Published On: Mon, Apr 1st, 2024

Make a London Fog latte and bring a favorite coffee shop drink home

Make a London Fog latte and bring a favorite coffee shop drink home
Make a London Fog latte and bring a favorite coffee shop drink home

I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so when I suggest to someone that we “go out for coffee,” what that usually translates to in my head is grabbing a pastry, ordering something sugary that bears little resemblance to actual coffee or, ideally, getting a nice cup of tea.

Often what passes for tea at shops or restaurants is little more than a cup of hot water and a tea bag. I’m thrilled if I can even acquire loose-leaf tea brewed in water at the proper temperature, but I get especially excited when I see specialty tea drinks on the menu. Coffee drinkers shouldn’t have all the fun, right?

Get the recipe: London Fog Latte

Chai is at the top of my must-order beverages list, but there’s another one I’ll always go for if it’s available: a London Fog latte.

Sometimes referred to as a London Fog, Earl Grey latte or tea latte, the formula is pretty simple: Earl Grey tea, steamed/frothed milk and flavorings, usually in the form of a syrup. The syrup may be scented with vanilla, but my favorite iterations — and what I am sharing here — include lavender in the mix, for just the right amount of delicate floral aroma. As to the name? Well, the cream-colored tea topped by a cloud of frothy milk does indeed bring to mind a murky morning in my favorite city.

The most-cited origin story involves a pregnant woman in the 1990s in Vancouver looking for a coffee alternative at her local shop, but there are accounts that predate that tale. My own personal history with the London Fog latte is similarly fuzzy. I don’t remember when or where I first had it. What I do know is that sometime in the last few years during a stressful, anxious pandemic when I didn’t feel much like going out, I started making my own London Fog lattes, particularly after my backyard lavender started going bananas with dozens of little purple buds.

Call it self-care if you will. This small luxury and ritual might be just the thing to bring cozy comfort to your living room, too.

Last year, I posted a down-and-dirty video primer on Instagram and the warm response I received prompted me to finally get around to writing down my recipe to share with an even broader audience.

Here are a few things to know about each of the elements of my London Fog latte:

The tea. With citrusy notes of bergamot, Earl Grey tea has the aromatic personality to cut through the dairy richness of the milk and still play nice with the lavender. My favorite is the Earl Grey Supreme from Harney & Sons; the brand sells a lovely Victorian London Fog blend that includes lavender and vanilla already in it, if you don’t mind doubling up on those flavors. I also enjoy Earl Grey from Twinings, Fortnum & Mason and, locally in D.C., Teaism. My colleague Olga Massov recommends the “extra bergamot” Earl Grey from Upton Tea and the Earl Grey French Blue from Mariage Frères.

For the best flavor, loose-leaf is really what you want. And it doesn’t require much in the way of extra equipment — a simple strainer you can set over your mug will do when it comes time to pouring out the brewed tea. If you absolutely will only use tea bags, go with two instead of one. Brewing the tea for 5 minutes might sound like a lot, but remember it will be softened by the milk and syrup.

5 tips for a better cup — or pot — of tea

The lavender. Be sure you use culinary lavender! Whether you’re plucking buds from your backyard plant or buying it online, this is key. Either freshly picked (grab them before the purple flower blooms) or dried lavender will work here. Save a few buds for a pretty garnish, if desired.

The milk. I prefer reduced-fat (2 percent) milk because it splits the difference between lean skim milk and richer whole milk, but use what you like. Heating the milk in the microwave or on the stovetop briefly, until it’s about 150 degrees, primes it for frothing and cools down the very hot tea to the point that you can drink it almost right away. Don’t like the foam, or don’t have a frother? Use the steamed milk as is. Feel free to swap in a nondairy milk of your choice.

The syrup. We’re making what is called a “rich syrup” here, a simple syrup with a slightly higher proportion of sugar than water for a thicker, sweeter mixer for the tea. The primary flavor comes from steeping the lavender buds, but I add supporting players in the form of vanilla and almond extracts (use all vanilla if you have a nut allergy). The yield of the recipe gives you enough for 12 lattes (3/4 cup of syrup), though you could also use the syrup to flavor lemonade, sparkling water, cocktails and zero-proof drinks. Or try brushing it over cake. If you don’t want to make the lavender simple syrup, buy it from brands including Sonoma Syrup Co., Torani and Monin.

The equipment. I don’t use anything fancy. I steep the tea leaves in my go-to teapot with built-in strainer and froth the milk with an inexpensive handheld wand. I first saw the Peach Street frother recommended by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, and it’s a keeper. Be sure you have an extra-large mug for serving the drink — ideally with a capacity of more than 2 cups because of the volume of the drink and frothed milk. If not, portion it out incrementally or share with a friend. There’s definitely enough for two if you don’t feel like drinking it all. Not surprisingly, I always drink the whole thing.

Get the recipe: London Fog Latte

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