Last Updated: 16th September 2021
Lattes and cappuccinos are often also mixed up, and no – a cappuccino isn’t just a latte with a sprinkle of chocolate on it.
A latte (sometimes called a caffè latte) is a milk-based coffee that features a layer of foam on top. This should be silky so it is a real highlight of the drink.
So, if you don’t know exactly what a latte is made from or how to make one, then here’s everything you need to know about this drink: its history, ingredients, preparation method and more!
A true latte will have…
All of this means a well-balanced drink, where the coffee still shines through, but it also looks great. Espresso will be around one-third of the cup, with steamed milk making up the rest before the froth is added (so a ratio of 1:2).
There’s really no hard and fast rule when it comes to selecting the best beans to make a latte. If you’re brewing at home, you might want to experiment with different beans to find your favourite flavour.
The drink is based on an espresso so you should opt for a blend that has been crafted especially for espresso. Generally, a medium-dark roast is best – the stronger flavour gives some body to the otherwise light and frothy drink.
In it’s purest form, the latte is actually an incredibly simple drink to make. You can easily make one from home without any fancy equipment by following the basics (you will need a whisk, though):
Now we have answered “what is a latte”, you may be wondering where it comes from.
Unfortunately, it isn’t massively clear. People have been combining milk in different forms with coffee for years, so for all we know, it could be a very old drink indeed.
But the first recording of it actually becoming a popular drink that can be ordered in coffee shops is in Seattle in the 1980s. The name is derived from the Italian caffè e latte which literally means coffee and milk.
In northern Europe and Scandinavia, café au lait is traditionally used for the combination of espresso and milk, if you also fancy ordering when abroad.
They are confused a lot, but with good reason. A cappuccino is as well made up of espresso, steamed milk and foam, but each of these is split into even thirds in the cup (a ratio of 1:1:1).
So, while there is more foam on the top, there is less steamed milk, making for a less milky drink. The layers are also important in a cappuccino, whereas the espresso and steamed milk will likely be mixes in a latte.
And, contrary to popular belief, cappuccino doesn’t actually need to have chocolate on top.
Created by pouring the steamed, and mostly frothed, milk into the coffee, the method of pouring is done in order to ensure patterns are distinguishable on the top of the coffee. This can be anything, from trees and flowers to logos and even the faces of celebrities.
It is easiest to do this with a latte, because of the large use of steamed milk.
Do you want to do your own latte art? Then check out our 5 best latte art pens here. And see the best latte art on Instagram to give yourself some proper motivation (or just to wonder at the results).
As with a lot of coffee-based drinks, the exact makeup of a latte has been experimented with in the past years.
A mocha is technically a chocolate-flavoured latte, where the flavouring is added to the steamed milk. The coffee can also be replaced with another base such as masala chai, matcha, turmeric or rooibos – but we at Daily Espresso don’t suggest you do that! Learn more about what makes a mocha great in our guide on what a mocha actually is!
Other popular flavourings which are added to a latte include vanilla and caramel, often in the form of coffee syrup.
It is also a popular drink for anyone who likes to use soy, oat or almond milk, and iced lattes are also popular in summer when the espresso and chilled milk are poured over ice. Unlike a hot latte, however, the milk is not steamed or foamed, so technically the name is a bit mislaid.
If you learned anything new, share this article on social media and tell people what you learned about a latte today!