What Exactly Is Cafe Latte?


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Do you know what you’re actually ordering when you order your café latte at the coffee shop, or do you just blindly trust the taste? If not, that might just be the reason why the latte you make at home doesn’t come out as good as the one from a trained barista.

But what exactly is a café latte? Café latte or just latte as it’s most commonly referred is one of the most popular coffee drinks around the globe. According to most surveys, it’s the most popular coffee drink in the US and the only one that’s reliable to beat it over and over in popularity ranks in the rest of the world is cappuccino.

In the article below we’ll break down the origins of café latte, what it is, and even how to make it on your own so that you can save on expensive coffee shop orders.

What is a café latte?

A café latte is an espresso-based drink that uses two types of milk – steamed milk and foamed milk. The name is Italian in origin and simply means “coffee milk”.

Standard Italian café latte is quite different from what the rest of the world refers to as latte. Italian drink is served in the mornings only, it’s a makineta-brewed espresso shot added to a cup of hot milk (not necessarily steamed) that usually has no foam at all.

If an Italian café latte can be winged however the drinker desires, the “international version” served at coffee shops has more of a standardized recipe. It’s usually 8oz (240ml) steamed milk with either 1 or 2 espresso shots (1 to 2oz), and a thin layer of milk foam on top.

(An iced latte is much simpler in comparison – it uses just cold milk and ice cubes, no steaming involved. To imitate the steamed milk texture, the cold milk often gets frothed, but not all coffee shops are reliable to go even that far).

How many calories are in a café latte?

Calories in Italian café latte can vary since it’s a homebrewed drink with no decisive proportions. The calorie content will depend on how large a cup the maker is using, as well as if they’re adding sugar or other sweeteners. 

Since the “international version” of café latte has a standard recipe, counting calories is comparatively easier. We can use the same metrics for homemade café latte if we’re counting calories for the unsweetened version in a cup of similar capacity.

One 8oz cup of café latte with no sugar or flavorings is between 85 to 145 kcal, depending on the type of milk you’re using (higher the fat content – higher the calorie content).  

Nonfat milk latte will be around 80-85 kcal (the slight difference might be due to the extra espresso shot), standard 2% milk will result in a 95-105 kcal drink, and whole milk latte will turn out to be around 130-140 kcal.

As for popular plant-based options – the almond milk latte will be around 90 kcal, the soy milk latte will be around 120 kcal, and the oat milk latte will be around 130 kcal.

What is the average price of a café latte?

An app called Square apparently did some research on this and found out that an average price of a latte in the US is around $3-4.

There are, undoubtedly, places where you can get a latte for cheaper. But if we’re talking specialty coffee at shops that do their own roasting and grinding, the price is going to be a higher point.

Certain coffee shops may even add an extra dollar to the price if you have them switch to plant-based milk.

Does Starbucks serve café latte?

Starbucks does, in fact, serve café latte! Because what does Starbucks not serve. 

While flashy frappuccinos are the most likely to be associated with Starbucks, café latte is, indeed, their most popular drink. 

They offer it in 3 or 4 different sizes (depending on the country) – short (the closest to standard latte size at 236ml), tall, grande, and venti (an absolute beast at 590ml) as they do with most of their drinks. 

In America, Starbucks has around 10 milk options, both diary, and plant-based you can have your latte made with. While in some other countries the options may not be so varied, Starbucks is always bound to have at least one vegan option as well as a lactose-free option.

Aside from standard latte, Starbucks also serves flavored lattes which it’s arguably more known for. Menu mainstays include hazelnut latte, vanilla latte, and cinnamon dolce latte.

Classic café latte recipe

All genius things are simple in their nature and café latte is not an exception. That’s why you have to pay attention to the quality of the ingredients you’re using. The better the coffee beans, the better your latte will be. If you’re looking for great beans, here’s a list of our recommended roasted coffee beans for espresso.

Otherwise, the recipe is quite simple. You’ll need 8oz/240ml of milk of your choice, a frother (ideally) or a whisk (if you don’t have a frother), and either an espresso machine or a Moka pot.

Make the espresso first. If you don’t have the machine, use a Moka pot – 60ml of water per 22-25g of ground coffee. Distribute evenly, but do NOT press it down.

In a saucepan/bowl heat the milk continuously whisking/frothing. When the milk is heated through and makes a layer of foam on top, take it off the heat.

Pour the espresso into the cup, and pour the hot milk on top of it, holding the foam back with a spoon, until the very end.

Ta-da! Your latte is ready to serve!

Café Latte vs Cappuccino

There are two main differences between a café latte and a cappuccino: 1) coffee-to-milk ratio; 2) size.

The standard size for a cappuccino is approximately 5 to 6oz compared to the latte’s 8oz. 

As for the coffee-to-milk ratio – a cappuccino is supposed to have 3 even layers at a ratio of 1:1:1. The lowest layer is coffee, the middle layer is steamed milk, and the top layer is milk foam.

In a latte, the middle layer of steamed milk is the largest, while the top layer of milk foam is much thinner than that of a cappuccino.

There you have it! Latte is indeed one of the best coffee drinks out there. I hope you enjoyed this article. If you want more, you might want read: What is a Cortado Coffee?