Although coffee is truly a superior beverage (my own opinion), there are times that call for a nice hot milky beverage with a different flavor. Maybe you or someone you know wants less caffeine, or there’s a child who wants a “mock latte” to imitate you. You don’t need a reason to skip coffee and the caffeine for now, because I’m going to show you some non-coffee lattes that you will go out of your way to try.
Today, if you said the word “latte” to anyone, they would imagine the traditional drink of espresso and steamed milk (dairy or any non dairy milk is applicable). Espresso is a form of concentrated coffee that is too strong for many people to drink straight, so we mix it with a medium to make it more palatable and disperse flavors. Mixed with milk, it makes a latte, cappuccino, or other specialty drinks if you want to get technical. Espresso and water makes an americano. Compare it to alcohol. Some people want a shot of tequila, while others sip it slowly in a margarita. There are the straight up espresso drinkers, and then there are people like me who want a latte! It is clear that coffee rules the milk-based beverage territory, but we must not overlook the supporting role in this beloved drink. For now, we will forget about this kind of latte, and use the term “latte” for any milk based drink.
Milk is a longstanding household staple, with the average American consuming 20.4 gallons per year, and that’s not even counting the ever popular non-dairy milks. It is such an amazing base for beverages. It’s fat content provides a great mouthfeel that can carry and broaden many flavors, giving them more depth. Changing temperatures can give you even more variety with milk, as it releases more sugars when it’s heated. Take some milk and serve it ice cold, then again try it steamed to 145 degrees. It will taste completely different! The ice cold milk is a refreshing palate cleanser (milk and cookies?) while the hot milk has a clingier mouthfeel with more sugars and heavier fat particles.
Don’t forget the levels of flavors your typical non-dairy milks can bring to the table. An almond milk latte can taste different than one with whole milk, soy milk, hemp or oat milk! They all have different sugar contents too. All of the lattes in the article can be vegan by using different milks.
Let’s briefly look back at the fundamentals of an espresso latte. It is mostly milk (usually 6:1 ratio), with just a couple ounces of that strong oily espresso. Keeping this proportion in mind, you can make a latte with anything!
For example, I love lavender. I always buy them as plants (and I kept one French Lavender alive indoors for two years, in New England!), and cook with food grade lavender pretty frequently. You can make a base for a lavender latte just by using a concentrated lavender syrup. Start by boiling or steeping the flowers in hot water until it’s flavor is really strong. Mix sugar to the concentrated lavender water in about 1:1 ratio (universal syrup recipe), and there is your base. It is so easy. Add one or two ounces of your syrup to hot or iced milk. Adjust to your liking, and that is a delicious latte. It tastes so smooth, floral and refreshing. It’s a great calming alternative to tea at bedtime, as there is no caffeine. You can keep the syrup in your refrigerator for about a week if you have some left over.
Note: While making a hot latte at home, you don’t need a fancy milk steamer. Just slowly heat the milk up on your stove-top to 145 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat it up to a point where it’s hot and slightly steamy, but NOT boiling. Taste the milk with a spoon and see if it’s hot enough to enjoy. You could even put it in a mug and microwave it in increments of 30 seconds, while checking the temperature. Just make sure you drink it all or toss milk that is left over. We can’t let the milk’s temperature go up and then put it back in the fridge to drink later.
Easy Lavender Syrup Recipe:
- Get two tablespoons of dried food grade lavender flowers.
- Simmer in one cup of water for 10 minutes, stirring a few times throughout.
- Remove from heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar, stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Strain out the flowers in a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. I’ve used coffee filters places in a small collander to strain syrups before, too.
- Let it cool at room temperature, then contain it and put it in the fridge.
A very strong, concentrated flavor, with a milk base to carry it; you now know the basics of making a non-coffee flavored latte. A separate important aspect to consider would be sugar. Lavender flavored milk is perfectly fine to drink, but a little bland without sweetness. That’s why I put regular white granulated sugar in my lavender syrup. Don’t be guilty, these drinks are absolute treats, and it’s still less sugar than an average soda or juice. Instead of sugar, you could use honey, agave, raw turbinado sugar, or stevia. This is a guide to show you how unique and customizable your lattes can be!
If you make drinks professionally, you want them to look as vibrant and appealing as possible. After all, we eat (and drink) with our eyes. Highly flavorful and pigmented bases make the best lattes. Whether or not you can do latte art, a colorful base makes for good contrast to your milk foam. I’ll show you some latte bases that will make visually stunning lattes below.
What are other flavors to try? Some non-coffee lattes I have made and served include:
- Chai: This might be an obvious one, but this mix of concentrated black tea, ginger, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon and other spices is very popular. Steep one or two chai tea bags in ~4 oz of hot water for longer than usual, about 10-15 minutes. Add it to 4 oz of hot or iced milk. Sweeten to taste. If you don’t have chai tea bags at home, use any black tea (I love earl grey). Look in your cupboard for the spices mentioned above and add some of those, or make your own combination.
- Beet Root: See the first image of the article. Beets are incredibly underrated. They have an earthy, sweet flavor unlike anything else on earth. You can use either beet root powder or fresh or bottled pure beet juice. Although they have natural sweetness, I still add a little simple syrup (plain sugar water) to it. In an empty mug, combine your beet powder or liquid, an ounce or so of simple syrup, and mix with a whisk (or a fork). There is your espresso substitute. Now add your steamed/warmed milk to finish your latte. The color latte this makes can range from a dark purple or magenta, to a hot pink or baby pink. I have made this drink for children and watched them happily drink all of it. Yes, BEETS!
- Hot Chocolate: Is this cheating? I don’t think so; hot chocolates and even chocolate milk are types of lattes! Melt down one or two tablespoons of high quality baking chocolate or chocolate chips in a double boiler, add milk and TELL me that isn’t just as sophisticated and delicious as a latte.
- Matcha: This latte is made from finely ground and powdered green tea. It’s touted to be very high in antioxidants. It has a mellow grassy flavor, and makes for a thick creamy latte. It is made from such a fine powder that there is a specialized mixing tool specifically for it. Just mix one or two teaspoons matcha powder (or follow the directions your matcha package provides), add an ounce of HOT water, and stir until there are no clumps. Add your sugar (I really can’t drink a matcha without sweetness to balance it), and your milk to complete your healthy grass-green latte.
- Turmeric: Or, “Golden” latte as it’s often called in specialty cafes, is another health beneficial beverage. I won’t go into reasons why people are clambering to get more turmeric into their diet, but many people will tell you of the benefits. It is a spiced, musky, earthy root that is best mixed with cayenne or black pepper. Combine two teaspoons with spices and sweetener of your choice, mix with some water, and add your milk.
So the formula for a good base in your latte is one or two ounces of something FLAVORFUL, sweet, syrupy and pigmented.
The variety of lattes that don’t require espresso keeps growing. One of the reasons I love visiting local independent coffee shops is that they have the ability to change the menu frequently and offer seasonal specials. Coffee free-blueberry lattes are something I’ve wanted to try! Have fun barista-ing.
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