With so many opinions on what a cortado is, there’s plenty of room for miscommunication. For some, a cortado is a certain ratio of coffee to steamed milk. For others, it’s a small flat white or latte. Some even say it’s up to the customer.
Not much is known about the cortado’s origins. Apart from the fact that it comes from Spain’s Basque Country. The term cortado, or cut, refers to the milk cutting through the intensity of the espresso, toning down its acidity while retaining the coffee’s flavour.
Traditionally it’s served with little froth and a 1:1 milk to espresso ratio. The milk is steamed until a very light foam is created before being added to the espresso. And is served in a small glass. Based on its appearance, it’s often confused with an Australian/New Zealand flat white, macchiato, or piccolo latte.
As the cortado made its way to major coffee chains such as Starbucks, each one developed their own take on it. The Starbucks cortado is made with two ristretto shots topped with milk.
With so much confusion surrounding what a cortado is, coffee shops might decide to remove titles altogether. Research indicates that many customers are confused over the number and complexity of coffee drink options presented to them. To simplify orders and pricing, coffee shops might move towards asking customers to describe their desired drink instead.
It’s apparent that the cortado has many distinct variations, and that what you order (or serve customers) will depend on where you are in the world.