As an espresso enthusiast, I want to know everything about the different types of espresso-based drinks around. That led me to write this guide about lattes.
I’ll cover the following points throughout this guide:
Keep reading to learn more.
- A latte is an espresso shot topped with steamed & frothed milk.
- There are many variations of lattes.
- Chai lattes use tea instead of coffee.
- Lattes have less caffeine than other drinks (e.g., flat white).
What Is a Latte?
|Taste||Smooth & creamy|
|Aroma||Nutty, chocolatey, & caramelly|
|Caffeine level||63–175 mg|
|Color||Caramel beige with subtle yellow-tan undertones|
|Other Names||Café au lait (French), café crème (French), café con leche (Spanish), galão (Portuguese), cafè amb llet (Catalan)|
A latte is an espresso drink that combines 1 or 2 shots of espresso topped with steamed milk and a thin layer of frothed milk. The steamed milk layer has a velvety texture with few bubbles (microfoam). The foamed milk (macrofoam) layer adds a creamy mouthfeel.
Lattes are a popular choice for espresso lovers because they are flavorful and creamy. The espresso provides a rich coffee flavor, while the steamed milk adds a smooth and velvety texture. The frothed milk on top adds a touch of sweetness and richness.
How to Make a Latte
What a latte is made of:
- Espresso machine
- Coffee beans: 18–20 grams (finely ground, espresso grind)
- Softened water: Enough to fill the espresso machine’s water reservoir, usually 1–2 liters
- 8-15 fl oz milk
- Milk frother & steam wand
- Typically attached to the espresso machine
- Coffee grinder
- Sugar (optional)
Time to make: 5 min.
Steps to make:
- Grind the espresso beans.
- Brew the espresso into the cup.
- Steam the milk to a microfoam texture.
- Pour the steamed milk into the mug, holding back the foam with a spoon.
- Spoon the foam on top of the latte.
Are you sure you want to make a latte? Let’s see how they compare to other espresso-based drinks.
Different Types of Lattes
The following sections will cover these different types of lattes:
- Chai latte: Black tea with spices & milk.
- Iced latte: Latte with ice.
- Layered latte: Latte with chocolate syrup.
- Caffe latte: Includes steamed & foamed milk.
- Additional flavors: Latte drinks with flavoring.
I’ll cover the ingredients in each drink, a brief description, and an explanation of who each drink is best for. Once you’re done reading, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re ordering from a coffee shop, coffee stand, or café.
Let’s get to it.
1. Chai Latte
- 3 cups milk
- 2 black tea bags
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons of honey of maple syrup or;
- 1 stevia packet or;
- 1 tablespoon sugar
A chai latte is a spiced drink made with black tea, milk, and spices such as ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. It’s a popular drink in India and other parts of Asia. However, it has become increasingly popular in the Western world recently.
These drinks are typically lower in caffeine than espresso-based lattes. An 8 oz chai latte contains 30 to 50 mg. Whereas, a regular latte has 63 to 175 mg.
However, the exact caffeine content of a chai latte or latte will vary depending on the specific ingredients used and the size of the drink. For instance, if you were to add 100 g of chocolate to a latte, it could add 43 mg of caffeine .
Chai lattes are good for people who enjoy a sweet, spicy, and aromatic drink. Lattes are excellent for people who enjoy a rich, coffee-forward drink.
2. Iced Latte
- 1–2 shots espresso
- 8–15 fl oz milk
An iced latte is an espresso-based drink with espresso, cold milk, and ice. It’s similar to a regular latte, but the milk isn’t steamed and there’s no layer of foam on top.
Iced lattes typically come in a glass or cup with ice.
The main difference between an iced latte and a latte is the temperature of the milk. The milk is steamed in a latte until it is hot and foamy. In an iced latte, the milk is used cold. The temperature difference gives the iced latte a different flavor and texture profile than a regular latte.
Another difference between an iced latte and a latte is the amount of ice used. Iced lattes are typically served with a lot of ice, which dilutes the espresso and milk. This makes the iced latte a lighter and less intense drink than a latte.
