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A Guide to Popular Coffee Drinks - With a Side of History

A Guide to Popular Coffee Drinks - With a Side of History

Everybody’s got a story, and when it comes to our favourite coffee drinks, the story is a loving tribute to the birthplace of espresso – Italy! Caffè espresso means ‘pressed out coffee’. The precursor to our modern espresso machines pushed water and steam through a pressed puck of ground coffee. Resulting in a coffee brewed in a matter of seconds.

Espresso Shot

Call it a shot or a short black; your basic espresso shot is the basis for many coffee drinks. Sometimes called the cousin of espresso, a ristretto – restricted in Italian, is extracted with less water, resulting in an even more concentrated serving.


One more black coffee before we get to the milk drinks, and that’s the americano, rumour to be named for the American soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II. Apparently, they diluted an espresso shot with hot water to make it more like the cup of Joe they were used to back home.


When it comes to your milk-based coffees, on the surface, they seem quite similar, but it’s all about the ratio of milk to espresso. Latte is Italian for milk, and today, lattes are the most-ordered coffee shop drink. The milkiest of coffees, a latte features a double shot of espresso, topped with steamed milk and a thin layer of foam.


A cappuccino has slightly less milk, with the ratio of 1/3 each of espresso, steamed milk and foam. Order a dry cap for lots of foam, or a wet cap for more milk. The cappuccino gets its name from the colour of the hooded robes worn by the Capuchin monks in 16th century Italy.


For a bolder coffee with less milk, we love a macchiato - again an Italian word meaning marked or stained. The espresso is topped with just a touch of steamed milk.

Café au Lait

Very similar to a latte, Café au lait is made with a brewed coffee, usually French press, rather than an espresso shot, and topped with steamed milk.


There are more than a few options for satisfying a sweet tooth when it comes to coffee. Café mocha starts with a basic latte and blends it with a hot chocoalte. Chocolate in some form, steamed milk, and espresso make up this rich and delicious beverage. Sometimes a decadent swirl of whipped cream if desired.


Summer treats don’t get much better than a cold, frothy, blended frappe. Starbucks trademarked the name Frappuccino to describe their proprietary blended drink, but the original frappe was created back in the 50s in Greece. Blast ice, coffee, milk and flavoured syrup in a blender until frothy.


You’ll need a spoon for this one – the best coffee dessert on the planet – Affogato! Again, thank you Italy, affogato means ‘drowned’ in Italian. It’s so simple; espresso poured over vanilla ice cream or gelato. Variations in coffee drink recipes abound, with baristas and home coffee lovers tweaking things here and there. This is only the ‘basic’ list of espresso-influenced drinks…we’ll need a few more blog posts to delve into iced coffee, spiced coffee and coffee cocktails. Have you come up with any new coffee recipes? Please share!

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