Recognizing a good latte

In this day and age when every self-respecting corner of New York has a café, surely a decent latte isn’t too difficult to get. Or is it?

Getting a well-made latte shouldn’t be a matter of chance. The odds should be easier to weigh. Let’s consider the available signs:

Café

Space - when you enter, you should immediately get the impression that it’s clean and orderly. You know where to order, the condiment bar is clean, and the front counter looks like it’s constantly attended to. This is very basic. If a café can’t even get a handle on these simple aspects, then goodness knows the chaos behind the counter.

Staff – you should be greeted with a genuine smile. Disdain for you is disdain for your coffee.

Equipment – dedicated and skilled baristas take pride over their machines and equipment. The steam wands are not encrusted with milk, and pitchers are rinsed after every use.

Coffee

Fresh - the coffee for your latte should be ground fresh. One of the things you should hear after your order is settled, is the coffee for your latte going through the grinder. Then the sound of milk being steamed should follow soon after. Imagine, an espresso shot so fresh the crema hasn’t even split yet and it’s melded into silky yielding foam. That’s magic right there. 

Pouring milk into a latte Watch Latte Art being poured

Milk

Foam - too much foam is a cappuccino. Too little foam is a flat white. The foam in a latte is just right. And so rightfully silky, glossy, marshmallow meltingly luscious it should be! The texture of the drink should not have the reluctant density of a cappuccino, nor the splashy milkiness of a flat white. A latte is unctuous yet supple. 

Milk consistency for a latte Milk consistency for a latte

Heat – the temperature of any hot drink contributes, not detracts, from the enjoyment of the drink. It should be your right kind of hot. If it’s not, the barista should be happy to make it so.

Drink

How should a terrific latte taste? Mouthwateringly chocolatey, caramelly, nutty, whatever primordial comfort notes it’s going for, you should be able to taste it! 

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