Iced lattes are a popular choice for coffee lovers during the summer months. They are a refreshing and delicious way to enjoy a coffee drink on a hot day.
3. Layered Latte
- 4 oz milk
- 1-2 espresso shots
- 2 oz chocolate sauce
A layered latte is a latte with a thick layer of chocolate sauce included. It tastes sweeter and has around 3.4 mg of extra caffeine—because of the chocolate .
It’s great for chocolate lovers or for someone who wants a dessert drink.
4. Caffè Latte
- Steamed milk
- Foamed milk (optional)
A caffè latte, also known as a latte, is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. It is typically made with a 1:3 ratio of espresso to milk, and served in a cup topped with a thin layer of foamed milk.
They’re technically the same as a regular latte, but with more steamed milk.
Caffè lattes are a popular choice because they are flavorful and creamy. The espresso provides a rich coffee flavor, while the steamed milk adds a smooth and velvety texture. The foamed milk on top adds a touch of sweetness and richness.
Enjoy caffe lattes hot, cold, and with various flavorings such as chocolate shavings, spices, and syrups.
5. Other Latte Flavors
When going to coffee shops or cafés like Starbucks you’ll often see flavors for lattes like:
|Pumpkin spice latte||Caramel latte||Hazelnut latte||White chocolate latte|
|Coconut latte||Lavender latte||Pistachio latte||Mocha latte|
|Turmeric latte||Gingerbread latte||Vanilla latte||Cinnamon latte|
Most of these lattes will contain various syrups or spices to achieve whatever taste they’re trying to mimic. Sometimes, drinks, like chocolate lattes, will have whipped cream dolloped on top.
Some of these drinks—e.g., pumpkin spice latte—are only available during fall. And you may not find many of these drinks at all coffee shops. For instance, I’ve never seen a lavender latte. But they exist.
Let’s check out what latte art is.
What Is Latte Art?
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.
Here are some examples of the more popular latte art designs::
Heart: Created by pouring a thin stream of milk into the center of the espresso, then gently moving the pitcher back and forth.
Rosetta: Created by pouring a thin stream of milk into the center of the espresso, then creating a series of small circles around the outside.
Tulip: Created by pouring a thin stream of milk into the center of the espresso, then creating a series of petals around the outside.
You could create more elaborate designs, such as animals, flowers, and portraits. However, these designs are more difficult to create and require a high level of skill and experience.
Now that you know everything about the types of lattes and how to make them look pretty, let’s learn how to make one.
Latte vs. Other Espresso Drinks
Let’s compare lattes to other espresso-based drinks:
|Drink||Ratio||Caffeine Content *|
|Latte||1:3; espresso-steamed milk||63–175 mg|
|Mocha||1:2:1; espresso-steamed milk-chocolate||63–178.4 mg|
|Macchiato||1:2; frothed milk-espresso||63–90 mg|
|Cappuccino||1:1:1; espresso-steamed milk-foamed milk||63–120 mg|
|Flat White||1:2; steamed milk-coffee||205+ mg|
* Caffeine content varies depending on factors such as bean type, roast level, and preparation method.
The following sections will explain the differences among these drinks. I’ll cover their differences in ratio, foam, flavor, and texture. Afterward, I’ll provide additional information to help you understand any differences if not covered.
1. Latte vs. Mocha
- Foam: A mocha is denser & richer.
- Flavor: Mocha has a more chocolatey flavor.
- Texture: Both are creamy & smooth; mocha is a bit thicker.
Think of a mocha as a latte with chocolate. The former is sweeter and will contain more calories and caffeine. It’ll have more caffeine at times due to the included chocolate. However, mochas are often thicker than lattes.
A latte is a good choice if you are looking for a classic espresso-based drink with a mild coffee flavor. If you prefer a sweeter and more decadent drink, opt for a mocha.
Let’s check out a drink that’s not as sweet.
2. Macchiato vs. Latte
- Foam: Macchiato has more milk.
