Go to a cafe and play weird latte bingo

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated April 20, 2018
Credit: Photo: Kelsey Hansen

It’s 2018, and many things that used to make sense don’t anymore. For example, if you’d ordered a latte ten years ago, you’d get an espresso drink with steamed milk. Now, it’s a different story. I feel like every New York City coffee shop has at least a few non-coffee “lattes” on the menu, typically with a tea or flavor blend topped with steamed milk. All these alternative lattes are confusing at best. To help you out, here’s my completely subjective ranking of all the weird lattes.

The “Are They Just Dessert?” Lattes

Cereal milk lattes: Tasty as they are, cereal milk lattes fall into this category. Because they’re so fun to make at home, I like them a bit more than the average ridiculous drink. Ranking: 5 out of 10 stars.

Any wacky latte from Starbucks: Starbucks love to sell a trendy drink, and they obviously caught onto the popularity of certain drinks associated with “wellness.” However, Starbucks’s green tea latte (their version of a matcha latte) is more like melted green tea ice cream than a morning beverage. Ranking: 0 out of 10 for authenticity; 6 out of 10 for being available in most airports.

The “I’m Feeling Under the Weather and These are Cozy” Lattes

London Fog and other tea lattes: Earl Gray tea, vanilla extract, warm milk. Honestly, what could be better? Ranking: 10 out of 10 for being the liquid equivalent of a weighted blanket.

Turmeric lattes: In recent years, the wellness community has appropriated South Asian haldi doodh, or turmeric milk, treating the yellow spice like an adaptogen. While I don’t drink it every day, when I’m feeling sick, you can catch me mixing turmeric, cinnamon, and honey into warm milk every night to perk up my immune system. Ranking: 7 out of 10 for helping me be well again but also for being medicine.

The “I Need Caffeine and Nothing Else Will Do” Lattes

Chai latte: Please cancel the overly-sweet powders and syrups and I beg of you, don’t call it “chai tea.” Masala chai is black tea with warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorn, and ginger. Add milk and honey or sugar for the latte effect. Ranking: 8 out of 10 for being just the right blend of sweet and savory.

Matcha latte: Matcha, a powdered Japanese green tea, yet another drink with a rich history that has been made trendy by wellness-advocates in recent years. On the plus side, a matcha latte has plenty of caffeine but is gentler on the body than coffee. Ranking: the 3 p.m. caffiene fix I've needed all my life gets 7 out of 10.

The “I’m at a Trendy Cafe” and/or “Please Cancel Everything” Lattes

At a trendy cafe these days, you could get anything in your latte from powdered beet and floral extract to black sesame paste and charcoal. Adaptogen lattes and CDB ones too. And we can’t forget lattes served in a hollowed out avocado or carrot. Do they taste good? I'm not sure. But boy, do they looks great on Instagram. Ranking: ??? out of 10, because, honestly, I don’t even know.