The Latte Difference

Avoiding The Latte, Au Lait Faux Paux

With coffeehouses becoming a mainstay on the American scene, the need for people to understand the subtle differences between a plain cup of Joe and a designer or “imported” drink is becoming evident. With so many choices, the only way to ensure the ordering of a perfect cup is to understand the subtle differences in brews.

Trying to figure out what to order and how to order it can be quite difficult, however. With choices ranging from espresso and cappuccino to plain drip, flavored and beyond, getting through a menu at a typical coffee joint isn’t an easy undertaking.

For those who like their coffee with a European sounding name, it can be easy to confuse two of the most popular types of coffee. If you’ve had a café au lait and enjoyed its creamy, hot flavor and then ordered a café latte by mistake, you might be in for a shock. Have one on the mind and order the other and the face that results from that first sip might resemble a bitter beer commercial.

To help avoid the latte, au lait faux paux, it helps to know what goes into the two different kinds of coffee.

The café latte, or latte for short, is the choice of many who like the rich flavors of a dark espresso, but prefer it cut with something a bit creamier. The latte is a mix of espresso and foamed milk. It can be served iced and even flavored with other concoctions such as chocolate, mocha, vanilla and more. Even though it’s not as robust as a straight espresso, it is bolder than regular coffee.

Speaking of regular coffee, that’s pretty much what a café au lait is, but don’t tell the French. This creation, which is actually pronounced ole, is nothing more than drip coffee with hot milk. Generally less bold than the espresso or even the latte, this is just an all around good cup of coffee for those who don’t like the sometimes overpowering taste of espresso.

While it’s unlikely you’ll get more than a chuckle out of those around if you make an ordering faux paux, if you have one coffee flavor in mind and get another, you could be in for a big surprise. Since ordering coffee is no longer as simple as instructing one lump or two, it’s a good idea to understand at least some of the basic jargon to make sure you get the right cup every time.