A latte is a type of coffee drink.
It is an espresso-based coffee drink with steamed milk and foamed milk (microfoam).
The term as used in English is a shortened form of the Italian caffè e latte, caffelatte or caffellatte, which means “milk coffee.”
Coffee and milk have been part of European cuisine since the 17th century.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term caffè e latte was first used in English in 1867 by William Dean Howells in his essay “Italian Journeys.”
In Italian latte means “milk” — so ordering a “latte” in Italy will get the customer a glass of milk.
The Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, California claims Lino Meiorin, one of its early owners, “invented” and “made the latte a standard drink” in the 1950s.
In northern Europe and Scandinavia, a similar “trend” started in the early 1980s as café au lait became popular, prepared with espresso and steamed milk.
In Italy, caffè latte is almost always prepared at home, for breakfast only.
A latte is typically prepared in a 240 mL (8 fl oz) glass or cup with one standard shot of espresso and filled with steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 12 mm (1⁄2 in) thick on the top. In the US, a latte is often heavily sweetened, with 3% or even more sugar.
The drink is related to a cappuccino, the difference being that a cappuccino consists of double shot of espresso and steamed milk with a 2 centimeters (0.8 in) thick layer of milk foam.
An alternative version of latte can be prepared with soy milk or oat milk, as both have the ability to foam in the same way as cow milk, with soy milk versions being more prevalent. Such alternatives are popular among people with lactose intolerance and vegans.
In the United States, an iced latte is usually espresso and chilled milk poured over ice. Unlike a hot latte, it does not usually contain steamed milk or foam. Iced lattes almost always have sugar or flavoring syrups added, and are sometimes served blended with the ice.
A caffè latte differs from a latte macchiato. In a latte macchiato, espresso is added to milk, rather than the reverse, and caffè lattes have a stronger coffee flavour.
Latte art is a method of preparing coffee created by pouring microfoam into a shot of espresso and resulting in a pattern or design on the surface of the latte. It can also be created or embellished by simply “drawing” in the top layer of foam. Latte art is particularly difficult to create consistently, due to the demanding conditions required of both the espresso shot and milk.
Of the 400 million cups of coffee consumed in the United States each day, millions are variants of the latte. Alongside the espresso, cappuccino, and ice coffees, the latte is among America’s big four caffeine products.
National Latte Day is observed annually on October 7th.