Your local coffee shop?
Make your choice because February 17th is National Café au Lait Day and you should have it your way!
I cast my vote for the French. They make the best café au lait. But I took a long and tortured journey to arrive at this conclusion. I’d learned of café au lait in high school French class, but hadn’t yet had my first sip of coffee.
I started drinking coffee from a vending machine when I worked the early morning shift as a blue print operator in the summer between high school and college. An engineer turned me on to my first jolt of joe one morning when I moved a little too slowly for his liking. I had to add tons of sugar to that bitter brew just to gag it down. But by the time I’d completed my first college semester I was hardcore—brewing (and usually scorching) my own coffee throughout the day from an electric percolator that doubled as a hot pot, and drinking it black.
A semester in Rome introduced me to the finer things in coffee life: espresso and cappuccino, which I came to love. I drank a “doppio” or double espresso every morning in the school’s basement café, and despite its mega wattage it was never bitter. I thought I’d never have any other coffee drink that tasted so good! Until I traveled to France in the summer following that term. A breakfast of French bread and café au lait came along with my boarding. The drink was deliciously creamy and yet sufficiently loaded with caffeine to satisfy my increasingly epic craving for it. I found I liked the steamed milk a little better than the foamier type in cappuccino.
To my dismay, I couldn’t find it on the menu anywhere in Paris on my most recent visit to the city of lights. Everyone was all about café crème. I must admit I couldn’t figure out the difference between the two, but it was delicious so I let the matter go.
I’ve cut daily coffee consumption to one morning espresso in recent years. But I love to treat myself to a little bit of steamed milk with my java when out and about. Lots of people fearing health problems have reduced their caffeine intake, too, so it’s important to note that the bean-based drink also has health benefits, which you can read about in last year’s post for National Bean Day.
I like my café au lait pure, but many purveyors doctor it up with all kinds of yummy sounding additives, like vanilla, sugar, and chocolate. I like chocolate coffee too upon occasion, and recommend my Homemade Chocolate and Creamy Coffee recipe.
I’ve even seen coffee martinis, and believe the ingredients include vodka, whipping cream, coffee liqueur and a sprinkle of bittersweet cocoa powder. And although it sounds delicious, it would have the opposite effect from that I seek when I drink coffee. I’d be more likely to have an Irish Coffee, since it contains real coffee.
But if you decide to give it a try, be sure and let us know what you think of it, and celebrate National Café au Lait Day however and wherever you like it best.
Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals