Know Your Coffee: Cappuccino vs Latte
Whether you love a frothy, sweet work of art or an aromatic, calculated pour-over, Ubora Coffee has the perfect cup to curb your craving, and the Augusta, Georgia-based company’s owners are ready to weigh in on the cappuccino vs latte debate.
It’s true that these two Italian drinks both use a mix of espresso, steamed milk, and foam, but it’s their two very distinct compositions that define them. Historically, the cappuccino essentially shared the same caffeinated Italian birthing suite as the espresso, reaching maturity during World War I and World War II. Ideally a 6-ounce drink split evenly in thirds (1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 wet foamed milk), the cappuccino offers a rich, airy taste with relatively low acidity – essentially a strong coffee with a festive bit of foam on top.
In contrast, lattes characteristically contain very large amounts of milk, with the name itself originating from the Italian phrase for “milk coffee.” A breakfast standard for hundreds of years, it ultimately did not establish permanent residency in international cafés until the 20th century, when its creamy, velvet-like texture and enticing foam art began to take the world by storm. Composed of 1-2 shots of espresso with 5-6 ounces of steamed milk, the standard 8-ounce latte of old takes up roughly 5/6 of the cup, with the remaining real estate occupied by a thin layer of foam. Skilled baristas pour this final layer of foam into creative, intricate designs known as “latte art.” (Ubora deviates from the original, opting to serve its lattes in 12 and 16-ounce, with 2-3 shots of espresso, to create a significant distinction in flavor and texture between the two). If you’re looking for a visual masterpiece in a cup, look no further than the standard latte.
Despite their relatively distinct differences, misconceptions still abound between the two. Some of the most common? “That you can have latte art in a cappuccino,” says Ubora Coffee Roasters Co-Owner and Roastmaster Andre Leon. “Due to the need for foam that looks and feels almost like a light meringue, you cannot make latte art on a cappuccino. If you do get a cappuccino with latte art, you just purchased a short latte.” “As a milk forward country, when it comes to our coffee traditions, most people have no idea that the magic of the cappuccino lies in the milk foam – the best part of milk products in coffee,” adds Co-Owner, Quality Control, and Head Barista Walter E. Dyer. “That foam carries all the sugar and acid reduction needed to fully support an espresso's integrity without dilution.” Co-Owner and Sales Manager Phillip Weisner agrees, adding that “A lot of chains say they serve cappuccinos, but what you are served is far from it,” he says. “It’s much closer to a regular coffee with lots of milk and a little foam on top that doesn't have any sweet taste to it. Most consumers have been taught that this is what coffee is, but it is far from it.”
Ubora’s goal is to not only work to make coffee better by raising standards for production and brew, but to also show guest the intricacies behind the brew and their difference in taste and profile of our coffees so they can uncover the wonderful and diverse world of coffee. Similarly, baristas at Ubora are encouraged to develop their craft through comprehensive training offered them to master the traditional coffee recipes and be able to create new twists that are featured during “Sunday’s Test Kitchen.” Notably, the now popular lavender latte at Ubora came from the test kitchen. At Ubora, the owners seek to spark the coffee conversation between barista, patron and the community-at-large.
All of that said, inquiring minds want to know: which do the gurus prefer?
“I prefer cappuccinos because they are the most balanced of the espresso-based drinks,” Leon says. “As you drink a cappuccino you can taste and feel all three layers, and no part overwhelms the other. The first time I tried a proper, well-made cappuccino was the day I decided coffee was my passion and that I wanted to do something coffee-related with my life, which many years later lead to Ubora.” Dyer says he opts for the cappuccino as well. “One of the major reasons I love cappuccinos is because they are one of the few standard experiential cups of coffee due to the espresso blending with milk foam, giving an evolving flavor in every sip that captures the core of old world coffee,” he says. “It encourages a pause from the stream of the day to take just a few moments to be present with this simple yet amazing drink and share community with a friend or other coffee lovers.” Weisner, on the other hand, is all about the latte. “For me it’s our Lavender Latte,” he says. “It is just amazing, the pairing of lavender to the hints of citrus in our espresso blend.” As for their customer’s favorite? “The latte, hands down,” Dyer says. “It is our No. 1 item!” At the end Andre says, “Drink what you enjoy, love what you drink.”