what is a latte

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You’re pretty new to the coffee world and want to try making your own latte at home but don’t know really what is a latte?

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the different types of lattes and help you get started!

You may be wondering why you would need to know all of this if it’s just about making the latte itself.

Well, that is completely true but they are also great ingredients for other drinks like mochas or frappes!

So don’t just limit yourself to coffee, explore all of these options with your new latte knowledge.

What Is A Latte? Overview

A latte is mainly coffee made with steamed milk and an espresso shot. But, there are other ingredients you can add to it as well.

The most popular ingredients are caramel, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and ice.

The latte will taste different depending on the type of espresso you use, the type of milk you use, and how your garnish it.

You can also change the style of your latte by using flavors like mint or orange blossom to make it more creative!

Another definition is that this is a coffee that’s made with milk and an espresso shot.

That definition is absolutely correct but we’ve found people often use the word ‘latte’ to describe any coffee drink with extra froth.

So, feel free to call it a latte if you really want to!

But hey if you want to sound like a pro barista, use the word latte when it’s a real latte!

What Is A Latte – A Bit of History

Where did the word ‘latte’ come from anyway? There’s a bit of history to it.

If you speak Italian, latte means milk, and this is derived from the Latin word for milk!

The term was actually first registered in the 1950s but became more well-known when Starbucks invented the caffe latte in 1998.

But honestly, the latte’s popularity really started to rise when people started posting beautiful latte art on Instagram and other social media sites.

It was like, hey if I post a picture of this beautiful latte on my social media, people will think I’m sophisticated enough to drink this!

So now the term ‘latte’ is widely used in place of ‘coffee.’ But don’t worry it’s all cool!

So, the origin of the latte can be linked to the latte culture? Honestly, this is not true.

The latte culture is actually much older than the latte!

Latte culture came about when large baristas started stirring milk in a jug and giving it to customers in Italy in the 1800s.

That’s when artisans started adding hot milk and froth to coffee for an extra kick of flavor.

And of course, more people started drinking this style of coffee all over Europe because they were able to make multiple drinks at once with one pour!

If you’re curious about more of the history behind latte, read on.

The Origin of Starbucks Latte

Many years ago, Starbucks started making its own version of a latte. The idea was to offer the customers a choice over whether they wanted milk in their coffee or not.

This is why there were so many different types of lattes that were available at the time.

And because most people wanted milk even though they weren’t drinking coffee, it made sense to call this drink a latte.

Personally, I think the latte culture began when Starbucks started using steamed milk in their coffee.

Starbucks didn’t invent the latte but they did popularize it.

And that’s why when you go into a Starbucks nowadays, they will probably ask if you want a latte!  

They are definitely one of the biggest contributors to its popularity.

But is the latte really the definitive version? Probably not!

There are many different variations of coffee drinks served in coffee shops these days and many people would say ‘latte’ is really only used to describe an espresso with frothy milk.

What Is A Latte Made Of?

If you’re wondering what are the ingredients of a latte, there are 2 main ones.

The main ones are espresso or coffee and milk along with foam. You can also add syrup, flavored syrups, mocha mix, or caramel to your latte if you like.

Below is a list of the most common ingredients that you’ll find in lattes.

1. Espresso

Espresso is what gives your latte that flavor.

Personally, my new favorite espresso grounds to use are the ones from San Francisco’s Intelligentsia Coffee Roasting Co.  

It’s got a bit of chocolate flavor in it which helps you create a sweeter drink.

You can also use your own espresso or your favorite blend.

Milk is what gives the latte its milky color and taste.

Also, you’ll want to use whole milk if you like creamier lattes while skim will give you a lighter taste.

These days, there are also alternatives like soy, almond, and coconut milk that you can use too!


Syrup is mostly added to lattes to sweeten them up! It usually tastes like caramel which is why this is another popular ingredient for mochas.

There are also flavored syrups like hazelnut!

Creme is what you will usually find in mini-sized lattes too!

It’s the same stuff that’s used to garnish your frappuccino.

Creme can also be used in frappes if you want a sweeter taste than syrup gives you!

Caramel is another ingredient that you’ll want to watch out for when choosing flavors for your latte.

Caramel is sweet which means it works great for sweet drinks like mochas!

It’s also common to see caramel in flavored syrups!

Flavored Syrups

Flavored syrups are also added to lattes.

While they may look simple, you will definitely want to watch out for overly sweet flavors in them.

You can get these syrups in chocolate flavors but try to avoid the ones that have berries in them.

This ingredient is just too overpowering in some drinks!  Sometimes, they can be made with too much sugar which makes them ultra-sweet.  

You don’t want your drink to taste like candy either! You can also get creme-flavored syrup or herbal flavors instead.

Mocha Mix

Mocha Mix is another ingredient you’ll need to use if you like mochas! Mocha is really just chocolate mixed with coffee.

If you’re doing this at home, there are some great mocha mixes online that will work just as well!

If you’re looking for good deals on mocha mix, Amazon’s got some amazing deals all the time.  

You can also consider making your own mocha mix using cocoa powder and coffee liqueur!

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa Powder is another ingredient that can be used to make sweet drinks like mochas.

It won’t give your lattes a strong cocoa taste but it will give them a milder one than regular chocolate syrup will give them.

Latte Vs Cappuccino – Aren’t These Same?

You’re probably wondering “what is a latte and what is a cappuccino”?

Aren’t these two coffee drinks the same with espresso and milk?

Well, no they’re not really!

If you make cappuccinos at home, you’ll notice that the foam is not the same as the foam in a latte.

