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IN THE KNOW: A Brief History of the Cappuccino

When Old City Coffee opened its doors at 221 Church Street in 1985, one of the original menu items was the Cappuccino. This frothy caffeinated delight is a mainstay because it's miraculously a comfort food and a delicacy. In addition to its palatable features, this specialty coffee drink is notable because of its textured history. In contemporary coffee culture, the beverage is defined by having a shot of espresso topped with some steamed milk and a lot of milk foam. The act of mixing ingredients into coffee was a direct result of shifting empires and their trade, which we'll succinctly float through below.
      Coffee consumption spread from its origins in Yemen and Ethiopia through international sea and foot trade to Asia and the Americas, but later it spread north to Europe through the trade hub of Aleppo. At first, Europeans brewed coffee in the "Turkish" style, which they inherited from Ottoman expansion. This ancient coffee-brewing method steeped coffee grounds with no filtration system and often added a sweetener or milk if available. This method is still practiced today in much of the Mediterranean.
Much like the history of the cocktail and bar culture, specialty coffee drinks were innovated by coffeehouse baristas to market their establishment and to make the coffee itself more enjoyable to a mass public. One of these marketable changes was filtering the coffee grounds, which softened the mouth feel and provided a more luxurious experience to clients. The first mixed coffee drinks that preceded the cappuccino contained local milk, sugar most likely from the Caribbean, and Silk Route spices, which truly embodied the international trade of the period following Ottoman stability.
Jumping ahead to the tail end of the Ottoman Empire, the cappuccino as we know it today first officially appeared in 19th century Viennese coffeehouses with whipped cream. The Italian counterpart emerged with wide popularity in the 20th century with the invention of modern espresso machine technology. The namesake of the drink is after an order of Italian Friars called the Capuchin Monks, who were famous for their light brown robes. When the espresso base mixed with milk and milk foam, the color of the beverage perfectly matched the iconic light brown robes, revealing the drink’s Catholic roots. "Capuchin" itself actually translates to "hood", which came from the Medieval Latin word for hood. The word is also related to the English words “capital” and “captain”, which are great associations to start your day with a beautifully made cappuccino!

New Beans and Certification 

For the first time we are happy to offer you a third party certification by UTZ,  Colombian Excelso and Costa Rica San Rosa.
Utz Certified Costa Rican SHB Naranjo San Rosa 
This is a classic Costa Rica cup with a light to medium body and delicate citric acidity.  This coffee is sustainably grown and receives the Utz Certification. San Rosa has no detectable flaws, just a balanced cup that is crisp and smooth. $15.00 lb.      $8.00 1/2 lb.       $4.25 1/4 lb. 
Utz Certified Colombia Excelso Hulia
This small farm grown coffea arabica is from South Eastern Colombia known for its fertile valleys and snow capped volcanoes. It is a well-balanced mild cup with appealing body, delicate richness and caramel and fruity notes in the finish. It is grown with care for people and the environment as certified by Utz. $14.50 lb.      $.800 1/2 lb.       $4.25 1/4 lb. 

Brazillian Espresso Tasting

Join us as we celebrate The 3rd Filadelfia Latin American Film Festival with Brazil Cultural Center in Philadelphia! Join us as we celebrate The 3rd Filadelfia Latin American Film Festival with Brazil Cultural Center in Philadelphia.This free event will include a Brazilian espresso tasting and music by MINAS BRAZILIAN MUSIC.

Learn more about the festival at!

April 23 at 12:00 pm
The Reading Terminal Market
Spotlight on Sustainability
Single Origin Coffee

A Single origin coffee is monogenetic bean that came from one species of the shrub coffee arabica. These coffees are generally named after their farm or original geographic home. An example of this is Jamaican Blue Mountain Clydesdale Estate #1, which is our special this week. The name communicates that the bean originates from an estate farm called Blue Mountain Clydesdale in Jamaica. The number 1 in the name was given by the farm to differentiate it from other similar beans on the criteria of size and quality.  

