Connections in a Cup


Coffee and Italy go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is impossible to walk the streets of Italy and not experience the warmth of a café Americano, the intensity of a café or the balance of a cappuccino. Even when the temperature reaches 95 degrees I find myself perusing the streets in search of a coffee to sooth the soul and prepare me for the day ahead.

Italians know coffee, and they know it well. Although their cups may be smaller than Starbucks, their ice might not exist, and they might not have a “skinny” option, Italian coffee surpasses American coffee in every way imaginable. The bold flavor, the craftsmanship, and the experience all come together and provide the mouth and soul with a zest for life. After my first sip I didn’t know how I ever lived without it, and I didn’t know if I could ever go back to American coffee again.

Italian fame with coffee is known worldwide. However, it surprised when I found the cappuccino had ties to Italy as well. I guess I should have known better.

I treat myself to cappuccinos when I don’t want the intensity of a coffee, but I know I need some caffeine. The frothy milk at the top reminds me of Christmastime, even in the heat of summer. The coffee taste takes me back to mornings with my dad when he would run me to Starbucks on a “daddy date.” The caffeine reminds me of my own hyperness on these dates and sharing secret stories of my first kindergarten kiss.

Thinking back, coffee has been a huge part of my relationship with my father. The drink brought us together, the drink tied me to him, and the drink gave me memories to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, I don’t think he realized the growth stunt repercussions of drinking coffee so young. If he had I don’t think he would have taken me for my first cup when I was four. Regardless of my 5’2” frame today, I am glad he took me on daddy dates all those years back. Now I am a coffee lover, and I have him to thank.

Italians have a special relationship with the cappuccino as well. In Italian cappuccino literally means “little cap” describing the ring of dark coffee surrounding a dollop of white which floats perfectly in the center. This term derives from the cloak Franciscan monks would wear. Their cloaks were also a rough tan color, further enhancing the tie between the cappuccino to the monks’ cloaks.

Saint Francis of Assisi started the Franciscan order as a separate entity within the Roman Catholic Church. Francis of Assisi did not believe in the Dominican order; instead, he believed in the Lord’s teachings about living a life of apostolic poverty and helping others. Beginning his own movement, Francis gained followers rapidly. It is said he reached 11 followers within a year and was rapidly gaining more. The life of the Franciscans emphasized complete poverty and devotion to those less fortunate. Recognized by cloaks of brown, they separated themselves from the Dominicans who wore traditional black and white garments.

After gaining more followers the Pope grew nervous about Francis’s popularity. The Pope called Francis to Rome and ordered him to either become an order within the Roman Catholic Church or die. Francis chose to become an order and made his following more permanent and prominent.

Three hundred years later, when the idea of adding milk and froth to a steaming hot cup of coffee became a reality, the brown drink reminded the people of the famous Saint Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan order.

It shocks me to think I went my entire life enjoying this hot, frothy, satisfying drink and never knew its origins. Even after spending two weeks in Italy, the history of the drink evaded my knowledge. The story of the cappuccino compelled me to fall in love with the drink even more. Cappuccinos have a way of connecting people; cappuccinos connected me to my dad, and cappuccinos connected Italians to the history of the Franciscan order and Saint Francis of Assisi.



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