Tag Archives: Milk

What is an Italian Latte ?

First up, I must announce on my blog, for all those non-coffee geeks, who don’t know already, that the World Barista Champion is Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee. Intelligentsia Coffee is actually becoming world famous amongst the coffee world and so it won’t be that much of a surprise that they are able to churn out a world class barista. You can view more about Intelligentsia on my blog roll, or follow mike phillips on twitter on 1shotfortheroad – cool name.

OK ! so as we’ve just been elongated with the technical terms of coffee at the WBC, I thought it apt to tackle the technicalities of the so called “what is an Italian Latte ?” debate. It’s actually a very contentious issue and on many forums, pages and pages have been written about what exactly is a latte. Let’s start from the basics. Caffe is Italian for coffee and Latte is Italian for… wait for it…. MILK. So strictly speaking, a caffe latte is coffee with milk. BUT, what sort of milk and what sort of coffee. Have a I lost you ? Stay with me. OK ! we know that most coffee drank in Italy, is espresso based, so that was easy wasn’t it ? We’ve got the coffee out of the way and now for the difficult bit, what sort of milk. We now have 3 types of milk, (i) heated milk, which you can just pour into a small pot and take of the heat when steam appears, or if you have a microwave, pop in for between 30-60 seconds, (ii) steamed milk, which ideally should display lots of steam when heated or if you are lucky enough to have a proper espresso machine, one in which you steam before it froths or if we are going to be technical place the steam wand right into the milk jug as far as it will go, and steam – it will heat up very quickly and you shouldn’t see any bubbles at all. (iii) frothed milk – what we all crave, because if done properly, it should be silky smooth and sweetish, with a wrap around your mouth texture – if you have never had this experience, then the barista that is making your drink, needs to be re-trained or you need to practice more, but this post isn’t about frothing milk, sorry !

So for Italian Latte, I have to be the bearer of bad news and commit myself to say, there should be no frothed milk, boo hoo ! The pic at the top of this post is one made using frothed milk and so it is an imposter. So, that’s right, what a great majority of cafes serve as a caffe latte isn’t a caffe latte, because it is covered with frothed milk. If you have time and money to waste, but are passionate about not getting conned, order a large cappuccino and a caffe latte at your “regular” coffee shop and try and tell what the difference is – good luck and let me know.

OK ! Back to the milk stuff. The first type of milk, heated, is what you should really have in the French version, cafe au lait – OK ! for those who don’t know French and coffee terms, coffee (using the French Press) with milk. So, the second version, steamed milk, should ideally be used for the Italian caffe latte. How do you know if it is steamed and not heated ? Steamed milk should have a trickle of “body”. See below, that little white line on the top.

If you are really passionate, after your drink, check out the inside. It should look a bit like this, Why ?

Well ! that bit of dark cream, is the crema from a well prepared espresso, a double in this case, which interacted with the steamed milk, giving it a bit of a “body” or thick skin. If there was frothed milk, it will still be there, thick as ever. If it was just heated milk, it would wash away your crema and hence the evidence. I’m not mad, but just so you know, this is how the Italian measure their coffees afterwards, by looking inside after it has been drunk. All together now, mad coffee freak….. Hope you learned something, Take care and check those caffe lattes.

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An African and an Ukrainian

One day an African and an Ukrainian walked into a cafe and asked the local barista for one African coffee and one Ukrainian coffee. The barista said “What ?…”. Got ya ! OK ! this isn’t a story about an African and a Ukrainian drinking coffee at a cafe, but just my catchy title for two coffee recipes for you try.

First up, for the African coffee, I am assuming that you know how to make good French Press coffee, that should be fairly strong, made ideally with African arabica coffee beans like from Kenyan Peaberry, Tanzanian Mocca or Ethiopian Sidamo. Second, I am assuming that you know what evaporated milk is – for those of you who don’t know, then you haven’t been to Africa then. Basically, because traditionally it is hard to store what we in Europe or America call fresh milk in refrigerated conditions, evaporated milk or “tinned milk” is what you will find easily in Africa. It is a concoction devised from boiling about 1 litre of milk until it reduces by half until a thick yellow, syrupy and creamy texture exists. This milk is a bit similar to double cream but is richer and much sweeter. However, it is lovely with coffee or tea and in most of Africa the joke is “are you having coffee or tea with your milk” because people tend to pour quite a bit of it into their coffee. Ironically, this milk, which comes in a small tin (160ml), is made primarily in two Western countries, the Netherlands, who make Peak evaporated milk and the USA, who make Carnation evaporated milk, so it won’t be hard for you to find it in your regular supermarket, as sometimes it can be used to make toffee. So, with the absence of milk frothing devices and thick fresh double cream and you still want milky coffee in the morning, this is it if you are in Africa and I must say up front, it is more popular in West Africa.

It produces a rich taste, but try it when you want to spoil yourself as it is quite rich. 

 

For the Ukrainian coffee, I cannot take credit for this concoction as one of my colleagues, who is from Ukraine told me about this recipe, which apparently is drunk very regularly in Ukraine. A word of warning, it is quite strong and perhaps after I tasted it for the first time, I can understand why they might drink this type of coffee in a cold environment. It’s actually very simple and probably falls into an idea rather than a recipe. Again, just make good French Press coffee, but before pouring the coffee in, place one bit of slighty broken minty chocolate at the bottom of the cup like “After Eight”. You may need to break it gently, so that the white minty bit inside the dark chocolate sheet just oozes out.

After that just pour the coffee inside and enjoy. It is quite strong and a small cup might suffice.

Enjoy !