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The popular Australian espresso drink will now be available on Starbucks menus
For all of you Aussie coffee fans, this new menu item is something to cheer about.
In an effort to become more popular with serious coffee drinkers and possibly to gain some “cappuccino cred,” Starbucks has announced that they will be adding the “flat white” to their menus this year, and according to Bon Appétit, this could be a smart move, because the flat white — the Australian version of a latte — has been taking America by storm this year.
So what is a flat white, anyway? It’s a cappuccino that, instead of being topped with airy foam like a latte is, has velvety, smooth milk foam (called a “microfoam”), that is distributed evenly throughout the drink. The result is a coffee drink that weighs a little bit heavier on the milk/cream side than the espresso side. Both Australia and New Zealand have taken credit for coming up with the creamy coffee concoction, and it started appearing on café menus down under about 30 years ago.
The flat white is not a Starbucks limited-time offering, and will join the core menu on January 6. Adding popular Australian drinks to the menu, and opening Starbucks reserve stores selling coffee for $6 a pop? It seems like the world’s most popular coffee chain is trying to change its image.
Starbucks Adding &lsquoFlat White&rsquo to its Menu
Starbucks is getting a new menu item. No, it’s not another crazy seasonal Frappuccino (though you can bet there’ll be another one of those around the corner). This time, the world’s most massive coffee chain is taking a cue from a beverage created in the Southern Hemisphere, adding a drink that’s seen increasing popularity in the States in recent years and is known as a Flat White.
Most seem to agree that the Flat White was invented in Australia in the 1980s—though some Australians also claim they’ve been drinking it since the s𠅊nd the people of New Zealand say the beverage came from their shores. The only thing more hotly debated than the Flat White’s origin story is what the beverage actually is. What separates it from other espresso drinks is the milk foam. Flat Whites use what’s called microfoam—steamed milk with tiny bubbles in it. When added to espresso, the end result could be described as either a stronger latte or a wetter cappuccino. Some coffee shops even openly admitted that their cappuccinos are so similar to what Aussies call a Flat White that the two are nearly interchangeable.
For Starbuck’s sake, their take on the beverage “will be made from two ristretto espresso shots—which are smaller and more concentrated—topped off with whole milk” and then steamed to a microfoam, according to a company spokesperson who spoke to Eater. The drink has been available in British Starbucks since 2010. It’ll be hitting all American stores Jan. 6, gaining a spot on the company’s core menu.
If you’re still a bit confused, just order one up next week. And then, like any good Starbucks customer, further confound the situation by asking for three extra pumps of syrup and a topping of whipped cream.
Is Ordering A Flat White Just A Trendier Way of Ordering A Latte?
Seriously, what’s the difference? Award-winning barista and coffee shop owner Momiji Kishi explains.
By Amy Grief Updated October 26, 2017
After slinging espresso at Toronto’s Dark Horse Espresso Bar and working for Detour Coffee Roasters in Dundas, Ont., award-winning barista Momiji Kishi decided to strike out and open her own coffee shop, one that’s more about making human connections than catching a WiFi signal.
The internet-free HotBlack, on Queen Street West in Toronto, garnered attention from the likes of the New York Times for not letting its customers get online. But even without international press, Kishi’s little storefront is eye-catching, thanks to its bright red design features and dedication to serving the ultimate cup of coffee (its slogan is literally “Best. Coffee. Ever.”).
While you won’t find a WiFi signal, you will spot a flat white on the menu next to the lattes and cappuccinos.
So we decided to ask this coffee expert: is a flat white just a trendier way to say latte?
The flat white gained popularity Down Under, as well as in the U.K., but it has remained somewhat of a mystery in North America even after Starbucks debuted its own version of this drink back in early 2015.
Kishi says the flat white originated in either Australia or New Zealand (the flat white’s origin story generates fierce debate). “People there call milk drinks white coffee and non-milk drinks black coffee. So flat white means milk coffee with a tiny bit of foam on top. Like, not as foamy as a cappuccino,” explains Kishi, noting how a cappuccino is usually one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk and one-third foam.
