Caffe latte literally means coffee with milk and is a drink enjoyed in many places around the world. We have served coffee with milk for centuries, and it all started when coffee came to Europe and especially France and Vienna.
When coffee was introduced in France for the first time, around the middle of 17th century, they found it as being too bitter. Therefore, Dr. Monin, a famous doctor in Grenoble, had the idea to mix coffee with sugar or honey and milk to reduce its bitterness. According to him, this coffee mixture had healing properties. In 1781, french writer Louis-Sébastien Mercier writes in his Tableau de Paris about coffee being served everywhere in Paris, with not too much sugar added but the workers liked to drink it with milk. Café au lait soon became their most common breakfast, being cheap, very aromatic and nutritious.
Caffe latte was and it is everyone’s breakfast drink in France, as well as in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Finland etc.
In Italy this coffee beverage consists of moka coffee and milk. The name is caffellatte, it originates from Italy and it can literally be translated to ′coffee milk′. Outside of Italy it will be served with espresso and milk cream.
Café con leche is the Spanish form of caffe latte. It consists of an espresso with milk. The roasting of coffee beans is usually darker than in other countries. The milk heated or frothed is often placed separately in a small jug on the table.
In Austria the regular coffee with milk is called melange. If you order a caffe latte in Austria, you usually get something similar to a latte macchiato.
Scandinavia received the coffee tradition from France, through England, and the name café au lait came here with the first coffee menus in the 1950s.
In the 1980s, Swedish milk producers aimed to increase milk consumption. Then café au lait was launched over large parts of Sweden through advertising, as well as outside the food stores. The logo for the campaign was the word café au lait written in red, white and blue, the French flag colours. Because espresso and milk were unusual in Sweden, hot milk and freshly brewed coffee was served instead.
In a nutshell, either if you call it caffe latte, melange, café au lait or café com leite, they are all similar coffee beverages that can be served at every coffee shop all over the world.