What is cappuccino? Many people confuse this coffee drink with a caffe latte, another form of Italian coffee found at most coffee houses in America. The main difference between the two is that a caffe latte has twice the amount of milk (usually whole milk, but one can order it with 2 percent or even skim) and no milk foam.
The milk foam that floats on top of a cappuccino is what distinguishes it from most other coffee drinks, in fact. Served traditionally in a porcelain cup, the foam acts as an insulator and keeps the drink hotter longer. Additionally, the porcelain acts as another heat retainer. Paper and glass cups tend to allow the heat to seep out faster.
A cappuccino starts out with a shot of espresso. The barista then steams the milk, which is the second most important ingredient. If the texture and temperature of the milk is wrong, the drink won't be as good as it should be.
When the milk is properly steamed, it will be velvety and sweet. The barista will then float one centimeter of the foamed milk on top of the espresso. If one prefers their cappuccino to have more or less milk, the order would be for a wet or dry cappuccino, respectively.
Until the mid 1990s, Americans didn't really enjoy cappuccino. Whether it was because people didn't know what the drink was or because it wasn't quite cool enough to drink isn't known. However, when upscale coffee houses started sprouting up en masse, more and more people began ordering the beverage.
Traditionally, cappuccinos in Italy are served with breakfast. Typically speaking, Italians exclusively drink them in the morning, although in other countries it is customary to drink them after dinner. Hopefully, now that you've learned the question to "what is cappuccino", you'll be able to impress your friends with the new found knowledge.