A latte is espresso and steamed milk, with a little bit of foam on top. “A flat white has a little bit less foam, but it’s like a latte,” says Kishi. Flat white devotees sometimes go a little bit further when differentiating it from a latte. Some say the magic of the flat white lies in how the milk is steamed and poured (it should be free-poured, which leaves rich micro foam throughout the beverage).
This makes it seem sweeter — and less milky tasting — than a latte (it has caramel notes) with a luxurious mouthfeel. The espresso also comes through more in a flat white.
Unlike the big coffee chains, most independent cafes skip over the massive cardboard vessels and free pour their flat whites into 6-ounce (or just slightly larger) cups. (A Starbucks tall — its small — is 12 ounces, for comparison.)
Kishi, even with all her expertise, stresses that you should just drink what you love, regardless of the coffee trends du jour. She estimates about 10 to 15 percent of her customers order flat whites, and like all of the white coffees served at HotBlack, they all come adorned with latte, or milk foam, art. It’s all part of serving the best coffee ever.
Momiji Kishi was a panelist at Chatelaine: The Big Dish event in Toronto on October 29.Click here for more interviews and stories from the women who took part.
The Flat White: Explained
The flat white. A storied, semi-mythical beverage that has been the object of hushed adulation and media hot takes for years. It's a combination of milk and espresso that originated from somewhere Antipodean and has been happily consumed in Australia and New Zealand without (too much) fuss for quite a while now. Predicting the flat white's moment in North America has become something of a perennial pastime, but finally, the time has come. The flat white is suddenly hip, the order on everyone's lips in the United States. This may have something to do with Starbucks recently launching its own Starbucks® Flat White espresso and milk beverage here, after five years of selling them in the UK and Australia.
The first thing you need to know about the flat white is that it contains multitudes. Like much of post-industrial consumer culture, the flat white is a symbolic proxy through which we express our hopes, fears, and anxieties, and in its exchange, try to placate the ravenous calling for social distinction and connection. It gives people feelings. The flat white is the latest fancy coffee battleground through which our trans-national tastes in coffee, identity, and late capitalism are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.
Before we can actually start interrogating Starbucks® flat whiteness in detail though, what we really need is a simple explainer of just what the original flat white actually is. To that end, Sprudge conducted a very serious poll that definitively settled for all time what exactly a proper Antipodean Flat White is. We asked Starbucks' Global Brand Communications representative Haley Drage a boatload of questions about the Starbucks® Flat White. We talked to leading experts in the fields of coffee, the Antipodes, and Anthropology to understand the wider symbolic context of the flat white as a beverage. And now, after much painstaking and rigorous research, data, and #journalism, we're finally ready to explain the brews.
This is it, people: the definitive flat white explainer. Hold on to your butts.
Okay, tell me about this flat white poll.
We heard all the fuss, so we asked our Antipodean readers to weigh in. And weigh in they did, 2365 Aussies and Kiwis to be exact. First we made extra sure they were real Antipodeans, and thus qualified to weigh in on flat whiteness:
As expected, Australia has a strong and vocal showing, though New Zealand is not to be missed, and the Antipodean Coffee Diaspora (ACD) is a very real thing, peddling fine toasts and espressos (short blacks) from New York to Berlin.
I've heard size is important for flat whites. Is this true?
Oh my is it important! So important that no one can agree on what size exactly an Antipodean Flat White is supposed to be.
First off, many people claim the flat white is a defined-size drink, like the classic one third milk, one third foam, one third espresso cappuccino, or the Gibraltar and its specific glass. But that doesn't seem wholly true!
Now, confusion is normal when it comes to ordering coffee drinks, so maybe we can chalk up this contentious split decision to drink-term creep, the same sort of linguistic variance that that has people ordering a “large cappuccino” all over America. But in North America, a 5.5-8oz (162-236ml) drink is generally accepted as a modern cappuccino. There should be some agreement on the standard flat white size, right?
