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It seemed like a chicken and egg situation - which came first: Cappuccino (the drink), or Cappuccini (the hooded friars)? but having dug around various sources it was definitely the friar. However, if we're going to do this properly we must go back to Vienna and the year 1683.
There are a few versions but the basic storyline seems to be this:
At the time when the Hapsburgs of Austria in Vienna were facing threat of invasion by Turks of the Ottoman Empire a certain General: Count Rudiger von Starhemberg, sent one Georg Franz Kolschitzky - of uncertain origin (in some writings he is referred to as Polish, Hungarian, Ukrainian or even Serbian) - into enemy territory disguised as a Turk (noted in particular for his wearing of a red Fez). It is unclear what his exact status was but some sources state he was an Imperial messenger and/or translator, or businessman or diplomat who infiltrated the Turkish camps successfully, knowing their language and customs, with the aim of discovering their plans. Whichever version is true, it was here in the Turkish military camps that he learned about coffee. He had noticed large sacks of coffee beans with no idea of how they were used. The Turks, incidentally, had been drinking coffee - or at least their version of it, which has been described as gritty and unpleasant - since the 1300's. However, our hero was intrigued, and after the defeat over the Turks he kept some sacks of beans and with his war earnings he opened a coffee house in 1683; one of the first three coffee houses in Europe!
So we are not saying that coffee didn't appear in Europe (Vienna) until 1683, because Parisians and Venetians were already drinking it decades earlier (Venice is said to have opened the first coffee house in Italy in 1645 but I found no record of its name and it would doubtful have been serving cappuccino) - we're just highlighting the link between coffee, cappuccino and cappuccini, and the origin of the cornetto.
The name of the coffee house was "Hof zur Blauen Flasche" which translates as 'House under the Blue Bottle' or 'the Blue Bottle Coffee House', and was located in Vienna on the street named in his honour: Kolschitzlygasse, complete with whimsical statue of him wearing Turkish clothing, his beloved red Fez and holding a tray of coffee in welcome. His contribution to the battle had been fundamental and he became a rather beloved folk hero. Sadly the coffee house no longer exists but the 'coffee house' culture became an integral part of Vienna's high society and there are still plenty of coffee houses to choose from around the city today.
The oldest surviving coffee houses in Europe are:
And what about our Cappuccino?
Well, a certain friar: Padre Marco d'Aviano, also played an vital role leading up to the September Eleven 1683 battle. King Leopald I, had heard of the friar's 'magical powers' in Italy and requested his presence at royal court to advise him. The King had very few troops - nothing that could possibly stave off an attack by 300,000 Turks - so Padre Marco helped persuade their allies to join the battle and even managed to persuade the Polish to join them with their superior numbers of troops. If it hadn't been for the intervention of our humble Italian friar the next target after Vienna was to have been Rome and things today could look very different.
We have not found conclusive proof of this next explanation but several sources state that after the battle Padre Marco visited the Blue Bottle Coffee House, but he was not too impressed with the Turkish coffee, suggesting it needed milk or cream and honey to make it palatable. The owner of the bar obliged (our Mr Kolschitzky) who agreed that it did indeed improve the drink and decided to name it after our friar - who happened to be of the Capuchin Order - hence the name Cappuccino. The reason for the order of monks having the name Cappuccini in the first place was on account of their cloaks with noticeably large hoods. Hood in Italian is 'cappuccio' so in this case the 'ini' part of the word Cappuccini isn't diminutive, so its not 'little hoods', but rather 'of the hood'. However, other sources state that the cappucino was so called because it had the same colour as the friar's robes - but that doesn't seem to make sense as the cappuccino is frothy milk coloured.
Padre d'Aviano and Emperor Leopald I, stayed close friends and the two of them were buried not far from each other: Padre Marco is in the Capuchin church in Vienna and the tomb of Emperor Leopald I is close by.
A film surrounding the war was released in 2012 with the uncomfortable title of: "September Eleven 1683".
Is it a Croissant? - is it a Cornetto? - No! It's a Kipferl!
The other thing it seems Georg gave us was the Kipferl. Apparently following the victory, he wanted to celebrate and to share his new 'Cappuccino' drink with everyone, but he thought it needed something to go with it. To mark the victory he took the symbol of the Turkish flag - a crescent moon - and created a half-moon shaped pastry, which we know as the croissant - Kipferl in German (lit. crescent), and Mezzaluna in Italian (lit. half moon) although Italy had its own metaphor for this shape and called them 'Cornetto' - more on this in another post!
So, how did the 'cornetto' get from Austria to France and Italy?
During the Ottoman Empire there were strong commercial connections between Vienna and Venice so it didn't take long for the croissant to reach the Veneto, first arriving in 1683 but it wasn't until 1770 when Marie Antoinette married King Louis XVI that the croissant arrived in France. She was Austrian, he was French and of course she brought her favourite customs and recipes with her to French Court, including the croissant - exactly the same as Georg's Kipferl but made with the addition of butter - something the French add to many dishes and we love them all the more for it.
Simple timeline of coffee in the world....
The biggest coffee explosion happened in the 1600's...
reference sources & further reading:
Share your thoughts on this fascinating topic.
Have you visited any of the oldest coffee houses?
Are there any we have missed that you think should be included?
If you're a coffee-lover and you're going to be in Rome don't miss our coffee-themed walking tour.
Thanks for stopping by.
We hope to see you in Rome soon!