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Café au Lait Day

"I'll have some cafe au lait ... only, um, make mine black."

~ Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

Confounded by confusing coffee rules and trends? Sneered at by snobby barristas? Well, if you've ever had to wait in line behind a person ordering the following ...

"quad long shot grande in a venti cup half calf double cupped no sleeve salted caramel mocha latte with 2 pumps of vanilla substitute 2 pumps of white chocolate mocha for mocha and substitute 2 pumps of hazelnut for toffee nut half whole milk and half breve with no whipped cream extra hot extra foam extra caramel drizzle extra salt add a scoop of vanilla bean powder with light ice well stirred ..."

when all you wanted was a cup of coffee, maybe a little milk, you have our caffeinated sympathy. Things are a bit confusing to be sure. Traditionally, café au lait is made of brewed coffee and steamed milk with a 1:1 ratio, instead of espresso and milk (also, no foam as in a latté). However, this distinction only exists in the US; in Europe, café au lait is made of espresso instead. And American café au lait is often made using scalded, rather than steamed milk. And in France, a distinction is made in serving style as well, with café au lait served French style in a white porcelain cup or bow, or Italian style in a glass. Confused? Time for a coffee break! ☕☕☕

By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan are the colours of a morning wake up call.  


Supposedly, a French doctor in the 1600s suggested adding milk to coffee to strengthen his patients' constitutions, beginning a tradition with many regional variants:


  • In Europe, “café au lait” stems from the same continental tradition as “café con leche” in Spain.

  • In Poland it is referred to as “kawa biała” (“white coffee”).

  • In Germany it is referred to as “Milchkaffee” (“milk coffee”).

  • And in the Netherlands it is referred to as “koffie verkeerd” (“incorrect coffee”)!

  • In the French-speaking areas of Switzerland, a popular variation is the “café renversé” (“reverse coffee”), made by using the milk as a base and adding espresso, in reversal of the normal method of making a “café au lait”.

  • In the United States, a New Orleans-style café au lait is made with scalded milk, rather than with steamed milk, often with the addition roasted chicory root.   

For some amusing infographics on coffee and coffee drinkers, click the café au lait.