What Is A Cafe Au Lait And How Is It Different From A Latte?

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What is a cafe au lait? A cafe au lait is a coffee drink that is made with espresso and steamed milk. It is typically served in a large cup with a small amount of foam on top.

If you are a coffee lover and want to be a home barista in the future, it is important to understand the differences between the beverages your friends expect you to make.

In this article, we discuss what is a cafe au lait and how is it different from a cafe latte. These are two of the most beloved coffee drinks in the world today.

Café latte vs. café au lait

what is a cafe au lait


Many people assume that the latte and the cafe au lait are the same because they are both made of coffee and milk.

This is your chance to impress the misguided with your superior coffee knowledge.

What is a café latte?

what is a cafe au lait


The cafe latte was invented in Italy and later adopted in Europe and the United States.

This drink is usually made with one to two shots of espresso, topped up with steamed milk, then finished with a small amount of foam. A cafe latte contains more milk than a cappuccino and less foam.

The artwork that the barista adds to the top of a latte is what makes it unique. Latte art is believed to have originated in Italy. This makes sense considering that the beverage has its roots in that country.

How to create latte art

Before you can create beautiful latte art, you must first be able to make a high-quality espresso with good crema. The next step is to foam your milk until it forms a thick microfoam to top your latte.

The white foam rises as you add milk to your espresso. It meets the crema as it does. A pattern is created on top as you move the milk pitcher.

There are two ways to create latte art: etching and free pouring.

what is a cafe au lait


Free pouring technique

We encourage you to practice the free-pouring method. It’s the professional way of doing latte art.

Etching, on the other hand, is a poor man’s method of creating quick and easy latte art. It is commonly used by coffee chains like Costa.

In free pouring, the glass must be level or slightly tilted. The tilt of the glass will cause milk to rise on one side as you pour it. The pitcher should be moved from side to side.

Finally, you should strike the pattern that you have created.

This will produce traditional latte art in feather or floral designs. For variety, you can also make a heart or an apple shape.

Etched latte art

The etched latte art isn’t as durable as images made using the free pouring technique. If you’re artistic, you can use a stick to etch your image onto the top of the drink.

The usual method in coffee shops is to pour large amounts of chocolate powder through a stencil onto the top of the beverage. This poor attempt to imitate latte art is used to top cappuccinos because the foam layer is thicker.

How to make a perfect latte

Prepare an 8-ounce cup or glass which is standard for lattes.

The espresso is the main ingredient in a latte. You can add one or two espresso shots if you prefer stronger coffee flavors.  The espresso should fill about 1/6th of the glass.

Add 5-6 ounces of steamed milk to the glass and finish the beverage with a thin layer of milk foam.

During the pouring process, don’t forget to add a beautiful piece of latte art to the drink.

What is a cafe au lait?

what is a cafe au lait


Cafe au lait, as the name would suggest, was invented in France. Cafe au lait means “coffee with milk” in French.

A cafe au lait is made with brewed coffee and steamed milk. One part coffee and one part steamed milk make up a serving of cafe au lait.

Cafe au lait is usually served without foam, but some coffee shops do add it.

Purists prefer to use French press coffee as the coffee base.

Cafe au lait should not be confused with a flat white or white coffee, which is simply brewed coffee with cold milk or powdered whitener. Click To Tweet

What is an American cafe au lait?

One popular variation of the cafe au lait is found in New Orleans where the drink is made with milk, coffee, and chicory. This gives the coffee a distinct, strong, and bitter taste. Click To Tweet

American cafe au lait is made with scalded milk, which is milk that has been heated to just below boiling point.

American cafe au lait is often served with sweetened, powdered sugar-coated beignets to offset the bitter taste of chicory.

You might be wondering, why destroy a perfectly good coffee with bitter chicory? This goes back to the American Civil War when there was a shortage of coffee.

Southern coffee drinkers had to be creative and use chicory to maximize the limited amount of coffee they had. The fusion has remained the same ever since.

The traditional way of serving a cafe au lait is in a small bowl. Because the brew cools quickly due to the serving method, some coffee shops use a smaller cappuccino mug instead.


Now that you are familiar with the key differences between a cafe latte and a café au lait, you will no longer be embarrassed to explain the difference to your coffee-loving friends.

What is a cafe au lait? A cafe au lait is a coffee drink that is made with brewed coffee and steamed milk with no foam. It is typically served in a wide-brimmed bowl.

On the other hand, a cafe latte is made with espresso, steamed milk, and a thin layer of foam with latte art. It is typically served in a tall glass.

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