What is a Latte?

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In the realm of espresso-based drinks, the latte has earned a special place in the hearts of coffee lovers around the world.

Known for its creamy texture and balanced flavour, the latte offers a more approachable and comforting coffee experience compared to its bolder counterparts.

In this Coffee Expert guide, we’ll explore the origins, components, and variations of the latte to help you better understand and appreciate this popular coffee creation!

The Origins of the Latte

Italian Heritage

The term “latte” is derived from the Italian “caffè latte,” which translates to “milk coffee.” Although it’s unclear when the latte was first created, the concept of combining coffee and milk has a long history in European coffee culture.

Evolution and Global Adaptation

While the traditional Italian caffè latte consists of equal parts espresso and steamed milk, the modern latte has evolved into a more milk-dominant beverage.

Today, the latte is known for its creamy, velvety texture and the delicate balance between the espresso’s boldness and the milk’s natural sweetness.

The Components of a Latte

The Espresso

The foundation of a latte is the espresso, which is typically a single or double shot. The espresso provides the bold coffee flavour and aroma that forms the backbone of the latte.

The Steamed Milk

Steamed milk is the primary component of a latte, providing the beverage with its creamy texture and natural sweetness. The milk should be steamed to a velvety, microfoam consistency, with small, uniform bubbles that create a smooth mouthfeel.

The Milk Froth

A latte is typically topped with a thin layer of milk froth, which adds a touch of airiness to the drink and creates a canvas for latte art.

How to Make a Latte

1. Pull Your Espresso Shot

Begin by pulling a single or double shot of espresso using freshly ground coffee beans. Aim for a rich and balanced extraction, as the espresso will provide the essential coffee flavour in your latte.

2. Steam the Milk

Steam the milk to create a velvety, microfoam consistency. Be cautious not to overheat or over-froth the milk, as this can negatively impact the taste and texture of your latte.

3. Pour the Milk over the Espresso

Slowly pour the steamed milk into the espresso, ensuring that the milk and espresso mix evenly. The milk should form a smooth, creamy layer on top of the espresso.

4. Add the Milk Froth

Using a spoon, gently place a thin layer of milk froth on top of the latte. This layer can be used as a canvas for latte art, or simply enjoyed as a light and airy topping.

Latte Art and Presentation

The Art of Pouring

Latte art has become an integral part of the modern latte experience, with skilled baristas showcasing their creativity and technique through intricate designs.

The most common latte art patterns include the heart, the rosetta, and the tulip.


A latte is typically served in a 240-300ml (8-10 oz) cup, with the espresso-to-milk ratio varying based on personal preference.

A well-crafted latte should have a harmonious balance between the bold coffee flavour and the creamy, sweet milk.

Variations of the Latte

Flavoured Lattes

Flavoured lattes have become increasingly popular, incorporating a variety of syrups, such as caramel, vanilla, and hazelnut, to add an extra layer of sweetness and complexity to the drink.

These flavourings can be added to the espresso or the milk, depending on the desired taste profile.

Iced Latte

The iced latte offers a refreshing alternative to the traditional hot latte, featuring a single or double shot of espresso poured over ice, and topped with cold milk.

This chilled version maintains the latte’s signature creamy texture while providing a cool and invigorating coffee experience.

Alternative Milks

Lattes can also be made with alternative milk options, such as almond, soy, oat, or coconut milk. These alternatives can cater to those with dietary restrictions or preferences, and may also impart unique flavour nuances to the latte.

The Latte in Modern Coffee Culture

The Rise of Specialty Coffee

As specialty coffee culture continues to grow, so does the appreciation for the latte as a comforting and approachable espresso-based beverage.

The latte has become a staple in cafes worldwide, and its popularity has inspired a range of innovative adaptations and flavour combinations.

Latte vs. Other Espresso-Based Drinks

The latte is closely related to other espresso-based drinks, such as the cappuccino and flat white. The primary difference between these beverages lies in their espresso-to-milk ratios and milk textures.

The cappuccino has equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth, while the flat white features a higher espresso-to-milk ratio with a thinner layer of microfoam.

Our Conclusion on the Latte

The latte is a beloved coffee classic that combines the boldness of espresso with the creaminess and sweetness of steamed milk.

By understanding the origins, components, and variations of the latte, you can better appreciate this popular beverage and confidently order or create it at home.

Whether you’re a seasoned espresso enthusiast or a newcomer to the coffee scene, the latte offers a comforting and delicious experience that is sure to delight your taste buds and warm your soul!