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A latte (English pronunciation: /ˈlɑːteɪ/ or /ˈlæteɪ/)[1][2] is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. The term as used in English is a shortened form of the Italian caffè latte or caffellatte (pronounced [ˌkaffelˈlatte]), which means "milk coffee". The word is also sometimes incorrectly spelled latté or lattè in English with different kinds of accents, which can be a hyperforeignism (a mistake) or a deliberate attempt to help customers realize the word is not pronounced as this combination of letters would normally be interpreted by native speakers. In northern Europe and Scandinavia the term 'café au lait' has traditionally been used for the combination of espresso and milk, but this term is used in the US for brewed coffee and scalded milk. In France, 'caffè latte' is mostly known from American coffee chains; a combination of espresso and steamed milk equivalent to a 'latte' is in French called 'grand crème' and in German 'Milchkaffee' or 'Melange'. Variants include replacing the coffee with another drink base such as masala chai (spiced Indian tea), mate or matcha, and other types of milk, such as soy milk are also used.

Coffee and milk has been part of the European kitchen since the 17th century (there is no mention of milk in coffee pre 1600 in Turkey or in the Arab world). 'Caffèlatte', 'Milchkaffee' and 'Café au lait' 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 has 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 English Dictionary, the term caffè latte was first used in English in 1867 as caffè latte by William Dean Howells in his essay "Italian Journeys".[3] 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".[4]

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. The 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 'caffèlatte' domestically, but it is not known from cafès like 'Florian' in Venice or any other coffee houses or places where coffee was served publically. 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 (/ˈlɑːteɪ/; Italian pronunciation: [ˈlatte]) means milk — so ordering a "latte" in Italy will get the customer a glass of milk.

In English-speaking countries 'latte' is shorthand for "caffelatte" or "caffellatte" ("caffè e latte"), which is similar to the French café au lait, the Spanish café con leche, the Catalan cafè amb llet or the Portuguese galão.

The Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, California claims Lino Meiorin, one of its early owners, "invented" and "made the latte a standard drink" in the 1950s.[7] The latte was popularized in Seattle, Washington in the early 1980s[8] and spread more widely in the early 1990s.[9]

In 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.

Spelling variations

Coffee 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 caffe(l)latte (the extra l usually added by Southern Italians), contracted from caffè-latte, (with a grave accent over the e), while French is café au lait (with an acute accent); Spanish is café con leche and Portuguese is café com leite. Variants such as caffé latte, café latte, and caffé lattè are commonly seen in English.
Current use

In Italy, caffelatte 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 not foamed.)

Outside Italy, a caffè latte is typically prepared in a 240 mL (8 oz) glass or cup with one standard shot of espresso (either single, 30 mL, or double, 60 mL) and filled with steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 12 mm (½ inch) thick on the top. A caffè latte may also be served consisting of strong or bold coffee (sometimes espresso) mixed with scalded milk in approximately a 1:1 ratio.[10] The drink is similar to a cappuccino, the difference being that a cappuccino consists of espresso and steamed milk with a 20 mm (¾ inch) layer of thick milk foam. An Australian variant 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.

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