Cafe au lait is a coffee drink consisting of coffee and hot milk. The term refers to two separate variations of coffee in America and Europe, though the basic feature of coffee with hot milk remains the same, unlike white coffee which consists of coffee with milk at room temperature.
History of Cafe au Lait Drink
Coffee was introduced in Europe by the Turks, and initially the taste was not much accepted by Europeans. However, the popularity of coffee slowly grew, and it is said that at first the French started making coffee in a tea bag fashion, i.e. they put ground coffee in bags on which they poured hot water to prepare the drink. The French are also credited with introduction of milk to coffee. French, unlike the Arabs, were milk drinkers, and they started adding milk to coffee to prepare the famous 'café au lait'.
Overview of Cafe au Lait Recipes
In European homes, the drink is prepared by adding heated milk to dark coffee. In cafes, it is prepared by adding steamed milk to espresso coffee.
In most American coffee-houses, café au lait is made by adding steamed milk to French press or drip brewed coffee. French press coffee is coffee that is prepared from the coffee brewing machine called 'French press', in which hot water is added to coarsely ground coffee beans. The crushed coffee is separated from the drink by means of a mesh.
In New Orleans, this type of coffee has been made popular by Café du Monde, where it is made by mixing coffee and milk with chicory. This variant has a strong, bitter taste. The milk used is not steamed milk but milk that has been heated to a temperature just below boiling point.
Serving Café au Lait
In France, it is served in a porcelain cup or bowl, and in Italy it is called café latte and served in a kitchen glass. In America, café au lait is served in a coffee cup. In New Orleans, it is often served with sweet sugar coated beignets, which are a delicious contrast to its sharp bitter taste in this region.
Popular Cafe au Lait Recipe Variations
Caffe latte is a similar drink from Italy. Café au lait and caffe latte refer to the same drink, but differ in the way they are served. The former is a French drink which is served in porcelain cups or bowls, while the latter is an Italian coffee drink served in a kitchen glass. The other difference is that Café au lait may be made from dark coffee or espresso, while café latte is always made of espresso. Besides café latte, most European countries have their own traditional versions of cafe au lait.