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Is cortado Italian?


In a world obsessed with coffee culture, terms like “espresso,” “latte,” and “cappuccino” often make headlines. However, one term that’s catching the attention of coffee aficionados and baristas alike is “cortado.” While this beverage has gained considerable popularity in coffee shops across the UK, a common question arises: Is cortado Italian? The concise answer is no, cortado is not Italian; it originates from Spain. Now, let’s delve into the details behind this intriguing coffee concoction.

What Exactly Is a Cortado?

A cortado is a coffee drink that consists of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. The aim is to reduce the acidity and potency of the espresso, resulting in a balanced, smooth beverage. It differs from a latte or cappuccino, which generally contain more milk and foam, giving those drinks a lighter texture and less robust coffee flavour.

Origins of the Cortado

While the cortado has found a home in many coffee shops worldwide, its roots can be traced back to Spain. The term “cortado” is Spanish for “cut,” signifying how the milk “cuts” through the espresso’s bitterness. This beverage is especially popular in the Spanish regions of Catalonia and the Basque Country.

“A cortado is like a momentary pause in the rush of life, offering a balanced blend of milk and espresso.”

In Spain, the cortado is often consumed as an afternoon or evening coffee, deviating from the traditional Italian espresso-centric culture, where coffee drinks with milk are usually consumed only in the morning.

Do Italians Drink Cortados?

In Italy, coffee is more than just a beverage; it’s an integral part of the culture. While you can find almost every type of coffee drink in Italy, the cortado is not a staple in traditional Italian coffee shops. Instead, Italians prefer classics like espresso, macchiato, and cappuccino.

  • Espresso: A concentrated coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water through finely-ground coffee beans.
  • Macchiato: An espresso with just a small amount of milk.
  • Cappuccino: Equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk, often garnished with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or cinnamon.

If you were to ask for a cortado in Italy, you may receive a puzzled look or be given a macchiato, which is the closest Italian equivalent. A macchiato, meaning “stained” in Italian, consists of an espresso “stained” with a small dollop of milk.

Comparing Coffee Drinks: Cortado vs. Italian Classics

DrinkOriginEspresso ContentMilk Content
CortadoSpainEqual to milkEqual to espresso
MacchiatoItalyHighVery little
CappuccinoItalyOne-thirdTwo-thirds (steamed and frothed)

The Cortado’s Journey to the UK

The cortado’s balanced nature and rich flavour profile have led it to become a favourite in the UK’s diverse coffee landscape. Though not Italian, the cortado has found a home amidst the UK’s long-standing appreciation for both Italian and third-wave coffee cultures.

Conclusion: An International Favourite

The cortado may not be Italian, but its rising popularity speaks volumes about its versatility and the evolving tastes of coffee lovers. As we continue to embrace a variety of international coffee styles, the cortado serves as a testament to the globalisation of coffee culture, celebrating flavours that can cross borders and bring people together.