Author: Nico

Nico is a freelance writer, editor, and poet in Toronto, Canada. Nico tweets as @plutopsyche.

An alarming number seem to be misinformed about the beverage known as “chai”. This little essay aims to clear up some of the confusion.

Please feel free to share this link with your friends if they’re under the dreadful misapprehension that there is such a thing as “chai latte”.(1)

The truth about lattes

Latte is simply Italian for “milk”. According to The Internet, caffelatte is a contraction for caffè e latte, or “coffee and milk”, similar to the French café au lait.

A later American corruption repurposed this sensible designation to signify a specific beverage “typically prepared with approximately one third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 5 mm (¼ inch) thick on the top”.(2) Absurd, but so it goes.

Notice that neither the Italian original nor the American corruption refer to tea. Lattes remain a beany sort of thing.


  1. Note: The image on the left comes from the blog Cooking The Ideas, which has an excellent recipe for masala chai here. []
  2. See Wikipedia: Latte. []

The inaugural post on my latest website,, new home to all things Nico. Though if you’re reading this, you’re…