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What is a latte? The short answer is – espresso and hot steamed milk, the combination which results in a timeless drink that many enjoy around the world.
Although, you must be careful how you order this drink when in Europe because you could end up with just a cup of steamed milk.
In this article, we go in depth about lattes, and try to explain some of the more commonly asked questions we’ve seen. Use the following table of contents to navigate around the article as you please. 🙂
Table of Contents:
- What is a Latte?
- What is the difference between a latte and cappuccino?
- How much espresso and steamed milk make up a latte?
- Hot or Cold?
- Is it strong?
- To flavor or not to flavor?
- Other types of lattes
Latte Commonly Asked Questions – Answered
What is a Latte?
Latte (pronounced: lätā) is simply espresso and steamed milk. While hot is not the only way this drink can be enjoyed, it is the most common and historic way.
In Italian, the phrase “caffe latte” translates to “milk coffee”. A simplistic but quick way to explain what a latte is made up of, is indeed milk coffee since the majority of the drink itself is espresso and milk.
When ordering in the United States, ordering a latte will essentially get you espresso with steamed milk.
On the other hand, if you order a latte in Europe, more so Italy, it will get you only a cup of steamed milk. Caffe latte is the correct name for the espresso and milk drink so many enjoy.
Steaming the milk before combining it with the espresso, creates a creamy and smooth texture that enraptures the espresso while enhancing its flavor.
The bitter espresso is entwined with a hint of sweetness from the milk, the concoction is timeless.
What is the difference between a latte and cappuccino?
It is not uncommon to mistake a cappuccino for a latte and vice versa when ordering the drink. Both are similar being made up of espresso and steamed milk (if you choose to have it hot).
A cappuccino is equal parts steamed milk and espresso. This leaves a large portion of the drink with foamed milk on top.
With a cappuccino being equal parts steamed milk and espresso, where does that leave the latte?
How much espresso and steamed milk make up a latte?
Unlike its brethren, the cappuccino, the latte is made up of one-part espresso and three parts steamed milk.
This 1:3 ratio is sometimes said to have been discovered because when the cappuccino was introduced to America, Americans believed it to be too strong.
Adding more creamy milk to the somewhat bitter cappuccino, created the latte that most people know today.
Hot or Cold?
It is an age-old question in the coffee and espresso world. Would you like that hot or cold? When ordering a latte, there is no wrong answer. If you wanted to be historically correct to the Italian way, the drink would be served hot.
Ordering a latte from Starbucks, hot or cold, you still receive a latte. As in most coffee and café places, personal taste is the only thing that matters when serving you your coffee.
So whether you enjoy the tasteful combination of espresso and milk hot or cold, your latte will be enjoyable to you. Speaking of taste…
Is it Strong?
A latte can be made to taste and strength. While the golden ratio is 1:3, that does not mean when ordering, you must stick with that. I enjoy my classic latte with an extra shot of expresso no matter what size I order.
Compared to the classic cappuccino, then yes, the cappuccino is stronger to taste than a latte. The taste of espresso is not the only taste you have to enjoy though.
To Flavor or Not Flavor?
My personal favorite is a raspberry white chocolate latte with an extra shot of espresso.
No matter which small coffee shop I enter, I can usually always find this combination. That does not mean you are stuck with it!
The choices for flavoring a latte are endless. Depending on the coffee shop you have gone to, your choices are yours alone.
Other Types of Lattes
An espresso with steamed milk is not the only type of lattes that are surfacing.
Lattes can be found using matcha or chia. These remove the espresso and add in green tea and chia tea concentrate.
These lattes can also be made “dirty” and an espresso shot added in to taste.
In the local coffee shop that I frequent, you can also get tea steamers, which are lattes without the espresso and with steamed milk and a tea bag.
Lattes are a delicious combination of steamed milk and espresso. Yet, they can be tweaked and added to for personal taste and level of comfort.
Some, whom are older, may prefer to stick with the classic latte while others will venture out and explore other tastes.
It is important to remember though that the latte has been Americanized.
When ordering in Europe, and especially Italy, a latte will only get you a cup of steamed milk. Caffe latte is the correct term.
So let us venture out and explore the sensations available to our taste buds in terms of the latte!