What is a Latte? History, Latte Art & More

Lattes are a super common drink that I’m sure you’ve heard of. How many of you order a latte when you head to Starbucks or your local coffee shop?

Or maybe you’re a flavored latte kinda person and choose a classic vanilla latte or seasonal pumpkin spice latte. I love a good latte and especially love latte art. It’s one drink I order the most when we go out!

You might find yourself asking, “what exactly is a latte?”  You wouldn’t be the first rookie to think so, in fact there are seasoned coffee shop aficionados that aren’t sure! 

Or maybe you want to learn a bit more about the history of lattes or how to make one.

Well today we’re going to talk all about lattes from what they are to where their name came from. Let’s do it!

What is a latte?

what is a latte

At its heart, a latte is a single or double shot of espresso and steamed milk (typically 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk). It also has a layer of foam on top (unlike the flat white) where you’ll often find latte art. (More on the latte art part in a bit.)

Lattes are highly customizable. You can create an iced coffee or add a variety of types of flavors to your latte

One thing to note – lattes can quickly become very unhealthy very quickly with added sweeteners, syrups, etc! Keep it on the healthier side by using non-fat milk and limiting the amount of added sweeteners and syrups you use.


Where did the latte come from?

The latte gets its name at least from the Italian word for coffee with milk (Caffe e latte). Although somewhat debatable the United States is credited with naming the beverage “Latte”. 

Although people have been drinking a combination of milk and coffee since the 1600s, the first drink we might think as the founding ancestor to the latte comes from Vienna and Trieste in the late 1700s called Kapuziner.  They say it comprised of coffee with cream, spices and sugar.  Can we say “Pumpkin Spice”!?!

Latte art

Can you make art on a latte?

Now, for the art I promised earlier. Latte art is created by pouring the steamed milk into the coffee to create designs. 

Believe it or not there is a World Latte Art Championship competition. You would be amazed at what can be created with coffee and milk. 

The two most common are the rosette and heart.  We can thank Seatles David Schomer’s Espresso Vivace and Luigi Lupi in Italy for starting that trend in the 1980’s.

The type of latte cup makes a difference on how easy or hard it is to make latte art.

making latte art

How it Differs From Other Coffee Drinks

Looking up at the menu board some other names may jump out at you. Before panic sets in let me share with you the cousins of our latte.

Difference Between a Latte and a Cappuccino

A Cappuccino is also a single or double espresso with milk and foam. The difference is the ratio.  n a latte you will get 2/3 steamed milk with a hint of foam or Crème on top whereas the cappuccino has 1/3 steamed milk and 2/3 foam giving it a stronger flavor and less liquid over all making it lighter to drink. 

Difference Between a Latte and a Macchiato

The macchiato is also common on a coffee shop menu, it is simply a latte in reverse order.  Instead of putting the steamed milk on the espresso shot, the milk goes in first and the espresso gets poured on top.

Difference Between a Latte and Coffee

A latte is made with espresso and milk while a coffee is made out of ground coffee beans and water. You can make a latte more strong by adding additional shots of espresso to it while a coffee can only be brewed one strength.

Next time you are in a coffee shop you can answer the question, what is a latte?  Now you just have to figure out what size, what combination of flavors, and is it too early to get Pumpkin Spice!

Find even more types of coffee on this post!

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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