What is a Café con Leche de Desayuno?

Photo of author

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission if you purchase using these links.

Café con Leche de Desayuno, meaning “Coffee with Milk for Breakfast” in English, is a traditional Spanish breakfast drink. It blends espresso with warm steamed milk, typically in equal amounts, for a creamy consistency. This beverage is popular in many Spanish and Latin American countries as a morning staple.

Key Ingredients

  1. Espresso: This concentrated coffee provides the strong foundation of the drink.
  2. Warm Steamed Milk: Typically in a greater proportion than espresso, it contributes to the drink’s creamy and smooth texture.
  3. Sweeteners and Spices: Sugar is a standard addition, with options like cinnamon or vanilla varying by region.

How to Brew the Perfect Café con Leche de Desayuno

  1. Heat Milk: Heat 2/3 cup of milk in a pot on low heat until it simmers (about 180°F). Stir occasionally, then cool slightly.
  2. Brew Espresso: Use an espresso maker with either an espresso blend or single-origin beans to brew the coffee.
  3. Sweeten Milk: Stir 1 tablespoon of sugar into the warm milk until it dissolves completely.
  4. Combine Ingredients: Mix the brewed espresso with the sweetened milk.
  5. Customize & Serve: Add cinnamon or vanilla to taste, if desired.

Pro Tip 💡: For café con leche de desayuno, milk usually outweighs the coffee slightly, ensuring a creamier consistency compared to its standard counterpart1.

Exploring the Historical Roots of Café con Leche de Desayuno

Café con Leche de Desayuno dates back to the 1700s in Spain2, where it first emerged as a distinctive coffee drink combining scalded milk with rich, dark espresso. Over centuries, it has become an integral part of Spanish breakfast culture, prevalent in homes and restaurants across Spain.

A Café Con Leche De Desayuno Next To Two Croissants
Café con Leche de Desayuno is served with breakfast pastries

The name “Café con Leche,” translating to “coffee with milk,” aptly describes its core ingredients, but its unique character comes from the specific use of scalded milk and espresso, creating a flavor likened to sweet liquid chocolate cake.

Although its precise origin date is uncertain, Café con Leche has transcended Spanish borders, gaining popularity across Spanish-speaking nations. It’s notably prevalent in Mexico, various Latin American countries, and among Cuban communities in Miami.

This expansion allowed Café con Leche to adapt and become an integral part of Latin American culinary culture, with each region adding its own twist to this classic beverage3.

Serving Tradition of Café con Leche de Desayuno

Café con Leche de Desayuno is traditionally served in small cups with warm milk poured over espresso, creating a creamy drink. Variations like “café con leche en vaso” (served in a glass) exist.

In Spain, it’s often paired with tostadas or churros, while in Latin America, like Uruguay, it’s served with bizcochos, including croissant-like medialunas. These pairings enhance the rich, smooth flavor of the café con leche, making for a classic breakfast experience.

Café con Leche de Desayuno vs Café con Leche

  1. Time of Consumption: Café con Leche de Desayuno is primarily a morning beverage, integral to breakfast routines in Spanish-speaking cultures. Standard Café con Leche, however, is consumed any time of the day.
  2. Milk to Coffee Ratio: Café con Leche de Desayuno typically has a higher milk ratio, offering a creamier and milder flavor, ideal for mornings. In contrast, standard Café con Leche may have a more balanced coffee-to-milk ratio, resulting in a stronger taste.
  3. Cultural Significance: Café con Leche de Desayuno is a symbol of communal and relaxed breakfast culture in Spanish-speaking regions. On the other hand, standard Café con Leche is versatile and commonly enjoyed in various social contexts throughout the day.
A Café Con Leche De Desayuno Served Next To A Pastry With White Frosting And Fresh Fruit

Regional Variations of Café con Leche de Desayuno

Café con Leche de Desayuno varies across regions, reflecting local tastes:

  • Cuba: Known simply as café con leche, it’s often sweetened with sugar. Variants include “café con leche oscuro” for a stronger coffee flavor and “café con leche clarita” for a lighter taste. The Cuban version is notable for its sweet, frothy texture, balancing the strength of the coffee​​4​.
  • Puerto Rico: Here, café con leche remains true to its classic form, an espresso drink with scalded milk, typically sweeter than its counterparts​5.
  • Mexico: The Mexican version frequently incorporates evaporated milk and cinnamon, adding richness and spice.
  • Brazil: In Brazil, the beverage is known as “café com leite,” maintaining the essence of café con leche with local adaptations.

These variations highlight the adaptability of café con leche de desayuno, blending traditional flavors with regional preferences.

Conclusion: More Than Just a Drink

Today, Café con Leche de Desayuno remains not only a delightful morning drink but also a cultural symbol, reflecting the rich history and culinary traditions of Spain and its influence across various Spanish-speaking countries. As a testament to its enduring popularity, the drink is widely available in cafes and is also commonly made at home, allowing individuals to enjoy a taste of history and tradition in their daily lives​​.


  1. https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/how-to-make-spanish-cafe-con-leche
  2. https://coffeegeek.tv/cafe-con-leche-explained/
  3. https://thecoffeeadvice.com/cafe-con-leche
  4. https://lattelovebrew.com/cuban-cafe-con-leche/#:~:text=Pour%20your%20coffee%20into%20your,Cuban%20caf%C3%A9%20con%20leche%20clarita
  5. https://lattelovebrew.com/puerto-rican-cafe-con-leche/#:~:text=,espresso%20drink%20with%20scalded%20milk
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.