Raise a hand if you’ve heard at least once that Italians never drink cappuccino after 11am. Well, I get asked this so often that I thought it was time to shed some light and bring an end to the discussion on cappuccino. “Native” Italians tend to be outraged when foreigners order a cappuccino after a meal (doing so is a sure sign you’re not a “native”!), and usually foreigners are frustrated about the attitude that welcomes their order. Let me explain why Italians feel that way.
There’s a very good biological reason why coffee is a good end-of-the-meal choice and cappuccino is not. Drinking a hot beverage after a big meal attracts blood to the stomach, helping digestion. However, the beverage needs to be easing the digestive process, not slowing it down – so a water-based hot drink like coffee or tea is ideal. Milk, however, is not easy to digest – quite on the contrary! So a cappuccino at the end of a meal completely defeats the purpose of the hot beverage concept – instead of helping your digestion, it hinders it.
Sometimes, we like to isolate the foods from the context in which they’ve been traditionally eaten. Since nowadays it is so easy to order what we want when we want it, we don’t necessarily think about the cultural meaning and background of the food we are ordering. There’s nothing wrong with it, mind you, but when it comes to Italian food, history and tradition makes a difference in how you enjoy the culinary experience. Believe your Italian friends if they frown upon you when you order a cappuccino after your meal. When enjoying carb-rich Italian food, give your stomach a break and order either coffee or tea.
The so-called “rule” of no cappuccino after 11am is actually not a rule, more like wisdom passed down from our ancestors. You can enjoy a cappuccino in the afternoon, and you will see many Italians doing so. However, you will never see us ordering a milk beverage immediately after a meal. We trust our traditions on that point!
Espresso e Cappuccino: Stile di Vita Italiano
Espresso and Cappuccino: The Italian Lifestyle
Filed under: Culinary Culture