The Fancy Stuff: When we talk about the Fancy Drinks (defined by me as anything containing ingredients other than water and coffee), we're usually talking about ratios. I'm about to make it super easy for you to interpret any cafe menu, because pretty much everything in coffee can be broken down in terms of proportions. We'll start with the drinks containing espresso and a small amount of milk, and build from there.
Here's what you need to know about milk: Steam wands add heat and incorporate air into milk. Adding heat unravels proteins, which then wrap around tiny air bubbles to form milk foam. The lower the fat content in the milk, the more readily this process will happen - so skim milk and soy milk will form thick, chunky foam on top of thin, liquid milk, while half and half barely forms any foam. The terms "Wet" and "Dry" are used to describe the amount of foam a drink has (dry means lots of thick, pillowy foam, wet means less foam).
I'm a big advocate for keeping at least some of the milk fat in your coffee. Fat helps maintain a smoother, creamier texture in milk-based beverages. And the flavors of the espresso tend to meld better with the butteriness of the milk when there's a little sumpin'-sumpin' thrown in there. If you've got reservations about drinking whole milk, opt for 2%, or order a smaller sized drink.
Heating milk also breaks down long-chain carbohydrates into simple sugars, which means that steaming milk makes it taste sweeter -- up to a point. If milk is steamed too hot, these sugars break down a little too much, and the sweetness starts to dissipate. If you're an extra hot latte kind of a person, try it at a cooler temperature someday; you might be surprised by how naturally sweet milk can be.