As you can see, Antipodeans generally agree: a flat white is pretty small-ish. If you want to get all technical, calling it a fairly standard
A flat white = small-ish. Got it. Now, how many shots go into this thing?”
The data seems to suggest that a proper Antipodean Flat White usually gets made with a “double” shot of espresso—though there was a vocal one-shot contingent, some of whom took advantage of the free-response boxes to suggest that Melbournians and other nefarious Aussies had bastardized the true New Zealand Flat White with their use of single shots.
Still others noted that in the wild world of modern espresso recipes, size and shot differentials remain rather debatable. Some diehards insisted that the defining feature of an Antipodean Flat White is a “double rizz” [ristretto] shot.
There will always be naysayers in any coffee discussion, so let's just say that a flat white usually gets a double shot. This is a fascinating bit of data on its own, because if true, one could argue the rise of the flat white may have been strongly tied to the doubling of addictive caffeine dosage compared to other drink orders. This data will become especially important once we properly get into our analysis of the Starbucks® Flat White later.
Two shots, mostly. Noted. Do Australians and New Zealanders agree on the cup we're putting this all in?
So, an Antipodean Flat White goes in a cappuccino cup pretty much, unless you have some fancy flat white goblet at hand. Just like we first heard five years ago.
What that cup made of tho?
Hey! Agreement! No glass.
Cappuccino cup, ideally thick walled ceramic. Dreamy. So where did this neat idea come from anyways?
We would just like to take a moment to remind all of our readers that like any good news site we are ethically required to present all facts in a neutral manner, to take no stance on political issues, and to teach the controversy of both sides of any position.
That all being said, there seems to be some disagreement on where the flat white came from.
Like, actually quite a bit of disagreement…
Bizarre, and at times vitriolic disagreement came rolling in throughout our poll responses, accompanied by many interesting theories. Several responders helpfully pointed out that the “Piss Off” contingent would be entirely Australian we included the option for whose who were outraged at the very question.
We learned a great deal about several ongoing conspiracy theories involving Australians stealing things from Kiwis, and vice-versa:
The exact origin details of the flat white remain uncertain, with perhaps even arguments for parallel construction. And it appears that the very question itself–“Where did the flat white first originate?–taps into some deep inner part of the Australian and Kiwi psyche, respectively.
But while there are a wide variety of origin claims, a now closed cafe in Auckland called DKD, and its proprietor Derek Townsend, did show up mentioned more than any other specific place. We'll be following up.
For the moment, let's just acknowledge the fact that our indisputable, definitive poll found that, by a slight margin, someone in New Zealand probably invented the flat white. We here in the United States are fond of legislating history, so let's call it: New Zealand invented the flat white. The people have spoken.
Oh my heavens. New Zealand, Australia, and beverage banditry! With all this controversy, I hesitate to even ask about the foam on a flat white. I hear it's like, really important.
What we do know is that the Antipodean Flat White involves foam.
So apparently, the proper flat white does not have tons of foam. Barely a bit. Just a little more than not any at all. Not as much as a cappuccino for sure. Or, according to Matt Perger, “ 99.99% of baristas in Australia steam milk for a flat white the same way they would for a latte.”
Foam feels aside, we can definitively say that the flat white should be a pretty cool drink. In terms of temperature, we're talking like a hair cooler than a cappuccino.
And yes, a flat white should have latte art—though I do have to compliment our Australian and Kiwi responders for being an understanding lot.
What about putting sprinkles or whip cream or tasty treats on your flat white?
To make a poll definitive, you have to ask lots of different kinds of questions. Being poorly versed in flat whiteness led me to inquire about the potential for toppings or flavorings.
We can now happily confirm that no, a flat white does not get toppings, because it's not a babycino or a fluffy or whatever, and I am indeed a stupid Yank for asking.
