What is a Caffè Latte?

by Peter Taylor | Last Updated: 17 January 2021

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What is a Caffè Latte?
Caffè lattes, or simply lattes, are one of the most common drinks you’ll find in any coffee shop behind straight black coffee.

Lattes are famous not only for being so numerous, but also for intricate latte art, being a common drink for people who don’t like black coffee to have instead, and as a base for other drinks, though it’s often confused with drinks like cappuccinos.

In this article, we’re going to look at the ubiquitous Caffè latte and answer questions such as what it’s made from, different types, and what the differences are between lattes, cappuccino, and coffee with milk.

Caffè Latte Pronunciation

No, it’s not pronounced ‘ca-fe, late’. Sheesh.

The correct pronunciation is ‘caf-fe lat-te’ or ‘kä-(ˌ)fā-ˈlä-(ˌ)tā’.

Or take a listen to this video:


Ca-feh law-teh.

I mean really, as long as you aren’t pronouncing it as ‘caf late’, you’re probably okay…

What is a Caffè Latte Made of?

A Caffè latte is a drink that is made from steamed milk and espresso with a milk foam cap on top that is about 12mm thick. The term ‘Caffè latte’ actually means ‘milk coffee’ and it comes from an essay written in 1867 by William Dean Howells (Italian Journeys).

The drink is thought to originate in Italy, but in Italy, people make it at home, and it is almost always drunk at breakfast time. Outside of Italy, it is drunk at any old time and is often purchased in coffee shops rather than exclusively made at home.

Caffè lattes are most commonly known for their latte art which is a design that is ‘etched’ into the milk foam by a barista.

Ratio wise, a Caffè latte in Italy is made in a Moka pot (Stovetop) and the coffee is poured into a cup that contains already heated milk. In other parts of the world, a Caffè latte is served in a glass cup with steamed milk and a standard shot of espresso (single or double) and then topped with foamed milk. Typically, the ratio is ¼ espresso, ½ steamed milk, and ¼ milk foam.

Now, if you’re ordering a latte, depending on where you order it, you’ll get a very different drink! Most of the time, if you order a latte, a coffee shop will make you a Caffè latte, which is the steamed milk with coffee.

But in Italy, if you order a latte, you’ll get steamed milk! (which is good, but probably not what you were after). If you really want to be sure that you’re getting what you expect to get, order a Caffè Latte.

Are there Different Types of Caffè Latte?

There are different types of Caffè lattes out there, though they are far from the ‘traditional’ one! As more coffee shops sprung up, they needed to start having ways to differentiate themselves, and one way to do that was by offering unique drinks.

Lattes became a reasonably good vehicle for that, causing some diversity in the milk coffee drink.

The most common way to change up the latte is to substitute the espresso for something else. These include chai, matcha, or mate (these are all types of tea leaves rather than coffee beans).

What is a Caffè Latte?

Chai lattes for example are growing in popularity and can be found in even small corner coffee shops, let alone the chains.

You can also get lattes that are safe for people with lactose intolerance or other dietary needs such as almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk lattes, as well as rice and hemp milk.

And then there are the weirder lattes such as activated charcoal lattes.

If you can find one of those, it’s worth trying once just to say you did it, but since activated charcoal doesn’t get along with a lot of other things (that’s why it’s used in stomach pumping as a way to deal with alcohol poisoning and drug overdose), you could end up causing vitamin and mineral deficiencies in yourself as well as weird medication side effects.

Other weird ones include the Rainbow latte (Which then got changed to the Rainbow Frappuccino for a while), the avocado latte (A latte served in a scooped-out avocado cause why not), and pumpkin lattes (common enough latte made from pumpkin syrup).

Since the base latte is milk and coffee, there’s a lot of room for flexibility when it comes to making something unique, so we end up with some oddities!

What’s the Difference Between a Caffè Latte and a Cappuccino?

Lattes and cappuccinos often get confused for one another by people who order one drink thinking they are getting the other one.

They are pretty similar in ingredients (both made from espresso and milk with a milk foam topping), but the ratios are different and that changes the flavor of the drink.

Lattes are made with ¼ espresso, ½ steamed milk, and ¼ milk foam. A cappuccino consists of three equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Cappuccinos are sometimes known as ‘dry lattes’ because they have less steamed milk and more foam, changing the consistency and flavor of the drink. Commercially, cappuccinos tend to be sold in larger cups as well. (360ml vs 240ml), though traditionally, cappuccinos are actually smaller-150-180ml vs 200-300ml Caffè lattes).

Cappuccinos are served in a cup with a handle, lattes in a tall glass. Caffè lattes can also be made with scalded milk whereas cappuccinos are made exclusively with steamed milk. The final difference is that a cappuccino has more foam-about 1cm or more whereas a Caffè latte only has a foam cap of about 12mm. Small differences, but they result in a different flavor and a different drink ‘feel’.

Are Lattes Stronger than Coffee?

Well, this actually brings us back to the debate of which has more caffeine: a shot of espresso or a cup of coffee? Lattes are made with espresso, so that’s where your caffeine content is going to come from. Strictly by the numbers, a cup of coffee has 95-165mL of caffeine in it whereas a shot of espresso has between 45-65mL of caffeine, meaning that the coffee would be stronger in caffeine content.

Even if you have a double shot latte, you’re still only looking at upwards of 130mL of caffeine which is still going to be less than a large coffee.

If you’re looking at flavor, on the other hand, that really depends on what you do with your coffees and lattes. A straight-up Caffè latte would likely taste milder than straight-up black coffee since a Caffè latte is half steamed milk and a quarter milk foam.

But if you jazz up your coffee with sugar and creamer or you add syrups to your lattes… at the end of the day, it’s really going to depend on how you take your drink.


Caffè lattes are probably one of the most common drinks you’ll find on any coffee shop menu and it certainly is one of the more popular ones to take pictures of with the latte art! It’s also a good drink to start new coffee drinkers on as it’s not usually as sharp or bitter as other coffee drinks.


Caffè lattes also come in different varieties, pair well with other syrups, and can be served hot or iced. You can even learn how to make them at home relatively easily with the right gear! All in all, there’s a reason the Caffè latte is so common and beloved.

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