Why Cappuccino Is Never Served After A Meal In Italy

The Italians have their do's and don'ts for drinking cappuccino, the coffee beverage the country revolutionized with the invention of the espresso machine in the early 20th century. The espresso machine didn't make drinking milk with coffee a thing — that fell to the Viennese and their coffee houses, which began serving "Kapuziner" in the 18th century, a departure from what we might consider to be the more austere boiled water and coffee beans (sugar was an option) which Europeans were drinking until then (via The Spruce Eats). While there is no record of the first barista who discovered that adding frothed milk to an espresso would make it a hit, we can only think that the new, steam-driven espresso machines made consuming coffee shots more enjoyable –  especially for those who might not be fans of drinking coffee neat.

While many of us might balk at enjoying a cappuccino after a meal (and especially at night) because the amount of caffeine in it could leave us tossing and turning, Italians don't drink cappuccinos after meals for an entirely different reason.

Italians avoid cappuccino after 11 a.m. because it has milk

Several sites, including The Cut, say milk is the key reason Italians stay away from cappuccino during mealtime. There is a popular belief that the ingredient messes with digestion, so its best consumed before 11 in the morning, or only at breakfast, because for some reason, having the milky coffee with an optional pastry in the morning doesn't seem to trigger the same digestive problems. 

Medical science seems to support this culinary tradition, because as Mount Sinai gastroenterologist James Marion points out, "If someone has a big meal and then has whole milk, whether it's in a cappuccino, which has a decent amount of milk, or a glass of milk, chances are they're going to have some gas." The ones who are also most likely to suffer after a mealtime cappuccino could be lactose intolerant, a condition which can trigger bloating, cramps, gas, and diarrhea (via Healthline). 

Healthline says that as much as 75 percent of the world's population is lactose intolerant; and if a good number of these live in Italy, it's easy to see how a medical condition that affects a majority could easily lead to a culinary practice that has an impact on all.