Is iced cafe au lait actually just cafe au lait with ice in it? How can a cafe au lait be iced? I've had both iced cafe au lait and iced coffee at Crazy Mocha and the iced cafe au lait does taste more like cafe au lait than iced coffee. Can someone explain?
The difference is in the milk. A Cafe Au Lait is a strong coffee base, with steamed milk. This is different from a caffe latte in that it is strong coffee, not espresso.
Iced Cafe Au Lait has a variety of recipes from my cursory google search, but all involve some method of milk frothing. Typically not so much as to actually make foam, but enough to incorporate some air into the milk. Thus far, I've seen light steaming, adding milk to a french press and essentially churning it to incorporate air etc. With a cup full of ice, and half full of iced coffee, the frothed milk is added and blended quickly. I think the trick would be brewing a strong enough coffee that it stands up to both the milk added, as well as the ice melt, but given the coffee is pre-iced, and there is a lot of ice in the cup, and the milk isn't fully heated, it probably brings the temp down with a minimal amount of ice melt.
If you are adding milk to your iced coffee, most likely, it is simply milk being added without going through the added work of frothing it. This most likely accounts for the difference in flavor. Another question to ask is if it is the same coffee beans and brewing method for the coffee in each instance. The cafe may prefer a different roast profile or brewing method for coffee going into their Cafe Au Lait drinks rather than their iced coffee drinks (or a cold brew base.. hrm.. might be interesting!)