How do Antipodeans feel about the Starbucks® Flat White?
Sounds like a pretty resounding “no worries” on the Starbucks® Flat White front, though the free-response portion of the poll did suggest a wider array of opinion. There were, of course, many rather reasoned and measured reactions:
In addition to a predictable amount of criticism:
Our responders were bemused and cantankerous, yet at the same time capable of wonderfully balanced analysis:
Though I am no anthropologist, I will hazard to say: it seems like Aussies and Kiwis are pretty secure in their flat whiteness, and view the Starbuck® Flat White with, on average, polite disdain.
An Antipodean Flat White is a small-ish drink in a cappuccino cup with two shots of espresso and barely more than a bit of foam. It was also probably invented in New Zealand.
Awesome! We figured out the Antipodean Flat White. Now we just need to understand the technical details of the Starbucks® Flat White, and the sociology of consumer distinction, and we're good to go!
Oh my god you mean we’re only halfway through this? Let’s take a break. How does this relate to internet cat pictures?
For being such a heated coffee topic, it is surprisingly unrelated to internet cat pictures. Googling “cat latte” is a delight of caffeinated kitties, and “cat cortado” is even pretty great, but “cat flat white” turns up nothing but cats and shoes.
Surely there must be some way that cat pictures can help explain what’s going on here.
Fine, tell me about Starbucks® Flat Whites.
You can currently order yourself a Starbucks® Flat White at any participating Starbucks company and licensed stores in the US, and Canada, as well as in Australia and the UK, where they've been available for rather a while now. According to Starbucks' Global Brand Communications representative Haley Drage:
Sounds simple enough, but there's in fact quite a bit of data to dig into here.
Wait, what's the deal with these ‘two ristretto shots'
Astute catch, the espresso changes are indeed the most important part of the Starbucks® Flat White! A tall latte at Starbucks has one shot, while a tall Starbucks® Flat White has two shots. Drage even confirmed for us that were guests to order a Grande or Venti Starbucks® Flat White, they would receive a third shot, so this in fact an upping of strength across the board.
In addition, Starbucks has rolled out a new, separate ristretto setting on its super-automatic espresso machines. Drage described this ristretto shot as “a smaller, more concentrated serving of espresso. Rich in sweetness and flavor, a ristretto shot has more body than a regular shot of espresso.” These ristretto shots can be ordered in any Starbucks drink.
What's more, in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California and Chicago, guests also have the option of ordering a Single Origin Espresso in their Starbucks® Flat White (or any other Starbucks drink). The Single Origin Espresso option is currently Guatemala Casi Cielo, and Drage says that Starbucks plans to rotate this offering about 4-6 times a year.
If all of these changes sound not wildly noteworthy to you, you're halfway right: specialty cafes have been offering these things for years! But that's exactly the point: these espresso changes amount to Starbucks modernizing its espresso menu, bringing their parameters more in-line with the offerings of high-end independent cafes. Double shots have long been the standard in the vast majority of North American specialty cafes, and now Starbucks has a comparably coffee-forward (and comparably caffeinated!) drink profile to offer guests.
Hmmm, more modern espresso you say. What about the milk? That seemed super important to the poll responders.
The milk is indeed also super important. First off, the Starbucks® Flat White defaults to whole milk, instead of Starbucks' standard 2% milk.
According to Haley Drage, there is also a difference in how this milk is being steamed (emphasis ours):
Once that microfoam has been steamed the milk is free-poured into the Starbucks® Flat White, as opposed to the standard practice of holding back and spooning-on foam as appropriate for other drinks. Again, here's Haley Drage:
Less thick and rough, more light and smooth on the foam. It's not quite the Antipodean “just a bit” of foam, but it sounds like the Starbucks® Flat White has smoother, thinner foam, at least in theory. That foam is also made much richer and tastier with the use of whole milk.
They're even (starting) to do “latte art” with the Starbucks® Flat White!
