Café au Lait vs Latte: Which Coffee Tastes Better?


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Coffee is one of the most popular and widely loved beverages in the world. It is an instant eye-opener, an energy booster throughout the day, and a tasty treat for the tastebuds.

What makes coffee even more interesting is that there are a variety of coffee types, flavors, and mixes catering to different consumers.

Today we will be comparing two coffee favourites ‘cafe au lait’ and ‘cafe latte’, that are quite similar, yet have a number of major differences.

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What’s in a Cafe au Lait?

Simply put, cafe au lait means ‘coffee with milk’ in French.

A cafe au lait mainly comprises of steamed milk and drip coffee or a shot of espresso. More specifically, scalded milk and concentrated filter coffee is used in this coffee drink. Chicory can also be added to it. In some places, cafe au lait is made using a strongly brewed coffee. One fan favourite is the ‘French press coffee‘.  

The ratio of steamed milk and espresso shot varies from country to country. According to a French coffee expert, Nicolas Clerc, one espresso shot in a 170 ml cup, combined with warm milk makes a well-balanced cafe au lait. Traditionally, the drink is not topped with milk foam.

Cafe au lait is usually served in a wide-brimmed bowl so you can dunk your sweet treats into it before taking a bite of them. In fact, this is a popular way to enjoy this particular type of coffee. It is also served in cappuccino cups if you wish to keep it warm for longer. 

This drink is accessible everywhere as it is prepared in different countries with slight variations. The best part is that you can easily recreate a cafe au lait at home as you do not need a latte machine to prepare this heavenly drink.

Focus Café au Lait vs Latte: Which Coffee Tastes Better?

History and Origin of Cafe au Lait

Hailing from Paris, this drink goes way back in time. In fact, it was probably in the early 1600s when coffee was becoming popular and cafe au lait was being served in coffee shops.

References to cafe au lait have also been seen in the letters of historical figure Madam De Sévigné or Marie de Rabutin-Chantal.  

There is a coffee shop by the name of ‘Cafe du Monde’ in the French quarter of New Orleans. According to the records, this cafe has been serving cafe au lait since the past 150 years. Their recipe uses a combination of chicory and coffee and has a heavy, bitter flavour that is savoured to this day.

Another interesting anecdote regarding this coffee goes back to the American Civil War. During those days, coffee was scarce and had to be mixed with chicory. This made the coffee very dark and bitter, so it was served with deep-fried, sugary French pastries called beignets. Even today, cafe au lait is frequently enjoyed with a plate of beignets.

Focus Café au Lait vs Latte: Which Coffee Tastes Better?

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What is a Latte?

A latte, on the other hand, is another delicious coffee drink, which is made using steamed milk, one or two shots of espresso and milk foam. This is a milk-based coffee, and it usually has a ratio of three parts steamed milk with one part espresso.

You must have seen beautiful coffee cups with amazing artwork on them. This is usually done on cafe lattes and latte art brings an impressive twist to this interesting drink.

What does a Latte Taste Like?

A latte is a unique coffee drink as it has some fluffiness to it, combined with a mild, sweet flavor which is balanced with the pleasant flavour of caffeine. Overall, a latte is a mild coffee and is not super strong as it is a milk-heavy drink.

The milk actually adds to the flavour by masking the strong hints of coffee and off-setting it with a creamy, frothy flavor. The foam on top just adds to the delight of the whole latte experience. Plus, you can make it even more fun by adding flavor shots like hazelnut, vanilla, or more.  

Lattes tend not to be overly sweet or overly strong. Hence, they are often loved by many people who are new to coffee as well.

The Difference Between Café au Lait and Latte

Focus Café au Lait vs Latte: Which Coffee Tastes Better?

Essentially, both latte and cafe au lait are the same as they have the same base ingredients with a few tweaks. Both the drinks are based in Europe and are made from coffee and milk.

However, we can note a few differences that make these drinks and their experiences, ultimately different.

  • Cafe latte is an Italian coffee whereas cafe au lait is French.
  • Additionally, both coffees have a different ratio of ingredients as well as different ways of serving them.
  • A latte is generally served in a tall glass, whereas cafe au lait is traditionally served in a bowl.
  • There is no foam on a cafe au lait, in comparison to the foamy layer on latte, which simply feels and tastes different.
  • As there are different ratios of milk and coffee used, we can say that the flavor profile of these two coffee drinks also varies.

Moreover, let’s further explore the key differences between these two popular coffee drinks:

Which is stronger, cafe au lait or latte?

You can expect a latte to be milkier and less strong than a cafe au lait. This is because of a difference in the amount of milk added in the drinks. 

Only half a cup of milk (0.12 litres) is used while making cafe au lait. In comparison, 3/4th of a cup of milk is added in a latte.

Another reason cafe au lait is stronger is that it is made with strongly brewed coffee while latte is made using espresso.

Which coffee has more caffeine content?

One important difference between latte and cafe au lait is their caffeine content. A latte typically has 68 mg of caffeine whereas a cafe au lait can have 90mg of caffeine or more.

Is a cafe au lait sweeter than a Latte?

Generally, a latte is sweeter than cafe au lait, especially if you choose to add a flavored syrup to it. On the other hand, cafe au lait is bitter rather than sweet.

If one prefers a sweeter beverage, they can always add sugar as per their preferences.

The Verdict: Which Coffee Drink Tastes Better?

Both of these drinks are exceptionally yummy and are universally appreciated and enjoyed. But it all comes down to preference.

People who like a straightforward coffee drink with more focus on the intensity of caffeine are bound to love a classic cafe au lait. One major benefit is that it is low on calories too.

A latte is a better choice for coffee beginners as it easier on the tastebuds and on the stomach. It is particularly enjoyed by those who like to have texture in their drink.

Focus Café au Lait vs Latte: Which Coffee Tastes Better?

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Conclusion

The bottomline is that both of these coffees deserve appreciation as they have unique characteristics and flavors. 

It is easy to make both of these coffees at home and they are readily available almost everywhere. Our recommendation is for you to try both the latte and cafe au lait and see which one gets you going.

We hope this coffee comparison was enjoyable and informative, and that you’re ready to make your next coffee order. Enjoy your steaming cup of coffee!

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