As a coffee shop owner, you probably make hundreds of lattes a day. You know them as espresso with steamed milk and foam, but they haven't always been this way. To learn more about the history of lattes, how to make them, and why people love them, keep reading!
What is a Latte?
A latte is an espresso-based drink that, at its core, is espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. In the past few years, lattes have evolved from just coffee and milk to a lot more. It's become commonplace to add flavorings like vanilla and cinnamon. Many people also prefer other milks in their latte like soy, almond, and oat. Iced lattes are another common variation. In this case, you don't steam the milk, you just add it to chilled espresso and ice. Whatever your latte variation, the key components are there: espresso and milk.
The History of the Latte
When coffee was introduced to Europe in the 16th century, people almost immediately started adding milk to their coffee. William Dean Howells called this "caffe e latte" in his 1867 essay entitled "Italian Journeys." By this point, coffee had become a sensation around the globe. Every place you could get coffee was obsessed with it.
Before espresso machines, all coffee was made primitively. In 1884, the first espresso machine was created. This machine didn't make espresso as we know it; the water pressure wasn't high enough to make real espresso. It wasn't until the 1940s that espresso as we know it was made. Achille Gaggia, a cafe owner in Milan, created the first real espresso machine by adding a spring-piston lever. This is why it's called "pulling a shot" because the baristas would have to pull a lever to make a shot of espresso.
With espresso finally perfected, the latte was near its time to shine. Espresso machines had steam wands starting in the early 1900s, but they weren't used to create what we'd consider milk foam until much later.
The latte as we know it was popularized by Lino Meiorin, an early owner of The Caffe Mediterraneum. It's claimed that he made the latte a standard drink in his cafe in the 1950s. Fast forward to the 1980s when lattes really came to popularity. This was especially true in Seattle, Washington. The people could not get enough lattes. By the 1990s, lattes spread much more widely, it was more common than not to find lattes in your favorite coffee shop.
How to Make the Perfect Latte
A latte at its core is really only two ingredients: milk and espresso. Since the advent of the latte, people have begun making specialty and flavored lattes. Here's our foolproof way to make a latte:
What You'll Need:
- 2 shots espresso
- 8 oz milk
- 1 oz flavoring or sweetener (optional)
- 12 oz hot paper cup
How to Make it:
1. The Espresso
Brew your two shots of espresso and pour them into the bottom of your hot paper cup. If you're adding flavoring, pump it into your espresso now. Swirl your cup to combine the espresso and flavor.
2. The Milk
Add your milk to the steaming pitcher. Put the steam wand in at an angle. Keep the tip about two inches under the surface. Turn on your steam wand. The milk should be swirling in a circle. Steam it until the milk is between 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit. You'll feel it get hot as you hold the pitcher. The milk should be creamy and silky, not overly bubbly.
3. The Mixture
Gently tap your steam pitcher on the counter to eliminate big bubbles. Swirl the pitcher to keep the milk mixed nicely. Pour it into your espresso in circles. As you continue to pour the milk, you'll see it make marks on the top, this is where you can add latte art if you want.
Why People Love Lattes
Espresso is like drip coffee's more potent sibling. Depending on the roast of the beans and then water pressure, espresso can be acidic or over bitter. Adding milk cools down the espresso and mellows the espresso flavor. This makes it more palatable for a wider audience. People love lattes because the silky milk and foam mixes with the espresso to make the perfect, understated drink.
Lattes are one of the biggest staple items for coffee shops. They can be simple or specialty. However you choose to make them, lattes are the perfect drink for your coffee shop.