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What is a babyccino and why do cafes serve them?

Although children are by no means the biggest consumers of coffees, the children’s food and beverage sector is experiencing a period of significant growth. By 2025, the global market is expected to be valued at over US$146.7 billion.

Besides the ongoing discussions about when children should be introduced to coffee, we are seeing more and more parents bringing their children to coffee shops. When they do, caffeine-free babyccino is a popular choice in many cases.

But what exactly is a babyccino and why should cafes serve it?

To find out, I spoke to three coffee professionals from Australia, the UK and Ireland. Read on to learn more about what they told me.

You might also like our article to introduce children to coffee.

Where does the babyccino come from?

It is easy to notice that the word babyccino is a combination of “baby” and “cappuccino”. In its simplest form, it is a frothy milk-based drink for children that does not contain coffee. But where does it come from?

Some coffee professionals believe the babyccino was first served in North America, where it is sometimes called “steam”.

However, many people agree that the term was first coined in Australia when the drink appeared on cafe menus in the early 2000s. In fact, the word was officially added to the Australian National Dictionary in 2016 as it is considered an important part of the country’s coffee culture.

Today, many cafes around the world serve babyccinos, although they are much more prominent in major coffee-consuming markets and not always visible on menus.

For example, Starbucks doesn’t officially list the drink on its website, but it can be ordered off the menu at many stores — and sometimes it’s free.

Costa Coffee also offers a babyccino, usually accompanied by a chocolate flake or a few marshmallows. As with Starbucks, Costa initially charged £1 ($1.22) for the drink, but since 2018 the company has been serve them for free.

Babyccinos can also be found on McCafé menus, although this generally depends on the region.

a barista is steaming milk in a jug

How do you do this?

Unlike most drinks served in cafes, babyccino has only one main ingredient: steamed milk.

There is no official babyccino recipe, but the drink tends to be similar no matter where in the world it is served. According to Barista Institutethe basic recipe is as follows:

  • Pour 60ml of milk froth into an espresso cup.
  • Sprinkle the drink with cocoa or cinnamon powder.
  • Garnish the babyccino with a few marshmallows and a chocolate flake.

Dearbhla Barron owns Signal Box Cafe in Waterford, Ireland. She says babyccino is “kids’ answer to cappuccino.” However, unlike cappuccino which has at least 1cm of microfoam, babyccino is made up of around 80% foam and 20% steamed milk.

“Babyccinos are made with steamed whole milk (which is heated to a lower temperature than normal) and a dusting of chocolate powder to make it look like a cappuccino,” she explains. “The drink is aimed at parents of children aged one and a half to eight years old who are looking for a healthier beverage alternative in cafes.”

Even sprinkled with chocolate or served with a marshmallow, the babyccino can contain less sugar than a soft drink or a very concentrated fruit juice, for example.

Although the base of babyccino is always milk, the toppings and side dishes may vary depending on the coffee.

Claire Williams is the director of Claire’s cottage kitchen in Towcester, United Kingdom. The mobile cafe offers a range of additions to its babyccino.

“We top ours with whipped cream, sprinkles and marshmallows as standard,” she says. “We also have chocolate flakes which can be added for an additional charge.”

In some cafes, babyccinos can also be made by mixing cocoa powder into milk to make a small hot chocolate-like drink.

a barista pours steamed milk into a babyccino cup

Adjusting Your Steaming Technique

Most milk-based coffee drinks are served between 55°C and 65°C (139°F and 149°F). This is to create the best texture and bring out the natural sweetness of the milk.

However, young children are much more sensitive to warmer temperatures than teenagers and adults. For children, milk steamed at these temperatures can lead to scalding, especially since impatient children are less likely to wait for the drink to cool.

Paul Rosenkranz is co-owner of Quest Roasters in Queensland, Australia, which offers vegan and gluten-free babyccinos.

He says that because children are more sensitive, babyccinos should not be steamed within the recommended temperature ranges. Instead, the milk should be steamed to around 40.5°C (105°F).

To prepare a babyccino, a barista simply steams the milk as usual. Milk should be steamed until large bubbles appear on the surface – unlike microfoam which is used to make most milk-based drinks, such as lattes and flat whites.

The large bubbles help create a thick layer on top of the drink, allowing the toppings to stay on the surface of the drink.

a babyccino next to a cookie

Why serve babyccino?

Generally speaking, cafes are the territory of adults and teenagers. So why offer a babyccino?

“It gives children a sense of equality when they sit down and drink their ‘coffee’ like their parents do,” says Dearbhla.

Claire explains that the drink makes it easier for parents to socialize and bring the kids with them if they have something to do.

“Kids know their parents drink coffee, with some thinking a babyccino is like a miniature cafe,” she tells me. “It’s great to see parents enjoying a hot beverage with their kids.”

Dearbhla points out that although babyccinos are not necessarily profitable, they can help attract new first-time customers. She adds that Signal Box charges a small fee that covers the cost of extra milk and toppings.

Paul agrees, saying, “Drinking is a great way to keep kids busy while adults enjoy their drinks, which is important for attracting more customers to the cafe.

a barista steams milk using a steam wand

Unlike many other emerging drinks, it’s simple and easy to add a babyccino to your menu if you want. It can be easily made with ingredients that a cafe will always have in stock, especially milk.

Paul says many big coffee chains offer babyccinos because it’s an easy and affordable drink to make. It may also incentivize customers to spend more and stay in a cafe for a while to increase the average selling price for customers with children.

Cafes that want to include the drink on their menus also don’t need to invest in new equipment or extensive staff training.

However, there are a number of things to consider when adding a babyccino to your menu. Cafes need to determine whether they will charge customers for the drink and, if so, how much they will charge.

The price of a babyccino will make a difference to some customers, so it’s important to price it correctly. If there is another café nearby that does not charge, for example, customers with young children may prefer to go there instead.

Cafe owners need to consider the price customers are willing to pay, while remaining competitive with other local cafe businesses.

However, the decision to add a babyccino to your menu largely depends on your cafe’s clientele. If you’re a coffee business that wants to create a more inclusive environment for families with young children, babyccino can be a great way to encourage this demographic to visit your coffee shop.

Conversely, if you’re looking to create a calmer atmosphere in your café, it may be best to avoid adding babyccino to your menu.

Moreover, with more than 20% of children in the UK already follow or wish to adopt a vegan diet, offering vegetable milks for babyccinos could be a unique selling point for coffee shops. However, it is important to note that this could increase the cost of a babyccino, as plant milks tend to be more expensive than cow’s milk.

Ultimately, Dearbhla recommends cafes add it to their menus, but has a few final tips.

“It’s simple and effective,” she concludes. “Remember the drink’s target market, don’t over-complicate it, and don’t make it too hot.”

marshmallows on a babyccino

Although the babyccino might not seem like a natural fit for some cafes, it certainly has a place in businesses that cater to customers with young children.

Adding the drink to your menu may not directly increase profits, but it may attract a wider range of customers. Plus, if done right, it can help create a more inclusive space for parents and their children.

Did you like it? then read our article on the spicy pumpkin latte.

Picture credits: Quest Roasters, Signal Box Cafe

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