The History of the Latte Drinking Tradition

Both milk and coffee are integral part of the classy European cuisine since the 17th century. The terms “milchkaffee”, “café con leche”, “caffelatte” and “café au lait” are just a few of the traditional coffee terms used in homes. For several years, most people have known coffee as a breakfast drink only, but this has become an “all-day” beverage in the recent years.

Basically, a latte is a unique variant of coffee, which is prepared through mixing espresso and milk. The English term “latte” is, actually, a shortened word for the Italian phrase “caffe latte”- meaning “milk coffee”.

The contemporary kinds include substituting the base with drinks as mate, matcha and masala chai. Other kinds of milk could also be used such as soy milk and almond milk. So going back from where we left off back in February, when we wrote about the single serve pod coffee market, in particular Keurig machines, we now take a little step through history and look at how one of the most popular drinks in the west, the cafe latte, came about. If you would like to know more about the Keurig brewers check out the link above or if you would like some more about coffee brewers in general why not refer to our article from back in December which covered coffee machines in the wider home market.

The Latte History

According to the dictionary (Oxford English), “café latte” was used first in the year 1867 in England. This was first mentioned in “Italian Journeys” essay which was written by W.D. Howells. As historians have revealed, this beverage came about decades ago in Europe, though, the credits go to the Americans for making it commercialized.

The French “café au lait” was used first in the coffee shops of Western Europe back in the 1900s. The Hungarian and Austrian Empires made use of their local terms to refer to their coffees, but the German’s called theirs “milchkaffee”. Meanwhile, the Italians used “caffelatte”; however, both Florian and Venice didn’t use it. Even after the Italian espresso bars were popularized at the end of the WWII, Italy, Vienna and London didn’t use the term “latte” still. With them, espresso and cappuccino were still proper.

The word “latte” in Italy implies milk. Hence, you’ll get a glass of milk if you’ll order a latte. In other English speaking nations, “latte” is their shortened term for “caffelatte” which is the same with Catalan’s “café amb lletor”, Portugal’s “galao”, France’s “café au lait” and Spain’s “café con leche”.

In California, the Caffe Mediterranum invented lattes and made this a standard coffee beverage. Latte started to be popular in Seattle in the early part of the 80s decade and began to be served in other states in the late 90s.

While over in Scandinavia, a similar trend started in the 80s decade by the name “café au lait”. This is prepared by combining milk (steamed) and espresso. “Latte” started to replace this French phrase in 1997.

The Serving Methods

A latte is served in small bowls in some countries. In several coffee shops, lattes are actually prepared and served in a cup, saucer and napkin on the side to handle the hot temperature.

Art works on lattes is popular in Europe and the US today. This kind of art brought a contemporary feel of the traditional coffee drinking experience. Making an art on top of the steaming frothed milk could only be made possible by skillful hands. Some of the most popular latte art signs include flowers, hearts and trees.

In Asia, lattes are made with Asian herbal tea plants. With special flavoring added like chocolate, caramel and vanilla.