Café au lait

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This article is about the beverage. For the style of birthmark, see Café au lait spot. For other uses, see Café au lait (disambiguation).
Café au lait
Café au lait.jpg
Type Beverage
Place of origin France
Main ingredients coffee with hot milk
Cookbook: Café au lait  Media: Café au lait

Café au lait (pronounced: [kafe o lɛ]; French for "coffee with milk") is coffee with hot milk added. It differs from white coffee, which is coffee with cold milk or other whitener added.



Café au lait bowls in a style traditionally used in France

In Europe, "café au lait" stems from the same continental tradition as "cafè amb llet" in Catalan-speaking lands, "café con leche" in Spain, "kawa biała" ("white coffee") in Poland, "Milchkaffee" ("milk coffee") in Germany, "tejeskávé" in Hungary, "koffie verkeerd" ("incorrect coffee") in The Netherlands and Belgium, and "café com leite" ("coffee with milk") in Portugal and Brazil. It means Coffee over milk in French. In the French-speaking areas of Switzerland, a popular variation is the "café renversé" ("reverse coffee"), which is made by using the milk as a base and adding espresso, in reversal of the normal method of making a "café au lait". In northern Europe, café au lait is the name most often used in coffee shops.

At home, café au lait can be prepared from dark coffee and heated milk; in cafés, it has been prepared on espresso machines from espresso and steamed milk ever since these machines became available in the 1940s—thus it refers to the usual[clarification needed] "coffee and milk" combination, depending on the location, not to a specific drink.[citation needed]

"Café au lait" and "caffè latte" are used as contrasting terms, to indicate whether the beverage is served in the "French" or the "Italian" way, the former being in a white porcelain cup or bowl, the latter in a kitchen glass and always made from an espresso machine, whereas "café au lait" might be espresso or dark coffee based.

United States[edit]

A café au lait and beignets served in Café du Monde, New Orleans.

In many American coffeehouses, a café au lait is a drink of strong drip brewed or French pressed coffee, to which steamed milk is added; this contrasts with a caffè latte, which uses espresso as a base. American café au lait is generally served in a cup, as with brewed coffee, being served in a bowl only at shops which wish to emphasize French tradition.

Café au lait in New Orleans has been popularized contemporarily in part by Café du Monde. There, it is made with milk and coffee mixed with chicory, giving it a strong, bitter taste. Unlike the European café style, a New Orleans café au lait is made with scalded milk—milk warmed over heat to just below boiling—rather than steamed milk.[1] Inclusion of roasted chicory root as an extender in coffee became common in colonial Louisiana, and eventually was incorporated as a regular coffee additive. The bitterness of the chicory offsets the sweetness of the powdered-sugar-covered beignets, a common accompaniment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cait au lait, Gumbo Pages