Spanish Latte: Let's Clarify Some Popular Claims About This Drink

Last Updated On : April 2022
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Spanish latte

What is a Spanish latte?

Well, before writing this post we thought it was going to be a simple answer. But it's not!

You see, we found a lot of confusing information online. For example, some people claim it's a drink that uses scalded milk, which seemed quite odd to us (why "burn" the milk?!). Also, I have travelled extensively around Spain and never heard of a Spanish Latte during my travels there.

So we decided to get to the bottom of this.

We talked to the Fundación IECafé - Instituto Español de Café (Spanish Coffee Institute) and local baristas in third-wave coffee shops in Toronto.

In short, in Spain there is no such thing as a Spanish Latte. It is not a term that is understood by the Spaniards. The closest thing to a Spanish Latte is known as a café con leche, which is the Spaniards' take on a latte. It is one of the most popular coffee drinks in Spain.

However, outside of Spain, a Spanish Latte is a sweetened latte that uses condensed milk, and sometimes has toppings such a cinnamon dusting.

And no, nobody we talked to scalds the milk.

So let's dive into the details of what exactly is a Spanish Latte! We have also included some coffee recipes for you to try out this drink!

Time to grab a cup of joe and get started!

What Is Spanish Latte, in Spain?

Let's get one thing out of the way to avoid confusion. In this post, we'll use interchangeably Spanish Latte and café con leche. However, we'll specify whether we are talking about the drink in Spain, or the drink outside of Spain.

With this out of the way, in Spain, a Spanish latte, is a coffee drink that is made with espresso, steamed milk, and an optional sweetener. The Spaniards refer to this traditional Spanish Latte as a café con leche, and do not understand the term Spanish Latte.

To get more specifics, we reached out to the Fundación IECafé - Instituto Español de Café (Spanish Coffee Institute). We spoke with the Institute Director Celia Millet and the Mare Terra Coffee QLab director, Axel Simón.

They told us that a café con leche is usually served in cups of 180 to 200 mL (6 to 7 oz). They did indicate that the cup sizes change depending on the City and coffee shop. Indeed, Café Sabora uses smaller 125 mL (4.2 oz) cups using a 50% espresso and 50% steamed milk. Or about 2 shots of espresso (about 2 oz) and 2 oz of steamed milk.

Compared to the standard latte we all know, a café con leche in Spain usually contains less milk. This makes for a drink with bolder flavors. The normal latte is usually made with 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk.

Café con leche is one of the 3 most popular coffee drinks in Spain, and it has become increasingly popular in other parts of the world as well. 

Spaniards like to drink it during breakfast, accompanied with some delicious pastries, tortilla de patatas and zumo de naranja (orange juice).

It is one of the three staple coffee drinks Spanish people drink on a daily basis, which include.

  • Espresso coffee

  • Cortado: espresso with a bit of milk

  • Café con leche (Spanish Latte): espresso and steamed or scalded milk

What is A Spanish Latte, Outside of Spain?

Outside of Spain, a Spanish Latte is a sweetened variation of the standard latte. It's typically sweetened with condensed milk and can have additional toppings on top. Sometimes flavored syrup is used.

This means the proportions are 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk, making the café con leche served in Spain a stronger, bolder drink than the Spanish latte served outside of Spain.

To verify this information we talked to a few baristas from Hailed Coffee and Mercury Espresso Bar, in Toronto. None of these coffee shops scald the milk. Phew!

In fact, when I mentioned scalded milk to a barista from Mercury Espresso Bar, she said something like "why burn the milk?"

The only time she would scald the milk is if a customer asks her to, because the customer is always right (not really, they just don't know better).

I then proceeded to order a Spanish Latte which had cinnamon dusting on top of it. It was heavenly.

Spanish Latte with condensed milk and cinnamon
A delicious Spanish Latte I ordered from Mercury Bar. Thank you guys!

What A Spanish Latte Isn't

There was a lot of confusing information online, so we thought we'd clarify a few things.

Spanish Latte is not similar to Vietnamese coffee.

We've seen Spanish Lattes being compared to Vietnamese Coffee.

We disagree with this comparison. Vietnamese coffee is not an espresso based drink, it is instead prepared using a phin filter.

Finally, Vietnamese coffee almost exclusively uses Robusta coffee beans, whereas Spanish lattes use Arabica beans or blends mostly made of Arabica beans.

