“Cappuccino”

As an expat, and even moreso as a Brit, I’m aware of how food products and recipes can change as they are adopted by another culture. Normally this kind of adaptation to local taste doesn’t bother me a great deal, but there are times when I stamp my foot and say “No! That’s just not right!”

When I first moved to Belgium in 2001 I received a nasty shock when I ordered a cappuccino in a bistro and was presented with this:

"Cappuccino", Belgian style

Need I explain what the problem is here? Coffee topped with a large dollop of chantilly does not a cappuccino make.

To their credit, many cafés either offer the real thing, or a choice between the two, and I’ve learnt to specify whenever ordering, but the other day when I was taking ‘Ploob to see the Atomium and Mini-Europe I somehow forgot that not everyone knows how to do it. Some places offer a bastardised version which is a coffee (not an espresso, just normal coffee) with the correct foam on top but no actual hot milk inside, so once the foam has dissipated you’re left with a lukewarm dark coffee.

Starbucks recently announced that they were planning to open their first Belgian branch sometime soon. Reactions varied from “Damned American cultural imperialists!” to “Thank god! Decent coffee at last!”…

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7 thoughts on ““Cappuccino”

  1. Erik R. July 16, 2008 / 1:26 pm

    Someone told me once that – and this may be limited to Starbucks only – the only difference between a cappuccino and a cafe latte is that the cappuccino has more air (foam) and less milk. So the cafe latte is a better liquid-per-quid* deal. All my evidence is anecdotal and it might not be true.

    *I just made that up.

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  2. Jim July 16, 2008 / 2:00 pm

    Just as an aside to Austin Powers fans – “that’s how we drink coffee in Belgium” (explains a lot!!)

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  3. Norm July 17, 2008 / 8:26 am

    I wonder why they never come up with ideas like this for tea? I don’t like coffee as it gives me the fear and makes me erratic (don’t say it Simon..!) Maybe I should try to invent some sort of tea-accino… A half-caf-skinny-tall-mocha-mericano-latte-ccino for the worlds tea drinkers.

    I will experiment and post my findings. If I can be arsed.

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  4. Manictastic July 19, 2008 / 11:34 am

    Since I’m not into coffee, nor tea, I’m not really aware of the horrible Belgian coffee culture. I don’t like Starbucks, they really don’t offer anything else but coffee. Or do they have scones to?

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  5. simonlitton July 21, 2008 / 11:57 am

    Norm – check out the wikipedia page I linked to above. There’s a link to another page on “Capputeano”…

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