A latte (// or //) is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. The term as used in English is a shortened form of the Italian caffè latte or caffellatte (pronounced [ˌkaffelˈlatte]), which means "milk coffee". The word is also sometimes incorrectly spelled latté or lattè in English with different kinds of accents, which can be a hyperforeignism (a mistake) or a deliberate attempt to help customers realize the word is not pronounced as this combination of letters would normally be interpreted by native speakers. In northern Europe and Scandinavia the term 'café au lait' has traditionally been used for the combination of espresso and milk, but this term is used in the US for brewed coffee and scalded milk. In France, 'caffè latte' is mostly known from American coffee chains; a combination of espresso and steamed milk equivalent to a 'latte' is in French called 'grand crème' and in German 'Milchkaffee' or 'Melange'. Variants include replacing the coffee with another drink base such as masala chai (spiced Indian tea), mate or matcha, and other types of milk, such as soy milk are also used.
Coffee and milk has been part of the European kitchen since the 17th century (there is no mention of milk in coffee pre 1600 in Turkey or in the Arab world). 'Caffèlatte', 'Milchkaffee' and 'Café au lait' are domestic terms of traditional ways of drinking coffee, usually as part of breakfast in the home. Public Cafés in Europe and the US it seems have no mention of the terms until the 20th century, although 'Kapuziner' is mentioned in Austrian coffee houses in Vienna and Trieste in the 2nd half of the 1700s as 'coffee with cream, spices and sugar' (being the origin of the Italian 'cappuccino').
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term caffè latte was first used in English in 1867 as caffè latte by William Dean Howells in his essay "Italian Journeys". Kenneth David maintains that "...breakfast drinks of this kind have existed in Europe for generations, but the (commercial) caffè version of this drink is an American invention".
The French term 'Café au lait' was used in cafés in several countries in western continental Europe from 1900 onwards, while the French themselves started using the term 'café crème' for coffee with milk or cream. The Austrian-Hungarian empire (eastern Europe) had its own terminology for the coffees being served in coffee houses, while in German homes it was still called 'milchkaffee'. The Italians used the term 'caffèlatte' domestically, but it is not known from cafès like 'Florian' in Venice or any other coffee houses or places where coffee was served publicly. Even when the Italian espresso bar culture bloomed in the years after WW2 both in Italy, and in cities like Vienna and London, 'espresso' and 'cappuccino' are the terms, 'latte' is missing on coffee menus.
In English-speaking countries 'latte' is shorthand for "caffelatte" or "caffellatte" ("caffè e latte"), which is similar to the French café au lait, the Spanish café con leche, the Catalan cafè amb llet or the Portuguese galão.
The Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, California claims Lino Meiorin, one of its early owners, "invented" and "made the latte a standard drink" in the 1950s. The latte was popularized in Seattle, Washington in the early 1980s and spread more widely in the early 1990s.
In northern Europe and Scandinavia, a similar 'trend' started in the early 1980s as 'Café au lait' became popular again, prepared with espresso and steamed milk. 'Caffè Latte' started replacing this term around 1996-97, but both names exist side by side, more often more similar than different in preparation.
Coffee menus worldwide use a number of spelling variations for words to indicate coffee and milk, often using incorrect accents or a combination of French and Italian terms. Italian is caffellatte (the standard form; caffelatte is a Northern Italian variation), contracted from caffè-latte, (with a grave accent over the e), while French is café au lait (with an acute accent); Spanish is café con leche and Portuguese is café com leite. Variants such as caffé latté, café latte, and caffé lattè are commonly seen in English.
In Italy, caffelatte is almost always prepared at home, for breakfast only. The coffee is brewed with a stovetop Moka pot and poured into a cup containing heated milk. (Unlike the international latte drink, the milk in the Italian original is not foamed.)
Outside Italy, a caffè latte is typically prepared in a 240 mL (8 oz) glass or cup with one standard shot of espresso (either single, 30 mL, or double, 60 mL) and filled with steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 12 mm (½ inch) thick on the top. A caffè latte may also be served consisting of strong or bold coffee (sometimes espresso) mixed with scalded milk in approximately a 1:1 ratio. The drink is similar to a cappuccino, the difference being that a cappuccino consists of espresso and steamed milk with a 20 mm (¾ inch) layer of thick milk foam. An Australian variant similar to the latte is the flat white, which is served in a smaller ceramic cup with the micro-foamed milk. In the United States this beverage is sometimes referred to as a wet cappuccino.
Caffè latte vs. latte macchiato
A caffè latte differs from a latte macchiato in that in a latte macchiato, espresso is added to milk, rather than the reverse. A caffè latte has a stronger coffee flavor.