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into these two cafe lattes.

Cappuccinos are usually made with 1/3 double shot of espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 frothed milk.

Lattes on the other hand are usually made with 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and a dollop of foam.

As I mentioned earlier in this blog post, lattes are usually called coffees these days because of their similarity to coffee-based drinks like cappuccinos!

Starbucks started popularizing the term ‘latte’ in the US when they started offering different kinds of lattes in their menu.

Today, you’ll find all kinds of different coffee drinks served in coffee shops.

Besides Starbucks, many cafes now make lattes!

You will probably see other versions of this drink at your local cafe too.

The other thing about the latte is that it’s usually made with just milk and foam.

Cappuccinos are usually made with milk, foam, and frothed milk too but you can really find all kinds of different combinations these days!

Just visit your local cafe to see what they have on offer! You might be surprised!

What Are Different Kinds Of Latte?

If you’re wondering “what are the different kinds of latte?”, I’ve got you covered with this blog post!  

From flavored lattes to one mixed with ice, I’ve got you covered with the different types of latte that you’ll find in most coffee shops these days.

This list is by no means exhaustive, I just wanted to focus on the popular ones!

1. Vanilla Latte  

Vanilla latte is not an exact recipe though.

The main ingredients are vanilla syrup and espresso so the taste is quite sweet!

It’s also usually served with a little dollop of foam on top.

2. Mocha Latte  

A mocha latte is made with chocolate and lots of frothed milk!

You can even get sweet mocha mixes online if you want to make sure the drink doesn’t over-power you!

If you’re making your own mocha mix, check out my post on how to make authentic mocha mixes for lattes here!

3. Caramel Latte 

A caramel latte is made with caramel syrup and steamed milk. The thing about this version of the latte is that it’s usually topped off with even more caramel syrup!

Since this recipe uses a lot of sugar, you can easily make your own by mixing regular granulated sugar with water.

4. Cinnamon Latte  

This latte can be made by mixing frothed milk with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves!

This will give your drink a warm flavor that’s perfect for the autumn months!

I’ll talk about how to make this at home in my upcoming post about lattes.

5. Coconut Latte

The coconut latte is the most popular one on this list!

The recipe for this drink is a bit more complicated though.

You’ll need a can of sweetened condensed milk so you’ll have to do an extra step before you can make the latte!

What Is A Blonde Latte?

Same same but different! Uh? What do I mean?

So, the process of making the latte is the same as; i.e, single shot espresso with steamed milk and foam.

The only difference would be the beans used for the coffee grounds.

Therefore a blonde latte is a type of espresso made from a blonde roast which creates a blonde espresso.

For instance, a blonde espresso at Starbucks is so much velvety and light in color than an espresso made from a dark roast. Obvious uh?

I have a whole article dedicated on blonde espresso here.

Hot Tips For Making Your Latte At Home

Being able to make lattes at home is such an amazing skill! If you’re wondering “How do you make a latte?”, follow these tips for making one.

1. Beans

Your choice of beans is extremely important too!

If you want to get better lattes at home, look for dark roasts with low acidity and medium body. If this sounds too complicated, don’t worry about it.

2. Grind Your Own Beans

It’s important that your grind your own coffee beans. I use my grinder to make the grounds finer and more even.

Therefore, the texture of my espresso is so much smoother than if I just use pre-ground coffee!

Even if you don’t have a grinder, you can get whole beans and ask whoever sells it to grind it for you.

That would save you money in the long run!

3. Check Your Ground Coffee

To achieve a successful latte, the espresso should be on point.

That’s why it’s important that you check the coffee grounds. Are they finely ground or coarsely ground?

The latter will definitely ruin what’s supposed to be a great latte.

4. Temperature

It’s important that you work with the right temperature. If the water is too hot, your coffee will be overly strong.

If it’s too cold, all you’ll taste is the milk in it! So make sure to use water that is about 140-160 F for the best results.

5. Froth

A latte would not taste like a latte if you don’t froth the milk in it!

One reason why Starbucks lattes are so good is that their milk is frothed in there.

If you’re planning on buying a latte machine, please read this article first.

6. Don’t Over-Steep

To get the best results, don’t over-steep your espresso! You may need to experiment to get it right so ask other baristas for help!

Don’t forget that over-steeping causes coffee grounds to absorb more oxygen and become bitter.

7. Use Filtered Water

One of the reasons why your homemade lattes may taste bad is because of the water you use.

If you’re using tap water, your latte may not taste as good as it does at your favorite coffee shop.

8. Use The Right Coffee

If you want your lattes to taste better than ever, use great coffee beans!

For instance, making the best espresso requires the best beans for espresso…So if you’re wondering “what to use for latte”, I’ve got all the right beans you need here!

9. Use A Milk Frother

You can also get a milk frother and enjoy the best milky drinks at home!

If you think that using a milk frother is not worth it because you don’t have one, let me tell you…You’ll fall in love with it!

My post on how to use milk frothers here.

Make Sure Everyone Is Happy

Lattes aren’t just for latte lovers!

You’d be surprised that many people don’t like lattes and want something else.

If you’re not into lattes and want something else, make sure that everyone is on board with this decision.

It’d be better to make a nice cappuccino or even a flat white!

Final Thoughts on What Is A Latte

Okay, I’ve given you a rundown on latte and what happens to the drink and ingredients.

Now, it’s time to go and try your hand at making your own lattes.

If you’re on the fence, please do yourself a favor and get a latte machine that will save you time and money.

If you’re not sure, check out my review of the Best Latte Machines here.

Good luck and enjoy some amazing lattes!

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