During my time as a barista, I made countless lattes. Traditionally a latte starts with a perfectly pulled shot of espresso and 8 ounces of freshly steamed milk poured on top, leaving ¼ inch room for foam with the consistency of “melted ice cream” to top it off. Tea lattes were a bit of a red-headed stepchild back then and I’m excited to see they are now being given the attention they deserve.
With the variety of tea flavors available, tea lattes inherently provide a wider range of flavor profiles than coffee. Chai lattes are the most popular of the tea lattes, with matcha quickly gaining in interest. I’ve only recently learned of the London Fog latte which is made with Earl Grey tea and vanilla. Our own Orange Dulce makes a tasty London Fog alternative as it’s a black tea that is already blended with bergamot and vanilla. You can steep black tea, green tea, or herbal tisanes to be used in a latte. I love playing with different pouches and loose leaves to see how they do. We have many teas that steep well for this purpose. I’ve found that our Vanilla Bean black tea works especially well, as does African Nectar—each offers its own sweetness that is enhanced with steamed milk.
Along with tea, milk is an essential ingredient in a tea latte. Whole milk typically gives the best balance in flavor and the fat content results in a glossy micro-bubble foam that is thicker and creamier. Some customers would come into the coffee shop believing that nonfat milk would produce the best foam, though I’ve never found that to be the case. When I’m making a chai latte for myself I prefer to use soy milk because cows milk doesn’t carry the spice notes as well. Soy milk also has a slight sweetness that balances well with the spices. I have a good friend, however, who adores her matcha latte made with coconut milk and unsweetened. Tea lattes are great regardless of the type of milk you use and you should select your milk based on your personal preference.
Thick foam is best achieved with the aeration and pressure of a good espresso machine. Since most of us cannot afford to invest as much as a café on such a machine we are lucky to have more attainable options. My Dad, however, loves to recount how my Mom was able to achieve the perfect foam while camping. She heated the milk over the campfire in a saucepan and using a fork whisked the milk into a frothy frenzy. So I’m a firm believer that where there’s a will there’s a way. For something completely different you can blend cold milk and matcha on high in a blender for 10 seconds and pour over ice for a great foamy iced matcha latte. It’s important to remember that even in coffeehouses it takes trial and error, and a little practice to make a good latte.
So, now, you try it: Select your tea pouch. Based on the type of tea, steep 1 pouch (or 1 teaspoon loose leaf) in 6 ounces of water at the specified temperature and for the allotted steeping time. (Black teas steep for 3-5 minutes at 212°F. Green teas steep for 2-3 minutes at 170-180°F. Herbal infusions brew for 5-7 minutes at 212°F). Remove the tea and top it off with 6 ounces of steamed milk. If you are successful at making foam, spoon it on top of the latte. Enjoy!