Hmmm, whole milk microfoam with at least a nod towards latte art. Sounds like Starbucks' milk parameters are getting more modern too.
Okay, so whole milk that's at least a bit less foamy. What about the size? Isn't that the big thing with flat whites?
As we learned earlier, Antipodeans are quite united in their belief that a flat white should be small-ish, and Starbucks seems to share this belief, more or less. Remember up above when Haley Drage told us that the the description of the flat white was for “the short and tall versions of the beverage”? She said it because those are the two sizes that the drink is designed to be in, except that only the 12oz “Tall” version of the Starbucks® Flat White is listed on the menu:
This is because, despite stocking the 8oz “Short” cups, Starbucks does not advertise the availability of this size. So, the Flat White is advertised as the smallest option available at Starbucks (still twice the size of the Antipodean Flat White), but with a secret off-menu order you can get a more “authentic” 8oz Starbucks® Flat White, which is only a bit bigger than an Antipodean Flat White.
With a focus on smaller sizes, we see the [email protected] Flat White once again bringing drink parameters more in-line with modern espresso trends.
Huh, so that’s closer to the Antipodean Flat White than the rest of their menu, but still kinda far off. Why did Starbucks choose to call its drink a Starbucks® Flat White?
Drage emphasized that the flat white is the “industry standard” name for what they are offering:
The Flat White is emblematic of Starbucks espresso artistry and craft that our baristas strive to create every day. This beverage puts espresso artistry front and center, showcasing each quality ingredient that goes into the beverage. We have offered the Flat White in our stores in Australia and the UK for the last few years, and there is a growing sophistication among coffee drinkers around the world and in the United States and Canada, making this the perfect beverage for coffee lovers.”
A sensible, maybe even obvious seeming reply, if not 100% accurate vis-a-vis the size. What's really important here though is that word “sophistication”. The Antipodean Coffee Diaspora has been exploding across global capitals of cool recently, from Berlin, to New York, to Singapore, and as that wave of influence begins to crest, it joins a larger swell of Australian and Kiwi influence in culture, music, fashion, wine, beer, events, tech, and food. Starbucks is banking on the rising perception of Antipodean “sophistication” to help it make big changes to its coffee menu.
Can noted coffee anthropologist Professor Merry ‘Corky' White help explain why Starbucks might want to encourage ‘sophistication' in their customers?”
Indeed she can! Professor White is a renowned expert on the anthropology of food and consumption at Boston University, wrote the excellent book Coffee Life In Japan, and is in general very wise on the subject of coffee. She kindly agreed to share her thoughts on flat whiteness. Take it away, Corky:
“Like so many culinary novelties, the flat white (actually a pretty humble sort of brew, made, as Oliver Strand says, of two shots with “silky, tight steamed milk”—a microfoam or textured whole milk) has become the stuff of cultural capital. Having had one, you score. Having had one in London, at Flat White on Berwick Street, for example, you score higher. Having had one in Sydney or Auckland, well, there you win. And yet, what besides Vegemite have you had lately from Down Under? It’s an exotic locale, adding something rare to the experience. Australian coffee people are now seen as leaders, teachers, stars in barista competitions and serious players in sourcing, roasting and brewing.
Starbucks has led us into new experiences before, but not for a while. The attempt to persuade us that their instant coffee wasn’t an “instant coffee” fell flat. But we learned to flaunt points of origin of coffee, to make determinations beyond black or “regular.” We learned roast levels, blends and we learned to pay much more for a cup of joe, the price also adding to our own value.
What IS that cultural capital you gain from these experiences? Obviously, the concept needs to be examined—capital, money in the pocket, is in this case status in the pocket from engaging in a cultural phenomenon that confers that status. You gain cultural capital by imbibing a very rare Scotch whisky, or nibbling the cheese illegally carried through customs, or having viewed a hit play on its opening night. Rarity of the commodity or privilege involved in enjoying it contribute to cultural capital. There are other aspects of the status this cultural capital confers: the experience or commodity must be the object of competitive envy. To gain cultural capital in a food experience, you need to be there early, to be an early adopter—after it becomes available to the masses, you’ll be too late.
