Café au lait

This article is about the beverage. For the style of birthmark, see Café au lait spot. For other uses, see Café au lait (disambiguation).
Café au lait
Type Beverage
Place of origin France
Main ingredients coffee with hot milk
Cookbook: Café au lait  Media: Café au lait

Café au lait (pronounced: [kafe o lɛ]; French for "coffee with milk") is coffee with hot milk added. It differs from white coffee, which is coffee with cold milk or other whitener added.



Café au lait bowls in a style traditionally used in France

In Europe, "café au lait" stems from the same continental tradition as "café con leche" in Spain, "kawa biała" ("white coffee") in Poland, "Milchkaffee" ("milk coffee") in Germany, "tejeskávé" in Hungary, "koffie verkeerd" ("incorrect coffee") in The Netherlands and Belgium, and "café com leite" ("coffee with milk") in Portugal and Brazil. In the French-speaking areas of Switzerland, a popular variation is the "café renversé" ("reverse coffee"), which is made by using the milk as a base and adding espresso, in reversal of the normal method of making a café au lait. In Andalusia, Southern Spain, a similar variation is called "manchado" ("stained"). In northern Europe, café au lait is the name most often used in coffee shops.

At home, café au lait can be prepared from dark coffee and heated milk; in cafés, it has been prepared on espresso machines from espresso and steamed milk ever since these machines became available in the 1940s—thus it refers to the usual "coffee and milk" combination, depending on the location, not to a specific drink.

"Café au lait" and "caffè latte" are used as contrasting terms, to indicate whether the beverage is served in the "French" or the "Italian" way, the former being in a white porcelain cup or bowl, the latter in a kitchen glass and always made from an espresso machine, whereas "café au lait" might be espresso- or dark coffee-based.

United States

A café au lait and beignets served in Café du Monde, New Orleans.

In many American coffeehouses, a café au lait is a drink of strong drip brewed or French pressed coffee, to which steamed milk is added; this contrasts with a caffè latte, which uses espresso as a base. American café au lait is generally served in a cup, as with brewed coffee, being served in a bowl only at shops which wish to emphasize French tradition.

Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on

Café au lait is a popular drink in New Orleans, available at coffee shops like Café du Monde and Morning Call, where it is made with milk and coffee mixed with chicory, giving it a strong, bitter taste. Unlike the European café style, a New Orleans-style café au lait is made with scalded milk (milk warmed over heat to just below boiling), rather than with steamed milk.[1] The use of roasted chicory root as an extender in coffee became common in Louisiana during the American Civil War, when Union naval blockades cut off the Port of New Orleans, forcing citizens to stretch out the coffee supply. In New Orleans, café au lait is traditionally drunk while eating beignets dusted with powdered sugar, which offsets the bitterness of the chicory.[2]

See also

Look up café au lait in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


  1. Cait au lait, Gumbo Pages
  2. Smith, K. Annabelle (14 March 2016). "The History of the Chicory Coffee Mix That New Orleans Made Its Own". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
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