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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caffè latte as being served in Oslo, Norway

A latte (from the Italian caffelatte, meaning "coffee [and] milk") is a type of coffee drink made with hot milk. Variants include replacing the coffee with another drink base such as chai, mate or matcha. The word is also sometimes spelled latté or lattè —the non-etymological diacritical mark being added as a hyperforeignism, as fit for many French words with a pronounced final e, but unnecessary in Italian words, where all vowels are always pronounced.



In Italian latte (Italian pronunciation: [ˈlätːte], English: /ˈlɑːteɪ/) means milk. What in English-speaking countries is now called a latte is shorthand for "caffelatte" or "caffellatte" ("caffè e latte").[1][2][3][4] The Italian form means "coffee and milk", similar to the French café au lait, the Spanish café con leche and the Portuguese café com leite. Other drinks commonly found in shops serving caffè lattes are cappuccinos and espressos.

Ordering a "latte" in Italy will get the customer a glass of hot or cold milk[5].

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term caffè latte was first used in English in 1847 (as caffè latto), and in 1867 as caffè latte by William Dean Howells in his essay "Italian Journeys".[6] However, in Kenneth Davids' Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying it is said that "At least until recently, ordering a 'latte' in Italy got you a puzzled look and a hot glass of milk. The American-style caffè latte did not exist in Italian caffès, except perhaps in a few places dominated by American tourists... Obviously breakfast drinks of this kind have existed in Europe for generations, but the caffè version of this drink is an American invention..." [7]

Caffe Mediterraneum, a landmark cafè in Berkeley, California, claims to be the birthplace of the caffè latte, crediting its birth to one of the café's owners, Lino Meiorin in the late 1950's. According to a sign that is proudly displayed in the café, Lino was the first Italian-trained barista in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his Italian-style cappuccinos were apparently too strong for the customers. In response to his customers, he decided to add a larger, milkier cappuccino to the menu, and he called this drink the "caffè latte".[8]

Spelling variations

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.

In Italy, the spelling is caffè (with the accent grave over the e). In France, the spelling is café (with the accent aigu over the e). These words are used for both the beverage and the places it is served.

Current use

Steamed milk, one of the primary ingredients of a caffè latte.

In Italy, caffè latte is almost always prepared at home, for breakfast only. The coffee is brewed with a stovetop Moka 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 240cc (8oz) glass or cup with one standard shot of espresso and filled with steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 12mm (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.[9] The drink is similar to a cappuccino, the difference being that a cappuccino consists of espresso and steamed milk with a 2 cm (¾ inch) layer of thick milk foam. An Australian and UK variant on the latte is the flat white, which is served in a smaller ceramic cup with the creamy steamed milk poured over a single-shot of espresso, holding back the lighter froth at the top.

Caffè latte vs. latte macchiato

A glass of 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.

The latte macchiato is milk steamed to microfoam, served in a glass with 1/2 shot of espresso poured gently through the foamy top layer, creating a layered drink with a 'macchio' -a 'spot' of espresso on the top. A latte macchiato is milk with a hint of espresso, and 'macchiato' means 'marked' = 'marked' milk. As with an espresso macchiato, which is espresso with a spot of milk atop, indicating there's a hint of milk underneath the crema, a latte macchiato is the opposite, to indicate there is espresso in the milk.

A caffè latte is also made up of espresso and steamed milk, but differs from the latte macchiato in that it has a stronger flavor of coffee, and the two drinks' names indicates this.

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.

Serving styles

  • In some establishments, lattes are served in a glass on a saucer with a napkin which can be used 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.
  • 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.[10]
  • 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.

See also




Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Old High German latta


Latte f. (genitive Latte, plural Latten)

  1. lath
  2. erection (slang)


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