- Flavor: Latte is more balanced.
- Texture: Latte is creamier
A macchiato is a small coffee drink with a strong espresso flavor and a small amount of steamed milk. A latte is a larger coffee drink with a more balanced coffee and milk flavor.
People who prefer a strong coffee flavor and a small drink may like a macchiato. People who want a more balanced coffee and milk flavor and a larger drink may pick a latte.
Prefer something with more milk? Keep reading.
3. Latte vs. Cappuccino
- Foam: Cappuccino has a thicker layer of foam than a latte.
- Flavor: Cappuccino has a richer & more balanced flavor than a latte.
- Texture: Cappuccino has a smoother & creamier texture than a latte.
Cappuccino and latte are both espresso-based drinks made with steamed and frothed milk. However, they differ in their espresso, milk, and foam proportions.
Cappuccino has equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. It gives off a layered appearance, with the foamed milk on top and the espresso and steamed milk mixed below.
A latte has more steamed milk and less foamed. It has a more uniform appearance, with the espresso and steamed milk mixed throughout the drink.
Cappuccino is best for people who enjoy a stronger coffee flavor and a more layered texture. It’s also a good choice for people who want a smaller drink, as cappuccinos come in smaller cups than lattes.
Let’s check out a stronger-tasting drink.
4. Latte vs. Flat White
- Foam: Neither have foam
- Flavor: A latte is creamier than a flat white.
- Texture: Latte has smoother & creamier texture.
Flat whites and lattes are espresso-based drinks made with steamed milk but differ in the ratio of espresso to milk and the texture of the foam.
A flat white has a higher espresso-to-milk ratio, which gives it a more robust coffee flavor. It also has a thinner, more velvety foam than a latte.
A latte has a lower espresso-to-milk ratio, which gives it a milder coffee flavor. It also has a thicker, more bubbly foam.
Flat whites are best for people who prefer a stronger coffee flavor and a smoother texture. Lattes work better for folks who like a milder coffee flavor and a thicker foam.
Keep reading to find the latte’s origins.
History of Latte
Here is a brief timeline of the history of the latte:
- 1660: Dutch ambassador to China experiments with milk in his coffee.
- 1867: William Dean uses the term “caffe latte” for the first time.
- Early 20th century: No mention of the term, “latte”, until this period.
- 1950s: Caffe Mediterraneum makes lattes a standard drink.
- Early 1980s: Lattes become popular in the United States, thanks in part to the Seattle coffee scene.
- Today: Lattes are one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world.
The history of the latte can be traced back to the early 1660 century, when a Dutch ambassador to China mixed milk with their coffee. The term “caffe latte” manifested in the English language in 1867 by William Dean Howells in his essay “Italian Journeys .”
In the 1950s, Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, California made the latte a standard drink.
Lattes became popular in the United States in the early 1980s, thanks in part to Seattle, Washington’s coffee scene. Seattle baristas began to experiment with different latte recipes and brewing methods, and the latte quickly became a favorite among coffee drinkers.
Today, lattes are one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world.
Where to Get a Latte
Here are all the places you can get a latte or their variations:
|Starbucks||Dunkin’ Donuts||Caribou Coffee|
|McDonald’s||Burger King||Peet’s Coffee|
The availability of lattes at these restaurants may vary by country, city, and state. For example, not all 7-Eleven convenience stores will serve lattes. But from my experience, most of them do.
Just don’t order a Latte in Italy. Very often, they will just give you a glass of milk. Get the cappuccino over there.
FAQs for Lattes
Read on to find frequently asked questions about lattes.
Is a Latte Stronger Than Coffee?
A latte is typically not as strong as coffee, in terms of flavor intensity. Lattes are made with one or two shots of espresso. However, lattes also contain steamed milk, which dilutes the espresso.
Lattes combine steamed milk and milk froth, which sets them apart from their counterparts such as macchiatos and cappuccinos. However, you’ll often find different types of lattes such as layered or chai.
Want to learn more about other espresso-based drinks? Check out our other guides.