Latte is actually an English word that is a shortened version of the Italian words caffe latte or caffelatte, which mean “milk coffee.” Milk coffee has been consumed in Italy for centuries, but what we think of as lattes are a modern invention.
The American latte may have been invented in Berkley, California, in the 1950s by restaurant owner Lino Meiorin. The public began to notice the drink in Seattle in the 1980s when the modern coffee shop craze began. Today lattes have become a fixture of American life largely due to the phenomenal success of Starbucks.
The latte usually served in the United States is a mixture of steamed milk and espresso coffee. The Italian version is merely a mixture of hot milk and coffee prepared at home. In America, lattes are usually a coffee house drink, but in Italy they are drank at home, usually with breakfast.
Cappuccino actually originated in Austria in the early 19thcentury, where it was called Kapuziner, which meant a coffee drink that contained coffee, cream, spices, and sugar. Cappuccino is simply the Italian term for Kapuziner, so the idea that the drink was named after the capuchin monks is not true.
What we think of as the cappuccino originated in Milan in 1901 when Luigi Bezzera invented the expresso machine, which soon became standard equipment in Europe’s cafes. The modern cappuccino evolved from a mixture of steamed milk and coffee that appeared in Northern Italy in the late 1930s.
Cappuccinos became popular in Italy after World War II when the age of crema (cream), which was ushered in by the introduction of new coffee makers, began and expresso bars became part of the landscape. The age of crema reached America in the 1980s with the popularity of chain coffee shops such as Starbucks.