What’s on Britain’s coffee menu?

Tea might be Britain’s unofficial natural drink, but from a historical point of view coffee beats its rival hands down. The first coffee house opened in London in 1652, whereas tea took much longer to become really popular, and wasn’t commonplace until a hundred years later, in the mid 18th century. Originally, the only addition to the basic coffee would have been sugar, but nowadays, there’s a vast range of coffee drinks available to suit every possible taste. Here are some of the most popular:


An espresso is a very concentrated shot of strong coffee served in a small cup. It’s made by forcing hot water through very fine coffee grounds, and is more popular on the Continent than in the UK, where it’s often drunk after meals to aid digestion. As it’s so concentrated, espresso is often diluted with water or milk to form the basis of other coffee drinks such as Americano.


More properly called ‘caffè latte’ from the Italian meaning ‘coffee with milk’, this drink is known as ‘café au lait’ in France and ‘café con leche’ in Spain. The perfect latte involves a shot of strong espresso, made from freshly-ground coffee beans, and an equal quantity of warmed milk.


Cappuccinos are similar to lattes, but are made with the addition of steamed milk foam to give a creamy, velvety texture. Cappuccinos can be tricky to prepare, as heating the milk too quickly or to too hot a temperature will cause it to split, and the perfect cup involves the combination of a good commercial coffee machine and a skilled barista.

Liqueur coffee

A liqueur coffee is a long coffee, normally served in a clear glass for visual appeal. Sugar and liqueur are added to the basic coffee, then the cream is floated over the top of the liquid to produce an attractive layered effect. Popular variations include Irish Coffee, containing whiskey, and Russian Coffee, which contains vodka.

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