Your post really sparked my interest on this topic. I had not heard of this before, but I thought I'd try to do some research. Because I work at a University (not a barista yet, unfortunately), I have access to tons of online databases for book and newspaper archives. After going through many different databases, I found a fair selection of references to the Capuchin Monks and the origin of the cappuccino. I would like to respond to your two questions as well as I can, based on what I've found.
1. Answer this question: What is the relationship between these monks' clothes and our favorite beverage? Is it the color of the robe? the shape of the hat? the combination of colors? the folds of the robes? something else?
In all of the book and newspaper references I have found, the earliest dating back to 1954, all of them cite either the monk's habit (shape or color is not specified) or the color of the robes. Most of these articles say it’s the habits. Others state that the monks actually invented the beverage, and that it has nothing to do with their clothing at all. However…
In every single article or book source I found, only one of the authors referenced a source for their information (and the source he cited was only a generic coffee website). So, although this Capuchin story is mentioned quite a number of times, nobody says where they obtained that information, which makes it difficult to draw any conclusions.
2. Post a photo (or link to a photo) of one of these monks (preferably full-color) that supports your claim. OR, I guess if you've actually met one of these mythical beings and seen the connection firsthand, please describe the garment in detail and be prepared to justify your dereliction of iPhone camera duties.
Here is a picture I found of modern, Italian Capuchin monks from what I assume is their official website:
Looking at that picture (top of the page), I don't really see a connection. However, it made me wonder: What, exactly, is different about the outfits of the Capuchin monks from other monks in Italy? (Today or historically speaking.) Why would the cappuccino be named after them, rather than any other monks? I haven’t really researched that question yet. However, I did note this passage on Wikipedia:
“ They [the Capuchin monks] were given refuge by the Camaldolese monks, in gratitude for which they later adopted the hood or capuccio worn by that order - which was the mark of a hermit in that region of Italy - and the practice of wearing a beard. The popular name of their order originates from this feature of their religious habit, and after this the Capuchin monkey and the cappuccino coffee are also named by visual analogy.”
If we assume for the moment that this passage is historically accurate (can’t always be sure with Wikipeida), it would mean that the Capuchin monks wore the same hoods as the Camaldolese monks, at least during that time. My Google searches show that many Camaldolese monks wear all white (especially in older paintings), which actually corresponds with a 1972 article from the LA times, which says that the cappuccino has “a frothy collar like the white hoods of the Capuchin monks, from which the drink takes its name” (William Tuohy). Here are some photos of Camaldolese monks, in case you are curious:
And just for fun, here’s an old illustration of Capuchin monks I found:
As a final thought, I’d like to pose another question related to this topic: Does anybody have a rough idea of when the cappuccino first came into being? It would be interesting to look for pictures of Capuchin monks from a similar time period, just to see if there’s any logical connection between the way they dressed back then and the way a cappuccino looks. I'm not sure if there would even be any difference, but if so, it might help a bit in solving this puzzle.
I'm sorry I couldn't contribute more personal knowledge or experience to your question, since coffee is not yet my area of expertise, but I figured since nobody has responded to this topic yet, and since I have access to all of these academic databases, it might be of some use. Let me know if you'd like further details on any of the articles I have found.
I'm also very curious to hear other people's thoughts on this subject.
Surely I have better things to do with my time?
(snip) As a final thought, I’d like to pose another question related to this topic: Does anybody have a rough idea of when the cappuccino first came into being? It would be interesting to look for pictures of Capuchin monks from a similar time period, just to see if there’s any logical connection between the way they dressed back then and the way a cappuccino looks. I'm not sure if there would even be any difference, but if so, it might help a bit in solving this puzzle.
Well, I might have found something! I stumbled across this random website just now. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but the description is a bit more detailed and even includes a photograph. Check it out:
"Even our habit is closer to the original. The name comes from the Italian “cappuccino” (“ little hood”) : the children made fun of the new friars’ hoods which were not little but big in comparison with the other Franciscans’. Capuccino coffee gets its name from its color, which is supposed to be like our habit also."
Photo and text are here:
Notice that the hood is a lighter color than the rest of the outfit. I haven't seen that anywhere else. Also, I like the idea that the beverage was named after the hoods because of the color and the smaller size. Seems fitting. :)
Okay, the color clears it most of the way up, for me. The drink and the hood go by the same name. I don't buy the notion that size has much to do with it since espresso is significantly smaller than a cappuccino, which is "one cup" in size (give or take a couple of ml's). By today's standards, it may seem small, but don't let later culture be a determining factor.
The color reference does seem to make sense to me, but still.. there is no concrete source aside from lore and rumor.
I think we can assume that the drink is named for the hood itself, and nothing but the hood. That seems to be a step closer.