Another possible source of value is the “true” nature of the item in question: although anthropologists hesitate to say there is any objective “authenticity” having the “perfect” iteration, the “correct” formula, adds to the status of the imbiber. Finally, there should be some discussion, some quarrel, some argument around the item, in which the participant can engage, thus demonstrating his or her connoisseurship, knowledge, and general superiority based on the capital accrued in the experience.
So with the flat white: its origins are debated, its formula uncodified, its spread still rather limited. Scarcity contributes to the cultural capital you’ve pocketed by drinking one.
When it is spotted in your neighborhood, you can either jump into the fray, or just decline to compete, with a wise semi-smile on your foam-flecked lips.”
Alright, thank you Corky, and thank you everyone for making it down here! We've almost made it.
Starbucks now serving flat whites in the U.S.
Starbucks introduced a new drink to its menu Tuesday called the flat white. If you’re wondering what it is, we’ve got some answers.
For one, it’s not a white Frappuccino. The flat white is similar to a latte, but is made with two ristretto shots. These shots, referred to as “short shots” are made by the barista pulling only the first portion of a full-length espresso extraction.
Starbucks describes the shots as delivering a “sweeter, more intense coffee flavor,” in a recent release.
The drink also include a thin layer of creamy micro-foam (also known as steamed milk). The milk is free-poured on top of the espresso so that they both combine throughout the cup.
The drink is topped with a latte art dot, so you can feel like you’re in a fancy coffee house.
“The growing sophistication of coffee drinkers around the world and in the United States makes the flat white a perfect beverage for coffee lovers,” Christine Barone, vice president of espresso and brewed coffee for Starbucks, said in a statement.
But Starbucks is far from the only spot to offer flat whites in L.A. Other coffee shops offering the drink include Coffee + Food on Melrose Avenue, Woodcat Coffee in Echo Park, Bronzed Aussie in downtown L.A., Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach, Document Coffee Bar in Koreatown and more.
According to Starbucks, the flat white originated in Australia in the 1980s before gaining popularity in Britain. The drink was introduced to Starbucks menus in Australia in 2009.
The drink is available at participating stors in the U.S. and Canada. A 16-ounce grande flat white made with whole milk has 220 calories and 11 grams of fat.
I don’t do flavored coffee drinks. Follow me on Twitter @Jenn_Harris_
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Jenn Harris is a columnist for the Food section and host of “The Bucket List” fried chicken show. She has a BA in literary journalism from UC Irvine and an MA in journalism from USC. Follow her @Jenn_Harris_.
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Flat white question
I hope you are having a happy Sunday! I have a question about the making of a Flit White. I know the recipe calls for whole milk, and when I get it at the store I frequent, I can take the whole milk and it just feels heavier weight-wise.
Last month, we went out of town, and went to a couple different locations. I ordered my drink, and it tasted like 2%, and was much light in weight than I am used to.
Were these mistakes, or do some stores not stalk whole milk?
I still enjoyed the beverage, but I’m just curious about the difference from store to store?
Thanks in advance all you beautiful coffee purveyors! Thanks for making our days just a little bit brighter!
Whole milk is pretty standard. It was likely a mistake
I find the quality differences in Flat Whites is night and day, really depending on who made it and how experienced they are in making them.
They are like a latte, but with whole milk instead of 2%, ristretto shots, and it gets an extra shot too.
I find the good flat whites are hella smooth and don't need anything added to them on top of the core recipe to be delicious. The bad ones taste overly bitter, watery, not foamy enough, etc.
It's very possible that your main store just has someone passionate about flat whites and does em exactly how you like em. I make a killer flat white but I've also made one every shift for myself since I was hired.
As per weight, they probably aerated it too long. Adding more foam means more of your cup is air saturated milk which does lighten the weight.
