Defining Your Own Latte

     Cooler weather is best celebrated with a hot drink. And, in my opinion, the latte is perfect to keep warm. Whether you are obsessed or are completely new to the world of coffee, most people are not aware of the amount of options they have when it comes to what is going in your cup and even fewer are educated on each option.  

     If specifying espresso, keep in mind that lighter roasts have a sweeter taste but more caffeine. Most cafes opt for a darker roast, as many people prefer to balance out the bitterness of dark espresso with their choice of syrups and milk. The foam on top of a latte also helps balance the flavors inside, so drinking it in a mug as opposed to a to-go cup is sometimes pivotal.

     Traditionally, sweetness is added to coffee through plain granulated sugar. Brown sugar or artificial sweeteners are also common additives. However, a recent craze of adding flavored syrups has infiltrated most coffee shops. Most syrups vary per coffee shop, but the typical lineup is vanilla, caramel and hazelnut. Depending on the size of your drink, your barista will add the corresponding number of pumps of syrup.

     However, if you would like to personalize the strength of the flavor, just ask for less or more pumps when ordering. Many coffee shops have seasonal syrups, like peppermint during the winter and most famously, pumpkin spice in the fall. Personalizing the amount of syrup in your drink often takes trial and error since this variable affects the taste significantly.

     The different types of milk for coffee have the greatest variety. The more fat in the milk, the richer and creamier your drink will taste. Whole milk, with about 3 to 4 percent fat content, is the typical default for most coffee shops unless the customer specifies.

     Some coffee drinkers prefer a lighter density to their coffee, which allows the espresso flavor to shine through more clearly. 1 percent or 2 percent milk, a slightly healthier option, will cut down on the sweetness and body of a latte. Skim milk is slightly sweeter and has even less body than reduced-fat milk, allowing the espresso to shine through even more clearly. (Urnex)

     Milk alternatives include cream and non-dairy milk. Creams are best for those who want a strong body to their coffee. Half-and-half and heavy cream are best used in a brewed dark roast since their high amounts of fat would make a latte too thick and sweet.

     Non-dairy milk options include oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk. Oat milk is rapidly growing in popularity with coffee drinkers. It has been praised for not forming a film or curdling in coffee unlike other diary alternatives when people make a cup at home. Much like full-fat dairy milk, oat milk is creamy and full of body yet does not overpower the espresso.

     Almond milk does not add much body or flavor but it does add a distinctly nutty taste. Soy milk, on the other hand, has a soy aftertaste and does add body and sweetness. Rice milk is the non-dairy equivalent to skim milk, with little body. Coconut milk, “mildly nutty” with a “slightly sour aftertaste” is known to break apart if not properly pre-heated when used in lattes, so order it at a café to try it out.

     Exploring the different options of the latte world is an adventure in itself, but finding the latte that you love as the end result will top off your fall season. The different espressos, sweeteners and milks creates so many combinations, you are bound to find something you love.

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