The Difference Between a Latte And a Macchiato, and Other Things You Need to Know on National Coffee Day

For all the people who believe coffee is way better than tea, get ready to celebrate: National Coffee Day in the United States is Sept. 29, and a few cities that love coffee the most will really have a reason to have fun.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the United States celebrates National Coffee Day on Sept. 29. After all, we also have National Frozen Food Day (March 6) and National Redhead Day (Nov. 5).

Couple drinking coffee

It pays to know the subtle differences between espresso-based coffee drinks. | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

Most restaurants, such as Peet’s, Tim Hortons, and the soon to change names Dunkin’ Donuts, will have National Coffee Day freebies and promos to celebrate the occasion. But if you’re heading to a coffee shop for a brew, you’re going to have a lot more choices than regular or decaf. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll see on the menu.

The Difference Between a Latte And a Macchiato

For most Americans, the coffee choices come down to regular or decaf, with or without cream and sugar. That’s about the extent of what your percolator, French press, or drip coffee machine produces. The elaborate drinks you find at Starbucks and other coffee shops are all espresso-based concoctions with dairy, but all of them are slightly different, according to Latte Art Guide.

Espresso

Espresso is simply a finely-ground and firmly-packed coffee bean that has water forced through it. A good espresso is the basis for all of the drinks to follow, including a…

Latte

Get a latte on National Coffee Day

A barista making latte art in a cup of coffee. | Thongsuk Atiwannakul/iStock/Getty Images

A latte, or café latte, is an espresso shot with steamed milk poured over it. At the top is a thin layer of steamed milk, which cuts down on the bitterness. A latte isn’t too different from a…

Macchiato

If you order a macchiato, you’re getting a drink that isn’t drastically different from a latte. The difference is, instead of the steamed milk added to a latte, a macchiato has milk foam spooned on top. If you want the best of both worlds, consider ordering a…

Cappuccino

A cappuccino starts with an espresso shot with steamed milk and foam poured on top, just like a latte. The big difference is that a cappuccino has more milk foam and chocolate powder dusting on top of it all. If you’re a big chocolate fan, you may want to try a…

Mocha

The chocolate flavor really comes through in a mocha. It’s made by adding drinking chocolate to espresso, then topping the whole thing steamed milk. If you don’t want to stray too far from your comfort zone, then consider an…

Americano

An Americano is about as close as an espresso-based drink gets to being like something from a percolator or drip coffee machine. Your barista will thank you because it’s fairly easy to make and not one of the obnoxious drinks people sometimes order. Hot (but not boiling) water poured on top of an espresso shot, thereby diluting the espresso’s bitterness.

All of the coffee drinks we just discussed vary slightly, and things get even more confusing at the coffee shop since different regions, and different baristas do things their own way with slightly different ingredients. But no matter where you are in the country, or the world, you’ll get a drink similar to what we covered above.

Here’s what’s in your morning cup of coffee

National Coffee Day

When you get down to it, there are two types of coffee in the world. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Despite all the flavors and roasting levels, there are only two varieties of coffee: Arabica and Robusta. Both grow in the world’s coffee belt, which includes equatorial regions in South America, Africa, and Asia, plus the southern parts of North America.

  • Arabica coffee accounts for most of the coffee poured around the world. It produces a mild and fragrant coffee. Arabica trees grow best between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level and are more prone to disease, so they require more care and attention to bear fruit.
  • Robusta coffee is typically used for coffee blends. It has a harsher flavor, but it also has more caffeine. Robusta plants are more resistant to disease, but they can’t withstand frost.

More coffee facts coming your way

Now that you know the different types of coffee, we’re going to brew up some more coffee facts for you.

  • If you have sore, stiff muscles, especially after a workout, coffee is one of the foods that provide natural pain relief.
  • Coffee beans aren’t beans in the traditional sense. They’re actually the pits of cherry-like fruits.
  • You can’t just throw a bean into a cup and expect coffee. The green pits have to be roasted to remove the water and draw out the flavor and aroma.
  • An average coffee tree produces 10 pounds of coffee each year, according to the National Coffee Association. The plants grow best in rich soil shaded from direct sun, frequent rain, and moderate temperatures. Hawaii is the top coffee-producing state in the U.S.

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