Spanish Latte Does Not Use Scalded Milk

We were a bit confused as to why some websites claim Spanish Latte use scalded milk.

This is because when you heat milk, it will bring out its sweet flavors up to a certain point. Its optimal point of sweetness is 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit (60-65 degrees Celsius). When you heat the milk beyond 65 degrees C, its flavors will begin to degrade. When it reaches scalding temperatures of 180 Fahrenheit (82 Celsius), the milk flavors would be long gone and ruined.

Plus, I never experienced a coffee drink with scalded milk in Spain. Or outside of Spain.

Just to be sure we asked the Fundación IECafé about this local third-wave coffee shops about this.

To our relief, we learned that the milk is steamed and not scalded; the milk temperature should not exceed 65 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Fahrenheit).

Don't confuse Spanish Latte with Other Café Con Leche Drinks

Café con leche means in Spanish coffee with milk. It can be considered an umbrella term for different types of coffee and milk drinks in Spanish and Latin American communities.

So, if you order a café con leche in another Spanish speaking country, you will most likely get a different type of drink than in Spain.

For example...

A Cuban café con leche typically uses Cuban coffee, which is more concentrated, uses steamed milk (instead of scalded) and lots of sugar.

What Does Spanish Latte Taste Like?

In Spain, a Spanish latte, or café con leche, tastes like a cappuccino without the foam. It can be sweetened, generally with white or brown sugar. Usually, this is left up to the customer, with sweeteners being served separately.

It is stronger in flavor than a normal latte because it uses more espresso relative to milk. This is not surprising as Spanish espresso based drinks tend to be strong.

Outside of Spain, a Spanish latte tastes like a sweet latte as it is usually sweetened with condensed milk. I found it to be slightly creamier than a standard latte, likely due to the condensed milk.


Breakfast in Spain, with a cortado on the left and a café con leche in the center.

How Do You Serve Spanish Latte?

In Spain, a café con leche is served in a cup that is larger than a demitasse. The cup size tends to range from as low as 125 mL (about 4.4-oz) in volume, to the more common size of 180 to 200 mL  (6-7 oz), as per the Fundación IECafé. This highly depends on the coffee establishment and region in Spain.

Outside of Spain, the serving size tends to be larger, as outside of Spain, this drink tends to have more milk.

How to Make Spanish Latte at Home? A Simple Spanish Latte Recipe

Making a Spanish latte is fairly easy as it does not require a lot of ingredients. We'll follow here the Spanish Latte version with condensed milk (i.e. outside of Spain).

Spanish Latte Equipment

To make this coffee drink, you will need:

Spanish Latte Ingredients

To make a Spanish latte, you will need:

  • Whole espresso beans: If you have the equipment at home, we recommend you buy whole espresso beans to ensure the freshest possible coffee. If you purchase coffee beans, check if they have a "roasted on" date.

  • Whole milk: organic grass-fed whole milk works best in our opinion. But you can also use skimmed milk or even non-dairy milk like oat milk.

  • Water: water can of course impact the flavor of your coffee. Some municipalities have water with "funky" tastes (albeit being perfectly safe). If the water taste is too strong, try using filtered water.

  • Sweetened condensed milk: how sweet you want it depends on you. I would start with 1-2 tsp of condensed milk (I don't have sweet tooth though).

Preparation Instructions

Now that you have gathered all the necessary equipment ingredients, let's start making the Spanish latte.

  1. Add condensed milk to your drinking cup

  2. In a small pot, heat the milk to around 60 to 65 degrees Celsius. We recommend using a thermometer. Do not let your hot milk boil! Alternatively, heat the milk by steaming it using your espresso machine's steaming wand.  Do not leave the steaming tip near the surface, you don't want too much foam like a cappuccino.

  3. While the milk is heating, pull 1 or 2 espresso shots into your drinking cup with the condensed milk. If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a Moka pot, AeroPress or even a French Press. You want a strong coffee. Stir the coffee and condensed milk.

  4. Once the milk is done heating, add it to your drinking cup, while keeping in mind the 1:1 espresso to milk ratio.

  5. Enjoy this delicious coffee recipe!

Pro Tips:

  • If you used a pot to heat the milk and want some texture, you can use a milk frother! A trick you could use is putting your milk in a mason jar and then shake to get some frothed milk.

