Coffee 9: Latte

Y-cappucino-2Jake Uys, co-owner of  YUM Eat Cafe, loves his coffees. He creates the tasteful coffee creations; preferable slow-brewed and sometimes with a time-consuming manual finishing touch. The beans are on his specification roasted at the Beanery in Hermanus and per coffee-order ground on the spot. Every speciality coffee needs its own ground, exact weight, water temperature, etc. Weekly, every Tuesday, Jake writes his coffee post for this blog. Starting with the history and ending with the perfect ‘Latte’. The first four postings were excerpts from Wikipedia about history, cultivation, processing and brewing.

(Due to load shedding issues in South Africa is article is published one day late. Apologies on behalf of Eskom.)

Y-latte2Coffee and milk have been part of European cuisine since the 17th century (there is no mention of milk in coffee pre 1600 in Turkey or in the Arab world). ‘Caffè latte’, ‘Milchkaffee’, ‘Café au lait’ and ‘Café con leche’ are domestic terms of traditional ways of drinking coffee, usually as part of breakfast in the home. Public Cafés in Europe and the US it seems have no mention of the terms until the 20th century, although ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned in Austrian coffee houses in Vienna and Trieste in the 2nd half of the 1700s as ‘coffee with cream, spices and sugar’ (being the origin of the Italian ‘cappuccino’).

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term caffè latte was first used in English in 1867 by William Dean Howells in his essay “Italian Journeys”. Kenneth David maintains that “…breakfast drinks of this kind have existed in Europe for generations, but the (commercial) caffè version of this drink is an American invention”.

The French term ‘Café au lait’ was used in cafés in several countries in western continental Europe from 1900 onwards, while the French themselves started using the term ‘café crème’ for coffee with milk or cream.

Ylatte1The Austrian-Hungarian empire (eastern Europe) had its own terminology for the coffees being served in coffee houses, while in German homes it was still called ‘milchkaffee’. The Italians used the term ‘caffè latte’ domestically, but it is not known from cafés like ‘Florian’ in Venice or any other coffee houses or places where coffee was served publicly. Even when the Italian espresso bar culture bloomed in the years after WW2 both in Italy, and in cities like Vienna and London, ‘espresso’ and ‘cappuccino’ are the terms, ‘latte’ is missing on coffee menus.

In Italian latte means milk—so ordering a “latte” in Italy will get the customer a glass of milk.

Y-latte3The ‘Caffe Mediterranean in Berkeley, California  claims Lino Meiorin, one of its early owners, “invented” and “made the latte a standard drink” in the 1950s. The latte was popularized in Seattle, Washington in the early 1980s and spread more widely in the early 1990s.

Y-latte1In northern Europe and Scandinavia, a similar ‘trend’ started in the early 1980s as ‘Café au lait’ became popular again, prepared with espresso and steamed milk. ‘Caffè Latte’ started replacing this term around 1996-97, but both names exist side by side, more often more similar than different in preparation.

Ylatte2Coffee 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 caffellatte (the standard form; caffelatte is a Northern Italian variation), contracted from caffè-latte,  while French is café au lait ; Spanish is café con leche and Portugese is café com leite. Variants such as caffé latté, café latte, and caffé lattè are commonly seen in English. In Italy, caffè latte is almost always prepared at home, for breakfast only. The coffee is brewed with a stovetop Moka pot and poured into a cup containing heated milk. (Unlike the international latte drink, the milk in the Italian original is generally not foamed.) Outside Italy, a caffè latte is typically prepared in a 240 mL (8 US fl oz) glass or cup with one standard shot of espresso (either single, 30 mL or 1 US fl oz, or double, 60 mL or 2 US fl oz) and filled with steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 12 mm (12 in) thick on the top. The drink is similar to a cappuccino, the difference being that a cappuccino consists of espresso and steamed milk with a 20 mL (1 US fl oz) layer of thick milk foam. A variant found in Australia and New Zealand similar to the latte is the flat white which is served in a smaller ceramic cup with the micro-foamed milk. In the United States this beverage is sometimes referred to as a wet cappuccino.Iced latteIn the United States, an iced latte is usually espresso and chilled milk poured over ice. Unlike a hot latte, it does not usually contain steamed milk or foam. Iced lattes can have sugar or flavouring syrups added, and are sometimes served blended with the ice.   


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