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The World in a Cup: A Guide to Coffee Drinks from Around the Globe (Part I)

In certain areas of life, it pays to be adventuresome. Travel is one of them, and drinking coffee is definitely another. Indeed, if you’re willing to sample a range of coffee variations, you’re bound to discover surprising flavors and textures that you’ll truly savor.

This first part of our guide to different coffee drinks should help you begin your delicious experimenting. Happy tasting!

1. Cafe au Lait

If you pour steamed milk instead of cold milk into your basic cup of coffee, the result is a cafe au lait. This treat is popular at breakfasts and brunches in France, and it’s traditionally served with one square of dark chocolate. For an especially French presentation, you might serve cafe au lait to your guests in bowls.

Also, be aware that a special version of cafe au lait is available throughout New Orleans. In that city, this drink is prepared with the herb chicory as well as milk that’s nearly at the point of boiling. It’s somewhat bitter and an ideal complement to the beignet, which is a fritter that comes with powdered sugar.

2. Espresso

You can make a pot of espresso with the same kinds of coffee beans that you’d use for standard American coffee. Even so, some people prefer darker beans for espresso. In any event, what sets this type of drink apart is the manner in which its coffee grounds are brewed. An espresso machine will pack those grounds together and then douse them with water that’s nearly hot enough to start boiling.

Consequently, the flavor of espresso is more intense than that of the average coffee blend, which may be one of the reasons why this beverage is usually consumed in small cups. Note that you can serve espresso with sugar but not with cream or milk. In fact, if you were to add either of those two liquids, what you’d have would no longer be espresso.

3. Americano

For many people, the trouble with espresso is that its serving portions are too small to be satisfying. But you can address this issue by making an Americano. Just take your espresso and pour hot water into it: You should use about as much water as you have espresso. That way, you’ll have a drink that tastes somewhat more like coffee than a regular espresso. The flavor of Americano, however, is unique.

Parenthetically, we might have American soldiers in World War II to thank for the Americano. As the legend goes, a group of these fighting men were disappointed by the espressos that they were encountering in Europe. Hence, they started to add warm water to them to get drinks that resembled the coffee from home.