What is a Latte?

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What is a Latte?

A café latte, also known as a caffè latte, is a type of coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. It typically consists of one or two shots of espresso combined with steamed milk, resulting in a rich, creamy beverage with a strong, bold flavor.

The key ingredients that make up a latte are espresso, steamed milk, and a thin layer of milk foam on top. The combination of intense espresso, subtly sweet steamed milk, and foamed milk creates the quintessential latte flavor and texture.

Key Takeaways:

  • A latte is an espresso-based coffee drink made with steamed milk and a thin layer of milk foam.
  • The origins of latte date back to 17th-century Europe and were popularized in the 1980s in Seattle, USA.
  • Lattes can be personalized with flavor syrups or toppings like foam art and chocolate shavings.
  • Lattes are popular at coffee shops and cafes worldwide.
A Barista Pouring A Latte
A barista pouring a latte | Photo by Tye Doring on Unsplash

Understanding the Latte: Origins and Preparation

The origins of latte date back several centuries to when coffee and milk were first combined in Europe. The modern latte as we know it likely originated in the 1980s in Seattle, USA, when espresso machines became more widespread.

To prepare a latte, espresso shots are pulled and milk is steamed and frothed using the steam wand on an espresso machine. The steamed milk is combined with the espresso, then topped with a thin layer of milk foam.

Latte Taste & Flavor: Key Characteristics

A latte is a harmonious blend of intense espresso flavor, velvety steamed milk, and a delicate layer of milk foam.The espresso provides a strong, robust taste, and the steamed milk adds a smooth, velvety texture and a touch of sweetness.

The drink strikes a balance between the bitter espresso and sweet, creamy milk, making it a perfectly balanced and visually appealing drink best consumed fresh.

Adding Flavors: From Vanilla to Pumpkin Spice

There are many ways to add flavors to a latte. One common method is to use flavored syrups or concentrates, which are added after combining the espresso and milk. Popular flavors include vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, and seasonal favorites like pumpkin spice.

Milk Substitutions: From Soy to Oat

Many people prefer to use non-dairy milks in their lattes instead of regular dairy milk. Common milk substitutions include soy, almond, oat, and coconut milk.

Barista-style soy and oat milk tend to produce the best foam quality and balance of flavor when substituted in lattes.

Here are some other common milk substitutions:

  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Oat milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Rice milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Lactose-free milk
Oat Milk Latte Alternative
Oat milk | Photo by Kaffee Meister on Unsplash

How Lattes are Served: Presentation Matters

Lattes are typically served in a tall, narrow glass or mug. The espresso is poured into the bottom of the mug, followed by the steamed milk.

Some people like to top their lattes with foam art or other decorative toppings. Lattes are best when fresh and hot, around 160°F, and should be enjoyed immediately before the foam settles.


How Do You Pronounce Latte?

To say “latte” correctly, it’s “LAH-tay,” with the stress on the “LAH” part.

Are Lattes Healthy?

The healthiness of a latte can vary depending on the ingredients used. Generally speaking, moderation is key.

How Do I Order a Latte at Starbucks?

To order a latte at Starbucks, simply ask for a latte and choose your milk type and size. You can also add flavors or extras like vanilla, caramel, or whipped cream.

Conclusion: Thanks a Latte!

So, a latte is more than just espresso mixed with steamed milk and a little froth on top. It’s a drink with a rich history, a variety of flavors, and the potential for artistic expression through latte art. Whether you enjoy it at a coffee shop or make one at home, lattes are a delightful part of coffee culture that you should definitely make a part of your life.

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.