Cappuccino’ originated as the coffee beverage “Kapuziner” in the Viennese coffee houses in the 1700s at the same time as the counterpart coffee beverage named “Franziskaner”: ‘Kapuziner’ shows up on coffee house menus all over the Habsburg Monarchy around this time, and is in 1805 described in a Wörterbuch (dictionary) as ‘coffee with cream and sugar’ (although it does not say how it is composed). ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned again in writings in the 1850s, described as ‘coffee with cream, spices and sugar’. Around the same time, the coffee beverage ‘Melange’ is mentioned in writings, explained as a blend of coffee and milk, presumably similar to the modern day ‘Caffè Latte’. Other coffees containing cream surfaced in Vienna, and outside Austria these are referred to as ‘Viennese Coffee’ or ‘Café Viennois’, coffee with whipped cream. Predecessors of Irish Coffee, sweetened coffee with different alcohols, topped with whipped cream also spread out from Vienna.
The ‘Kapuziner’ took its name from the colour of coffee with a few drops of cream, nicknamed so because the capuchin monks in Vienna and elsewhere wore vestments with this colour. Another popular coffee was Franziskaner, with more cream, referring to the somewhat ‘lighter’ brown colour of the robes of monks of the Franciscan order.
Cappuccino as we write it today (in Italian) is first mentioned in northern Italy in the 1930s, and photographs from that time shows the drink to resemble a ‘viennese’ —a coffee topped with whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon or chocolate. The Italian cappuccino evolved and developed in the following decades: The steamed milk atop is a later addition, and in the US a slight misunderstanding has led to this ‘cap’ of milk foam being named ‘monk’s head’ -although it originally had nothing to do with the name of the beverage.