Canadian Coffee Shop Guide

Canadian Coffee Shop Guide

It’s not that Canadians do coffee differently than the rest of the world, but they do tend to put their own twist on international espresso and coffee drinks. If you’re wondering about the difference between a mocha breve and a mocha or a flat white and a latte, this quick cheat sheet to coffee drinks in Canadian coffee shops can help you make your coffee selection.

Straight Coffee Drinks

Espresso – the king of coffee drinks, and the base for all other espresso based drinks, when you order an espresso you’ll get a 30 ml shot of pure coffee heaven – 60 ml if you order a double shot. For future reference, espresso is coffee made by forcing nearly boiling water through tightly packed coffee grounds. The exact proportions may vary, and this is more evident in the last few years than ever before. Traditionalists insist on 16-19g of coffee to 30 ml of water, but industry superstars are pushing the envelope higher and lower ratios of coffee to water. The only way to know for sure is to ask about the coffee to water ratio at your favorite coffee spot.

Lungo – a lungo is a “stretched” espresso using more water and the same amount of coffee. Typically, a lungo is 90 ml of espresso made with the same amount of coffee grounds used for 60 ml of espresso.

Americano – for weaker palates, or so the purists would have you believe. An Americano is a 60 ml shot of espresso stretched with 90 ml of hot water to approach the concentration of a typical drip coffee. The flavor, however, is quite different, as the espresso method of brewing expressed different flavors from the coffee bean the slower method of drip brewing.

Ristretto – a “restricted” shot of espresso, made with 16-19g of coffee to 22 mL of water. The flavor is highly concentrated because it is not diluted with more water.

Espresso Milk Drinks

Many of Canada’s favorite coffee shop drinks are espresso-based milk drinks, including latte, cappuccino and breves. Which is which? Here’s how they break down.

Breve – A breve is the simplest of all coffee milk drinks. It consists of one part espresso to 1.5 parts milk or cream. In other words, based on a 60 ml shot, a breve is 60 ml of espresso with 90 ml of milk or cream.

Cappuccino – A cappuccino is characterized by the creamy cap of frothed milk that crowns it. The cap, resembling the hoods worn by Capuchin monks, gave the drink its name. It consists of 1 part espresso, 2 parts steamed milk and 2 parts frothed milk. The typical cappuccino has 30 ml of espresso to 60 mls each of steamed and frothed milk.

Latte – A latte is a coffee drink made with 2 parts espresso to five parts steamed milk, topped with a dab of frothed milk. In most cafes, those proportions translate to 60 ml of espresso, 300 ml of steamed milk and a scant 2 ml of frothed milk to dress up the top – and form a base for those lovely latte art pours you see in the fancy coffee magazines.

Flat white – An import from the Land of Oz, the flat white is one part espresso to two parts steamed milk. Aussies frequently lament that it’s impossible to get a decent flat white outside Australia, but baristas are getting better at texturizing milk for a flat white – a technique that’s vital to getting the right flavor and feel of Australia’s favorite coffee drink.

Cafe Vienna – More like a dessert than a traditional coffee, the Vienna coffee consists of 2 parts espresso to 2 parts whipped cream, or, loosely translated from the Viennese, 60 ml of espresso to 60 ml of whipped cream. The whipped cream should be freshly whipped, and not the pressurized stuff from a can.

Cafe Con Panna – If you like a little coffee with your whipped cream, then the cafe con panna is your drink. It’s 2 parts espresso to 3 parts whipped cream, with the whipped cream floated on top of the espresso, of course.

Dry Cappuccino – Of course, anything having to do with coffee drinks isn’t actually dry, but the dry cappuccino is drier, in that it has no steamed milk to lighten the espresso. It consists of 2 parts espresso to 4 parts frothed milk.


Macchiato – As if wet and dry cappuccinos weren’t confusing enough, there is also the Macchiato, which consists of 2 parts espresso to 2 parts frothed milk -at least in Canada. There are international purists who’d be appalled at using that much frothed milk for a macchiato, which by name and definition is a shot of espresso “marked” with a small dollop of frothed milk.

Latte Macchiato – And just in case you’re head still isn’t spinning trying to keep all the espresso milk drinks straight, there is also the latte macchiato, which is 2 parts espresso, 2 parts steamed milk and 1 part whipped cream. Yes, whipped cream, because if you use foamed (or frothed) milk, it’s just a cappuccino. Or something close to it.

Chocolate Espresso Drinks

Chocolate and coffee were made to go together. After all, they’re both made from ground up “beans” from plants that grow in the tropics. It’s only natural that people have been putting coffee and chocolate together for as long as they’ve been eating and drinking either one. Here’s the lowdown on espresso based chocolate drinks – or chocolate drinks with espresso.

Mocha – The all-time classic, mocha is made with 2 parts espresso, 2 parts chocolate and 1 part steamed milk. Of course, the trendier cafes will boast imported artisanal chocolate, grated fresh and prepared separately before combining it with the espresso, while other shops may just add a shot of chocolate syrup to your brewed espresso. It’s all a matter of taste which you prefer.

Mocha Breve – It’s just a mocha with a little more milk. Generally, a mocha breve is 2 parts espresso, 2 parts chocolate and 2 parts milk and cream – generally not steamed.

Marochino – For those who like their drinks concentrated and full of flavor, the marochino is a “restricted” mocha – 1 part espress, 1 part chocolate, 1 part frothed milk. It’s sort of a combination of mocha and cappuccino, but on the small side because great things come in small packages.

Bicerin – With the bicerin, we’re really stepping over the line into dessert drinks. It consists of 1 part espresso, 1 part white chocolate, 1 part black chocolate and one part whipped cream. It’s essentially an espresso sundae with double chocolate sauce and no ice cream. Sweet, delicious and highly addictive.

Other Espresso Drinks

In addition to chocolate and milk espresso drinks, there are a number of coffee drinks that include liquor, ice cream and other ingredients.

Romano – In Italy, street cafes often serve espresso with a lemon wedge on the side. Canadian coffee shops do away with the wedge and just add the lemon directly. A cafe romano is 1 part espresso to one part lemon juice, generally 30 ml of each.

Raf coffee – An unusual treat that’s far more than its ingredients suggest. Born in Russia, it combines one part espresso, one part flavor syrup (usually vanilla) and 2 parts frothed milk. The difference is in the technique used to make it. Unlike other espresso drinks where the milk is foamed separately and then floated on the surface of the espresso, when making raf coffee, the barista whips the espresso and milk together, creating a rich, creamy, thick espresso drink with a frothy cap.

Mead raf – Taking its name from the alcoholic beverage brewed with honey, mead raf has, of course, honey in it – 1 part honey, 1 part espresso and 2 parts frothed milk. Like a standard raf coffee, a mead raf is made by whipping the milk, espresso and honey together to create a thick, creamy drink.

Espresso coretto – The translation of espresso coretto from the Italian is “espresso the right way” – and it’s the right way if you like your coffee a little on the boozy side. In Canadian coffee shops, it consists of pone part espresso, one part whiskey and 2 parts frothed milk.

Irish coffee – Everyone knows the story of Irish coffee – created to warm passengers who landed cold and wet at an Irish port one winter night. The espresso version of Irish coffee is made with 2 parts espresso, one part Irish whiskey and 1 part whipped cream.

Fredo – Iced coffee, in more ways than one. A fredo is 1 part espresso to 1 part liquor, poured over ice.

Glace – Espresso for dessert, anyone? This delicious after-dinner drink consists of a double-shot of espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream and topped with grated chocolate.