         Buying and selling single origin coffee is a sustainable practice because of the incentives it provides to coffee farmers. When massive coffee companies purchase coffee they incentivize combining beans to multiply the number of usable products, leading to a lower production cost and a higher profit. Small-batch roasters like Old City Coffee who buy single-origin encourage farmers to grow smaller batches with more traditional and sustainable practices. Without the need to produce exorbitant masses of coffee, farmers no longer need to rely on pesticides, larger amounts of water, and bean processing technology. Single origin production leads to a finer quality of bean while expending fewer resources.   

        Old City Coffee carries many single origin coffees that are traceable through our direct, responsible, and representative trade. By knowing our farms through on-going relationships, we have an intimate understanding of their particular flavor characteristics. We are also more aware of the green coffee compensation level paid to the growers that is appropriate for superior quality. We want farmers to have an incentive to shade grow great coffee and for our customers to have informed choices. 

Love in the Time of Coffee: When Mocha Met Java
By Art Dupras

Mocha. To most people this word triggers thoughts of deep dark chocolate with a hint of the coffee taste. We see this word in coffee-house menus, in the baking aisle, and the refrigerated section of our local super-markets which house our favorite pint sized ice-creams. In our contemporary lexicon mocha has really come to mean "a blend of chocolate and coffee". The usage dates back to the mid-19th century, yet no one seems to know its origin. What is known though is that the contemporary meaning is a total European construct. If we could spin the proverbial time-clock back far enough to the 15th century and focus our attention on the continent of Africa, the word mocha simply referred to the port of Mocha. This port, located on the coast of the Red Sea in modern day Yemen, has never actually ever cultivated, exported, or even imported chocolate.

Today, the old port of Mocha lies in disarray and is no longer a major trade center. In its day all commercial coffee grown in the Red Sea region moved through this Yemeni port. Ethiopia might have the distinction of being the first country to have cultivated the original coffee tree, but its neighbor across the water, Yemen, introduced coffee to the world. There is a common belief that Marco Polo, during his travels in the Arab world, traded a Yemeni merchant for some coffee beans. Polo returned to Europe carrying the mysterious commodity. By the 17th century coffee was widely known throughout all of Europe and the word mocha became synonymouswith coffee. During the 17thcentury trade between Europeans and the Islamic world was picking up, it was at this time that some Europeans supposedly smuggled out some African coffee seeds and tried growing coffee trees on foreign soil. The Dutch, major traders at the time, took their seeds to Ceylon and the Indonesian island of Java, both of which were under Dutch control. They found the altitude and weather conditions perfect for growing their absconded seeds. The island of Java soon became the world's second largest grower of commercial coffee. And so began the marriage of Mocha-Java, the world's oldest blend of coffee.

The port of Mocha, located in Yemen, was a major trading destination for European sailors. They would fill their ships with coffee and spices to resell to the ever-growing demand in Europe. With increased demand came greater pressure to supply the world with coffee. Sometime around 1615 the Dutch smuggled Yemeni coffee plants and began cultivating small seedlings in coloniazed areas like Ceylon and the Indonesian island of Java. The Dutch's transplanting gamble payed off because the trees grew plentiful in the volcanically rich soils. Soon the Indonesian coffee was flooding the European markets. Sailors and traders could now purchase green coffee beans grown on two edges of a continent in the coffee belt.

The point that the two distinct varietals were first blended together is lost to history. One is theory is that the sailors took a scoop of each bean and roasted them on the ship to enjoy on the long voyage home to stretch supplies. Another possibility is that upon reaching their final port, sailors brought the beans to coffee houses who experimented. Coffee roasters realized the new crop from Mocha and Java could be mixed into a premium product for increasingly caffeinated customers.

The romantic in me would like to imagine that it was fate that brought Mocha and Java together. The gentle waves of the ocean tossed and turned and encouraged the two beans to mingle and mix in the hull of the ship. A coupling, which became a near perfect blend: the exciting tanginess of the Mocha complimented the rich full-body of the Java. A love story, which continues to this day and can be experienced at any of our Old City Coffee locations. Come by and taste the love.

Coffee Specials

September 17th - September 23rd: