been around awhile, folks are used to seeing them around town. However, it’s kind of funny, how their large hoods are these large pointed cowl looking things. Not only funny, but maybe a bit much.Capuchin Monk- cappuccino originsPeople made fun by referring to the friar’s “little” hoods. Thus “little hoods” becomes: “cappuccino” in Italian.

What Is a Cappuccino? Definition from History

Fast forward to the mid-1900s when a new drink hits the top of the charts. An espresso topped with steamed milk. It reminds folks of something. You see, by now, the nickname of the friars has had time to ease itself into the vernacular of the country. By then, cappuccino had become a nickname that meant ‘little cap’.cappuccino origins-Always A CappuccinoAnd it was a little cap of foam placed atop this drink that reminded folks of the friars. Well, that and most Franciscan Friars had shaved heads. So when a cappuccino is poured correctly, the outer edges of the cappuccino has a ring of dark espresso with a white center, resembling the top of a friar’s head. That’s why a properly poured cappuccino is actually called: a monk’s head.

Monks head -Cappuccino Origins-Always a Cappuccino

There it is, in its simplicity. A very short cappuccino history lesson to accompany your day and possibly, your cappuccino.

5 Comments

  • Bob Niccum

    What an informative post! I’ve been drinking cappuccinos for decades but never knew this stuff. So now I know that the animals got their name because they looked . . . monk-y. (So sorry.)

    Looking forward to more like this. Great job!

  • Brenda (mom)Sharp

    I’m your mom….I should have known this! Love it. I’ll always be thinking of a monks partial bald head now when I have a cappuccino❣

  • Terri Niccum

    Oh, I love having this information! Thank you! I love the look of your site and all the info it contains. Now I’m off for a cappuccino! 🙂

  • Sarah E Minnis

    AMAZING!! I love how you find the most interesting facts and make us all so much smarter – now I know why I have heard coffee people say “Monk’s Head” … Makes me want one Right Now!! Great Job – again!!

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