The latte is one of the most popular Italian coffee drinks, but this delicious beverage has so many lookalikes that it is easy to mix up your order. Do you order a café latte or simply ask for a latte? Are they even the same thing?
Well, what you get will depend mainly on where you are. In this article, we are going to show you everything you need to know about the café latte and its variations.
Café Latte Vs Latte : What is the difference?
When you order a latte, you will get a different drink depending on where you are. In most places in the US, the drink you will get is usually a café latte – steamed milk with espresso.
If you ask for a latte in Italy, you will get steamed milk! This is because latte simply means milk in Italy. (source)
If you want steamed milk with coffee, you will have to be a bit more specific and ask for a “caffe latte”.
Latte is the Italian word for milk. In America, however, a latte is a delicious coffee drink that is made using two shots of espresso, milk foam, and steamed milk. This milk-based coffee usually has a ratio of one part espresso and three parts steamed milk.
Café Latte Explained
A café latte is basically the Italian version of a latte. Café latte simply means “milk coffee”. It is made from espresso, steamed milk, and a thick topping of milk foam.
If you have seen gorgeous cups of coffee with striking artwork on them, it was probably a café latte. Café lattes have become famous for their latte art, which is done over the milk foam by baristas to bring an interesting twist to the drink.
In terms of ratio, Italian baristas typically use 1/4 part milk foam, 1/2 part steamed milk, and 1/4 part espresso.
What Does A Latte Taste Like?
A latte has a fluffy and mildly sweet flavor that balances out excellently with the pleasant taste of caffeine.
Generally, a latte is not a strong coffee drink as it contains more milk than espresso. The milk tends to mask the strong taste of caffeine and offsets it with a creamy, frothy texture.
You can also enhance the flavor by topping the drink with vanilla, hazelnut, etc. If you don’t like your coffee too strong, a latte is a great choice.
Café Latte Variations
Café lattes come in several different variations as coffee shops tweak their recipes a bit to stand out from the rest. Some lattes don’t even include the espresso, instead substituting it with tea leaves such as mate, matcha, or chai.
Café Latte Vs Café Au Lait
Café au Lait is simply how the French say “coffee with milk”. The drink is made with a shot of espresso or drip coffee and steamed milk. More specifically, the French baristas use concentrated filter coffee and scalded milk in this milk-based coffee drink.
You can also add chicory to enhance the flavor. The amount of espresso and steamed milk varies depending on the country, but the ratio is usually 1:1 hot milk to coffee.
Café Latte vs Café au Lait?
1. Milk content
There’s a lot more milk in a café latte than a café au lait – at least twice as much. A latte also includes a milk foam at the top while a café au lait does not. The milk overwhelms most of the taste of caffeine.
You can ask the barista to use two shots of espresso if you want a stronger drink, but that’s almost the same as ordering a cappuccino so why not take that instead?
For a café au lait, the milk is not steamed. It’s just heated almost to the boiling point.
For a café latte, the milk has to be steamed.
2. Type of coffee used
A caffe latte is made with espresso while a café au lait often uses filter coffee.
Filter coffee is commonly used to make café au lait because it was how the drink was traditionally made. Many people don’t like the strong taste of black coffee, so milk and sugar are usually added to tone it down.
You can also brew your own cup of café au lait at home with a French press, or use Turkish coffee instead. Either way, as long as you maintain a ratio of 1:1, you will still end up with a strong serving of café au lait.
A café latte always uses espresso, otherwise it’s a completely different drink. The ratio would be incorrect and the resultant taste would be different. What’s more, espresso is the only type of coffee that creates crema, which is needed to make latte art.
3. Making Process and Latte Art
There’s a specific method of making a latte using only espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. The way you add the elements into your cup is also important.
If you start with the milk and then the espresso, the taste will be slightly different than when you add the espresso first and finish with the milk. The addition of milk foam to the top of a latte makes it possible to create beautiful latte art.
A café au lait, on the other hand, does not have a specific preparation method and there is no milk foam you can use to make art.
4. Serving sizes
For a café latte, a serving is normally 10oz/300ml in total, which accounts for the milk foam, steamed milk, and espresso. You can’t order a smaller size, unless you make a special request.
For a café au lait, the sizing is all over the place. Some coffee shops offer 6oz/177ml, counting the milk and coffee. Others serve 12oz/354ml total. It typically boils down to the brewing method involved.
Filter coffee will usually give you a larger serving than Turkish coffee, simply because Turkish coffee is brewed in a very tiny coffee pot.
Café Latte Vs Café Mocha
The term “mocha” was used to refer to coffee beans imported from a Yemeni port city called Al Moka, which was once a leading center for commerce and trade during the seventeenth century. The beans would be harvested then roasted and delivered to the port.
A café mocha is coffee made from mocha beans. Note that a café mocha is not the same as the flavored drink also referred to as a mocha, which combines chocolate and coffee. A café mocha uses specific beans from the species Arabica, and it was once only cultivated in Mocha, Yemen.
What Is the Difference Between a Café Mocha and a Café Latte?
The main difference between these two coffee drinks is that a mocha contains chocolate while a latte does not. Both drinks are based on espresso, with the addition of frothed milk and steamed milk, and you can flavor either of them with syrups.
The café mocha is basically a variation of a latte. Like a café latte, café mochas come with a milk froth but can be topped with whipped cream instead. You can use milk or dark chocolate in your recipes. The addition of chocolate in a mocha means that it has significantly more calories and carbs than a latte.
Another difference between a mocha and a latte is that a mocha contains more caffeine. A latte uses a lot of milk, with the ratio of espresso to milk being at least 1:3. A mocha uses much lesser steamed milk (as little as 2oz), which translates to a higher concentration of espresso/caffeine per volume.
Café Latte Vs Cappuccino: What Is the Difference?
Cappuccinos were perfected and popularized during World War 1 and 2. A cappuccino is made up of several layers. The bottom layer is one or double shot of espresso, followed by a layer of steamed milk. The top layer is thick, airy foam that gives the drink a delicate velvety texture.
The difference between a cappuccino and a latte is that a cappuccino uses more foam and lesser milk, which leads to a much stronger espresso taste. When made properly, a cappuccino contains a ratio of 1:1 foam to liquid.
Your location matters a lot when ordering a café latte. To the Italians, a latte is simply steamed milk. This is where the difference between a café latte vs latte comes into play. To ensure you get the right drink, always ask for a café latte.