The latte macchiato is milk steamed to microfoam, served in a glass with a half shot of espresso poured gently through the foamy top layer, creating a layered drink with a “macchia” – a spot – of espresso on the top. As with a caffè macchiato, which is espresso with a spot of milk atop, indicating there's a hint of milk underneath the espresso foam, a latte macchiato is the opposite, to indicate there is espresso in the milk.
The use of the term ‘macchiato’ has been widened to include a huge array of beverages and ice creams. In some countries (like Germany), latte macchiato is the preferred term. The word "macchiato" itself is Italian for "stained" which refers to creating a coffee or milk "stain" in the drink.
Although the term macchiato has been used to describe various types of espresso drinks, a caffè macchiato is 3/4 espresso and 1/4 steamed milk. A caffè macchiato is about 4 ounces and is usually served in a demi tasse. Although a traditional macchiato is small, there are still ways to pour art into the crema of drink. The only difference between pouring latte art and macchiato art is that for a macchiato, the milk has to be poured faster and through a much smaller stream.
- In some establishments, lattes are served in a glass on a saucer with a napkin to hold the (sometimes hot) glass.
- A latte is sometimes served in a bowl; in Europe, particularly Scandinavia, this is referred to as a cafe au lait.
- Increasingly common in the United States and Europe, latte art has led to the stylization of coffee making, and the creation of what is now a popular art form. Created by pouring steaming, and mostly frothed, milk into the coffee, that liquid is introduced into the beverage in such a way that patterns are distinguishable on the top of coffee. Popular patterns can include hearts, flowers, trees and other forms of simplistic representations of images and objects.
- Iced latte is often served unstirred so that coffee appears to "float" on top of white milk in a glass cup.
- The relatively high prices demanded by some establishments have led to the creation of ghetto latte or bootleg lattes, whereby customers mix their own latte by ordering a lower-priced cup of espresso and then mixing it with milk and other condiments offered for free at the condiments bar.
- In Asia and North America, lattes have been combined with Asian teas. Coffee and tea shops now offer hot or iced latte versions of chai, matcha, and Royal milk tea.
- Other flavorings can be added to the latte to suit the taste of the drinker. Vanilla, chocolate, and caramel are all popular variants.
- In South Africa a red latte is made with rooibos tea.
Specifically calling people "latte drinkers" has become a common political attack in Western cultures. The popularity of espresso drinking in large cities, especially among more affluent urban populations, has caused some to consider it elitist behavior. In the United States, conservative political commentators frequently call their opponents "latte-drinking liberal elites." In Canadian politics, latte drinking is used to portray people as out of touch intellectuals and the antithesis of the Tim Hortons coffee drinker that's considered representative of an ordinary Canadian. In Scandinavian politics, the term "the cafe latte segment" is used to describe elitist voters.
- Latte - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- Definition of latte in Oxford Dictionaries (British & World English)
- "Latte". Oxford English Dictionary (new online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- Davids, Kenneth, Coffee, A Guide To Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying, Google.
- Schomer, David, Espresso coffee (second ed.), p. 151, ISBN 1-59404-031-1.
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- Caffe Mediterraneum, Daily cal, "...in the late 1950s that one of the Med's early owners, Lino Meiorin, made the latte a standard coffee drink".
- Ocala Star-Banner, Google, Jan 4, 1995.
- "Americans wake up and smell the coffee", The NY Times, 1992-09-02, "...espresso-based drinks with names like caffe latte...".
- "Coffee Variations Dictionary" (Dutch) composed by the Dutch coffee branche Douwe Egberts[dead link]
- Leroux, Charles (5 October 2006). "The bootleg latte: Would you make one?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
- Nunberg, Geoffrey (2007). Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism Into a Tax-raising, Latte-drinking, Sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, Left-wing Freak Show. PublicAffairs. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
- "The politics of me", The NY Times, August 18, 1996, "...self-indulgent, self-centered, latte-drinking, DKNY-wearing, BMW-driving, inner-child-searching softies.".
- "The anti-mall", The NY Times, October 9, 1994, "...hip-hopping community of MTV-watching, planet-saving, latte-sipping individualists...".
- "The", The NY Times, January 11, 2004, "...government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New-York-Times-reading...",
- de la Court, Susan (Apr 6, 2012), "On Twitter, or in Tim Hortons, politicians need to listen", Toronto Star.
- "Is the U.S. Tea Party movement seeping into Tim Horton’s territory, Canada?", Toronto Star, Sept 10, 2010 .
- Media related to Latte at Wikimedia Commons