  • In terms of espresso-to-milk ratio, we'll leave it up to you. Most coffee shops use 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk.

  • I tried using 1/2 espresso and 1/2 milk while at home and I really like it. I enjoy strong coffee flavors.

Spanish Latte Variation - Iced Spanish Latte

Why drink a hot coffee drink when it's scorching hot outside?

You could have a more refreshing drink instead…

Well, thankfully you can easily make your Spanish Latte and iced coffee drink. Simply follow these instructions.

  1. To your drinking glass add some ice and condensed milk.

  2. Pour your espresso shot(s) first into an espresso cup, and then transfer it into your cold drinking glass. This is to help cool down the espresso and prevent your cold glass from shattering.

  3. Add the milk

  4. Enjoy your drink while you admire the coffee and milk colors mix, and ponder about life.

How Do You Order a Spanish Latte?

If you’re in Spain, simply ask for a café con leche. We asked Fundación IECafé about whether the term Spanish Latte is understood in Spain, and it generally is not.

If you are outside Spain, at least in North America, you can ask for a Spanish Latte. But you may need to describe the drink to your barista. I went to some reputable coffee shops in Toronto, and not all baristas knew of Spanish lattes.

So you may need to describe what you want to your barista, including whether you want sweetened condensed milk or not.

How Many Calories Does Spanish Latte Have?

Most of the calories will be in the milk and sweetener of your drink, as coffee has virtually no calories.

So the number of calories will depend on the type of milk you use.

Assuming a 4 ounce serving Spanish Latte with 2 shots of espresso (2 ounces) and 2 ounces of milk, the calorie count would be as follows.


We have done a bit of math to adjust US Department of Agriculture data for a 2-oz milk volume for different types of milk, including dairy free ones.

  • If you use whole milk (3.25% fat), your Spanish latte will have about 34 calories.

  • If you use 2% fat milk, your Spanish latte will have about 28 calories.

  • If you use zero fat milk, your Spanish latte will have about 19 calories.

  • If you use almond milk, your Spanish latte will have about 9 calories.

  • If you use soy milk, your Spanish latte will have about 22 calories.

  • If you use oat milk, your Spanish latte will have about 28 calories.

Obviously, if your serving size is more than 4 ounces, then the calories will go up!

A more common North American serving size is 8 ounces, so if you're using this cup size simply multiply the above calorie count by 2.

Finally sugar, oh sweet sugar.

A tsp of sugar will have about 15 calories of sugar. So if you have your Spanish latte with sugar, add 15 calories per tsp!

And if you use condensed milk, add 21 calories per tsp!

Spanish Latte Caffeine Content

As with all coffee drinks, the caffeine content of Spanish latte will depend on the number espresso shots you use.

A single shot of espresso has about 65 milligrams of caffeine.

So if you use two shots of espresso in your Spanish latte, then it'll have about 130 milligrams of caffeine.

To put things into perspective, the FDA recommends a maximum caffeine intake of 400 mg per day. So you could have 3 of these and still be okay.

However...

Keep in mind the type of coffee beans!

Although most Spanish lattes are made using Arabica beans, there is nothing stopping you from using a blend that contains beans of the Robusta variety.

These tend to contain up to twice the amount of caffeine than Arabica beans.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a latte and a Spanish latte?

In North America, a Spanish latte is sweetened, usually with condensed milk. In Spain, a café con leche uses a less milk than a standard latte, usually closer to 50% espresso and 50% milk.

What is the difference between a Spanish latte and a café con leche?

As we have seen, Spanish Latte is not a term understood in Spain. Instead, you would ask for a café con leche, which still uses espresso and steamed milk but has less milk than a standard latte.

What is Spanish Latte

Bottom Line

In conclusion, in Spain, a Spanish Latte is referred to as a café con leche. It is simply made with espresso and steamed milk, less milk than a traditional latte. Outside of Spain, a Spanish latte is simply a latte that is sweetened with condensed milk and may feature additional toppings.

It's easy to make, delicious and has a decent caffeine content. So if you're looking for an afternoon pick-me-up or a quick breakfast drink on the go, Spanish latte is a great option!

It can also be adapted into a thirst-quenching iced Spanish latte!

If you have any questions or comments let us know below!

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Disclaimer:

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.

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