The Café au Lait
In this article, we’ll walk you through a timeless classic in the coffee world, café au lait. Transport yourself to a Parisian cafe without ever leaving the house.
Coffee drinking has become its own culture. Central to social and business interactions and present on numerous occasions, coffee is at the heart of all good conversation.
On a cold day, nothing adds comfort like a hot brew amidst the chill. What about a cold coffee in the heat of summer?
Iced coffee has become increasingly popular, with different countries offering their own spin on the beverage. Many franchises, including variations of iced coffees on their menus, have gained huge popularity over the past few years. The trend is continuing to grow exponentially.
Whether you are looking for an iced latte, frappe, Frappuccino, or similar, chances are good you’re close to a place that has it on the menu. Today, we’re diving into the constantly evolving world of cold coffees.
The first recognized form of iced coffee has been around since 1840. Mazagran, “the original iced coffee”, was a beverage originating from Algeria, made from pouring bold, sweetened coffee over ice. The Battle of Mazagran between the Algerians and the French lasted for 17 years. When it was over, the French returned home with a taste for cold coffee, and from there, it spread across the world.
Many countries now have their own interpretations of the drink. The Greek Frappe is a notable incarnation of this. This Mediterranean variation is prepared with sugar and ice in a shaker, giving it a more foamy texture. The 2004 Summer Olympics resulted in a boost in the popularity of the frappe outside of Greece itself.
Starbucks’ trademarked Frappuccino has become synonymous with modern iced coffee, a topic which we will discuss in more detail below. Flavored syrups have inspired a selection of bold and interesting coffees, which has cemented their Frappuccino into the hearts of young coffee enthusiasts.
The term “iced coffee” has become incredibly broad from country to country. There are, however, several fundamental similarities.
The coffee used ranges from hot espresso to instant coffee to cold-brewed coffee. Preparation of the coffee itself is equally diverse: It can be poured over ice while hot, the coffee may be chilled or even frozen to create a slush. In most cases, the coffee is usually sweetened, either with sugar or sugar syrups.
Commonly, ice is used to chill the drink; however, ice cream or cold cream is just as widely used. The coffee can be blended, shaken, or poured over the ice or ice cream. If made with ice, you can add milk to make an iced cappuccino or iced latte.
Whether flavored by syrups, spices, or even spirits, iced coffee is incredibly versatile, and many countries have taken advantage of this to create their own unique variant.
It would be impossible to talk about iced coffee without mentioning the Frappuccino. So what is a frappuccino? Starbucks owns the Frappuccino trademark. The name is a portmanteau of frappe and cappuccino.
Since the mid-90s, when the Frappuccino was first created, the trend has boomed significantly, with no sign of it slowing down any time soon. With a wide selection of flavors, colors, and garnishing, it’s the coffee drink made for social media. A regular feature on many Instagram feeds, Frappuccinos are what most people call to mind when we talk about iced coffee.
The flavors on offer range from a spicy Chai Creme Frappuccino to decadent Caramel and Chocolate flavors and include less conventional flavors such as Strawberry Funnel Cake and a Matcha Creme.
In 2017, Starbucks released the limited edition Unicorn Frappe in vibrant pink and blue colors, using mango syrup and garnished with a blue drizzle. The coffee instantly went viral, although it did draw criticism for its high sugar content. Unlike most of its predecessors, Starbucks’ Frappuccino is less of a casual chilled drink. It can toe the line on being an “indulgent dessert drink” at times.
Either way, it has found itself a place of relevance in modern culture; arguably, the Frappuccino is a significant contributor to the coffee house’s revenue. As of 2018, Starbucks has reported that Frappuccino sales have plateaued, likely due to an increasing number of people opting for health-conscious food and drinks.
As we have determined so far, there are many ways to make an iced coffee without any method being the definitive “right way”. This makes it highly adaptable to what coffee, equipment, or ingredients are available to you. You can also determine how complex you would like your iced coffee to be - simple and to the point like the Greek frappe, or over the top and decadent like the famous Frappuccino.
For making iced coffee at home, we will use the frappe as inspiration. Still, we will look at alternative ingredients as well.
Espresso machine is our first choice, especially if additional flavors will be added. An espresso allows for a strong coffee presence that doesn’t get lost among the other flavors. In the absence of an espresso machine, a Moka Pot, filter coffee or even instant coffee will suffice.
An ice-friendly blender will ensure a consistently textured blend. A cocktail shaker with either crushed ice or ice cubes will work too. If you want to opt for keeping it traditional, pouring coffee over ice in a glass is a perfectly valid tried-and-tested method.
Feel free to get your preferred blend of coffee - the bolder, the better.
As mentioned, you can use ice cubes or crushed ice. The ice can also be replaced with ice cream, which will create something akin to a “coffee milkshake”.
In most cases, iced coffee is sweetened before serving. You can sweeten yours with sugar (if hot coffee is used) or sugar syrups. Coffee brewers prefer syrups because they dissolve quicker than granulated sugar.
This is an ingredient that you can play around with. Cold milk can be replaced with frothed milk or even thickened with cream. You can also use plant-based alternatives if you prefer. If you want an adventurous option, the norm in Turkey is to add condensed milk to your iced coffee instead of milk and sugar.
Whether you want to add a dash of vanilla essence, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a handful of chocolate chips, or top your iced coffee with whipped cream, experiment with this to find out what works for you as per your tastes.
Brew your coffee ahead of time to allow it time to cool to at least room temperature or colder. If it is too hot, it will melt the ice and make the drink more “watery” than intended.
If you are using granulated sugar to sweeten your iced coffee, add it to the coffee while it is still hot so that it dissolves easily. The amount of sugar used will depend on your preference.
When using a blender, the ratio of coffee to ice is about 1:1, i.e. one cup of coffee would require one cup of ice. We would suggest using slightly less ice with a shaker or when pouring the coffee over ice.
Add ⅓ cup of milk (½ cup if you would prefer it milkier).
Optional: if you have opted to use ice cream, use 1 cup of ice cream in place of the ice and milk.
At this point in the process, if you would like to add flavored syrups, essences, spices, or any additional flavorings, blend it together with the coffee, milk, and ice.
Once blended, pour into a tall glass and garnish.
This coffee-making method may seem like it includes a few variables, but perhaps that’s appropriate, given the beverage. It certainly pays homage to the diverse history of iced coffee and its journey across many countries and cultures.