Your guide to varieties of coffee

A very popular modern indulgence, coffee is much more than just a beverage and for many people, is an essential part of their morning routine. With its stimulating qualities, coffee is a great way to wake up mind and body and to provide an injection of energy when needed. But devotees aren’t just enamoured with the way coffee makes them feel, they love the taste of it too. And it comes in many varieties, all with their own unique flavour and taste.

Since it was first discovered on the Ethiopian plains, coffee has expanded and is now grown all over the world. Can you spot your favourite type of coffee below?

Americano 

No-one is exactly sure where the name for this type of coffee comes from, but rumour suggests it originates back to the world war when American soldiers adopted the practice of adding hot water to espresso.

And that’s what forms the basis of an Americano: simply an espresso coffee made longer with the addition of hot water. The amount of hot water can vary, and this dictates the strength but typically an Americano is equivalent to a regular coffee. However, it tastes very different, retaining the distinctive espresso flavour. An iced version of the Americano can be made by using cold water rather than the usual hot water.

Although it can be drunk with milk and sugar, purists suggest that an Americano is served straight in order to savour the complex and rich flavours to their fullest.

Latte 

It would be more or less impossible to discuss modern coffee options without mentioning the latte, a very palatable and creamy option.

Milk has been added to coffee since the 17th century in Europe, but the difference with a latte is that the milk is steaming and frothy. The traditional recipe is one part espresso to three parts steamed milk.

A creamy and milky coffee which normally lacks the bitterness or strong taste associated with some others, it’s the perfect accompaniment for an afternoon slice of cake.

Cappuccino 

A drink that’s been around for centuries, it’s suggested that it’s named after the colour of the habits of Capuchin monks.

A longer coffee made from a shot of espresso, then hot milk and finally topped by a generous layer of thick milky froth, the cappuccino is a sweet, flavoursome and rich drink. The top of the coffee can be decorated by “latte art”, or sprinkled with either cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder.

Cappuccinos have been popular for such a long time that lots of different varieties have appeared, including iced, skinny – made with low fat milk – and scuro, where less milk than usual is used. Recently this drink has seen decline in sales and many coffee suppliers and coffee shops have dropped it from their menu.

Irish coffee 

Although technically the same type of beverage, Irish coffee is rather different as it’s often enjoyed in place of a dessert, or exclusively at the end of a meal rather than being a daily drink.

Combining hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar, the cocktail is first stirred and then finally topped with a thick curl of cream. Traditionally this cream was not whipped but increasingly whipped cream is being used. The liquid cream floats on top of the coffee thanks to the inclusion of the sugar, and doesn’t mix in with the rest of the drink. The coffee is drunk through the cream, and this combined with the sugar makes it a much sweeter type of beverage.

Cafe au lait 

In some places cafe au lait is a term used interchangeably with latte but they are in fact different drinks with a different recipe.

Where latte is based on espresso, cafe au lait is made with brewed coffee instead. The ratio between the two is usually 1:1 and sugar is added to taste. Weaker than latte, it’s often used as a drink to dip sweet snacks into.

Conclusion 

If you’ve only ever tried one type of coffee, now might be the time to sample a different variety. With so many varieties of coffee on offer, how many have you tasted?