A latte (from the Italian caffèlatte, meaning “coffee [and] milk”) is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed 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.
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”). 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.
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”. 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…”
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”.
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. Italian is caffè latte, while French is café au lait, and thus such variants as *caffé latte, *café latte, and *caffé lattè are incorrect, albeit widely used.
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.
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 (either single, 30 ml, or double, 60 ml) and filled with steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 12mm ( & frac12; 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. The drink is similar to a cappuccino, the difference being that a cappuccino consists of espresso and steamed milk with a 2 cm ( & frac34; inch) layer of thick milk foam.