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What is a Latte?

By Kris Roudebush
Updated May 16, 2024
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The introduction of franchise coffee houses to America, and the world, has made the latte a household word. Like most American slang, it's a shortened version of its original; the Italian cafellatte, which is simply coffee and milk. The name itself is simply Italian for "milk." Traditionally, a latte is double strength coffee, made in a Moka, poured over steamed milk. In Italy, it is considered a breakfast drink. A wide variety of coffee and teas are available as a latte, some hot, some cold, and available all day.

Lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and espressos are considered part of most international coffee menus. However, at franchise coffee houses, these drinks are mostly Americanized. Until recently, most baristas in Italy and other European countries served a very different style of coffee drink. Lattes have more milk and less foam than a cappuccino.

The rising costs of popular chain coffee houses have introduced a new drink, not officially on the menu. The ghetto latte might just be one of the most hated, at least by baristas, of the coffee drinks. This drink is simply two or three shots of espresso, over ice, and no water. The customer then adds cream and extras, like sugar, from the condiment bar. The savings to the customer can be nearly 50% off the same size latte. The buzz from bloggers has baristas and coffee drinkers duking it out over the "morality" of this beverage for the last couple of years.

While coffee and latte go hand in hand, the tea sellers shouldn’t be left out. Chai tea is especially popular as a latte. However, chai lattes may be popularized today, but they've been around for a long time. In India, some parts of Africa, and other parts of the world, chai consists of several spices and strong black tea that is thinned with milk and sugar.

If you're making a latte at home, remember to add the milk first and pour the coffee in last. Steaming or warming the milk before you add the coffee will help prevent it from curdling as well as keeping the coffee or tea from cooling off. Starting the day with this drink can be a special treat.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Jan 04, 2014

@donasmrs-- If you drink lattes often, I recommend getting an espresso machine and making it at home. My espresso machine also steams milk, so I make my own latte and cappucino. It's not difficult to learn.

I also buy sugar-free, hazelnut syrup from the grocery store and add some to my latte. It's so good! It's even better that what I would get from the coffee shop.

By ysmina — On Jan 03, 2014

Chai is a latte, that's how it's always made, at least in India. I drink Indian chai all the time. It's just black tea and spices boiled in whole fat milk and some water. It's very good, but it can take some getting used to. By the way, what is sold as "chai" at shops and grocery stores are not really chai. The real thing tastes very different.

I highly recommend tea lovers to make their own chai at home. But please make it with orange pekoe black tea which is sold at the Indian grocery store. Other teas don't taste the same. I personally use cloves, cardamom and cinnamon in my tea. Some people also use ginger and black pepper.

By donasmrs — On Jan 03, 2014

I love lattes. This coffee drink is lighter than regular coffee with cream because it's made with steamed milk, but it tastes just as good. My only complaint is that it costs a bit too much at coffee shops considering the ingredients. I buy a latte every single day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. I should buy a latte machine for my home or the office, otherwise, I'm going to be broke soon.

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