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I know that in a coffee shop in different countries you need to be more specific about how you want your coffee and milk. And I know that in the US they usually say "latte", in the UK "white coffee", and in Australia and New Zeland "flat white".

But what if you're just talking about your preferences (and you're not ordering anything). Do you ever use the expressions "coffee with milk" or "coffee and milk"?

Let me give some context. In Brazil, we have "café com leite", which you make by adding milk to coffee. There are specialized coffee shops here where you have to be more specific and order a "latte" or something else. But in most of the places this is pretty straightforward: either you ask for coffee (without anything else), or you ask for coffee with some milk. No further complexities. At home, most people make coffee like that: black coffee or add milk to the coffee.

So, can we make these sentences to express our preferences?

I like my coffee with milk. / I like to have coffee and milk in the morning.

Because "latte" is so specific and people really don't drink that at home or use that word to describe their coffee preference in Brazil. How would you say these kinds of sentences?

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    Your first seems fine. If I heard your second I’d assume you like to have both a cup of coffee and a glass of milk in the morning. – Jim Feb 18 at 15:33
  • Decaf with de cow. – Hot Licks Feb 19 at 0:15
  • Thank you for the answer, Jim. – bblc Feb 19 at 4:19
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    In Australia at least, a latte and a flat white are quite different things, and you would probably get neither of them if you asked for a coffee with milk (which would tend to be interpreted as a "long black with a dash of milk"). I don't think there's any simple way to categorise all three, other than defining them by what they're not, i.e. they're not "black". – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Feb 20 at 2:31
  • There are two Close Votes for this question, but although the wording of it is a bit loose, I nonetheless think it's a valuable addition to our library. What is the single term that covers any standard coffee serving that has milk added? I'm voting to leave it open. – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Feb 20 at 2:37
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As you intimate latte is a specific type of coffee. The word is Italian which is why you frequently find it on the menu in an Italian coffee shop.

Latte - from Wikipedia

Caffe latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. The word comes from the Italian caffè e latte, caffelatte or caffellatte, which means "coffee & milk".

So latte is a drink made using coffee and steamed milk. Which is why latte will always include milk.

So, can we make these sentences to express our preferences?

I like my coffee with milk. / I like to have coffee and milk in the morning

Although conventionally we refer to 'a cup of coffee' to mean whatever is in the cup, including anything we have mixed with the coffee... Coffee actually has a narrower definition:

Coffee - from Cambridge Dictionary

A dark brown powder with a strong flavour and smell that is made by crushing coffee beans, or a hot drink made from this powder.

Technically, if you have coffee and milk, you have two separate things, coffee and milk, as Jim pointed out in the comments to your question.

So the correct phrase you should use is coffee with milk, which implies you will be mixing the two together to make your beverage. This is also a popular idiom.

e.g.

"What you like milk with your coffee?"... "Yes please."

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  • Increasingly, British people ask for 'latte' rather than 'white coffee', which is something one's grandparents would say. – Michael Harvey Feb 18 at 17:26
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    I'm British and in my 30's and I would only ask for a latte in Caffè Nero, Starbucks, Costa, or any place with a machine capable of making a caffè latte - or for example if at a friends home who I knew had a machine that could actually make a caffè latte, I might ask for a latte. Otherwise I would just ask for a coffee. With the assumption being that I wanted a coffee with milk, and if there was any uncertainty the person making the coffee would usually ask me if I wanted milk with that, or bring the milk alongside the coffee in a jug. – Gary Feb 18 at 17:35
  • It really bugs me when English people say 'lah - tay', maybe because I speak Italian, in which it rhymes with 'paté'. – Michael Harvey Feb 18 at 17:38
  • There is a story people tell of the British tourist in Italy asking for a 'latte' in a restaurant and being most annoyed to be brought a glass of milk. – Michael Harvey Feb 18 at 17:39
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    @MichaelHarvey - I think we were going to paint a room with it but then went with a semi-gloss instead. – Jim Feb 18 at 21:49

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