My next low carb fast food guide should be out soon.
I’m visiting all the top 30 fast food chains and doing reviews of all their low carb options.
Subscribe here to get it for free:
I’ll report back with final results for how this fast food experiment affects my health, well-being, and bank account. And you’ll get some simple low carb recipes and other tips from me for all the times you’re not eating in a fast food joint :).
Starbucks Nutrition References
These were a couple of the nutrition references that helped me come up with the numbers. While not perfect they’re pretty darn close.
Download my complete Starbucks Keto Drink Menu (macros included)
Flat White Vs Latte Vs Cappuccino
Although the flat white, latte and cappuccino are all milk based, when prepared and served properly they are very different drinks. All three are combined with double shots of espresso in their traditional serving style, which we now see being anywhere from 30-60ml in size. The size of an espresso often changes. This may be according to country or region, but could be down to a coffee shop (or barista’s) preferences in roast degree or espresso recipes. With more education about espresso in circulation, an espresso recipe can now be seen to change according to a place’s water composition, or specific equipment being used.
Putting espresso aside, let’s start with a look into the composition of a latte, one of the most common drinks served in UK cafes. A latte is milky overall, both in flavour and in its ratio of coffee to milk. Variations in size are common, but in UK speciality coffee shops we see the range 8-12oz most often as a ‘regular’ size. Please note that the style and type of coffee used is often a dictating factor in overall drink sizes offered. Generally speaking, the proportions of a traditional latte take the ratio 1:4:1 (1 part espresso to 4 parts milk to 1 parts foam). Drink size and depth of foam may vary, again according to a particular shop or barista’s style and preferences, but usually foam sits anywhere from 0.5-1cm in the cup. Foam depth and the espresso’s size generally don’t change with the drink’s size usually only the volume of liquid milk alters.
Moving onto the cappuccino, we see a substantial difference in composition. Again, recipes vary according to the factors described above, but the traditional cappuccino has a very thick foam topping (around 1cm of depth in the cup). Overall size is a key variance seen in cappuccinos, but now it is also common to reduce the thickness of foam. This is normally done to allow baristas to pour latte art. Occasionally too the cappuccino is offered with chocolate or cinnamon as optional dustings to suit a wider range of preferences.
The standard size of a cappuccino tends to be smaller than a latte, but larger than a given shop’s flat white, which we see commonly at 6 or 8oz, though this does inevitably fluctuate given the differences mentioned previously, as with all coffee beverages. The drink’s traditional ratio of espresso to milk to foam sits at 1:3:2, but it can be found (in the UK at least) that milk foam occupies a slightly smaller part of this in a lot of modern cappuccinos.
The deeper foam in a cappuccino is an interesting thing, as it almost hides the coffee liquid below it. The liquid beverage below the foam can be strong in coffee flavour. The flat white uses a much smaller ratio of espresso to milk so the taste of espresso is much more dominant in the overall coffee. The milk is also more evenly blended throughout the drink so the combination of espresso and milk is more consistent throughout the entire drink.
Flat whites and lattes are commonly served by specialty coffee houses with latte art on top of the beverages. To enable accurate, finely detailed free-pouring of latte art designs, milk for lattes and flat whites must inherently be more of a homogenous, silky texture not dissimilar to white paint. The cappuccino would require more air being incorporated into the milk, resulting in a greater volume of foam.
Finally, looking into a flat white recipe in more depth, the specification is a silky, thin textured milk (up to 0.5cm in depth in a 5-6oz cup) on top of a double shot of espresso, which in itself can be quite large with modern serving styles, sometimes even up to 60g in weight. The rest of the drink is made up of the steamed liquid milk created with the aid of a steam wand. Overall, the recipe is extremely flexible as you’ll find it in cafes across the UK, largely due to the style of coffee served by coffee shops specialising in great speciality coffee. Each coffee they use – which may differ according to seasonality and roasting style – will likely have a different espresso recipe, which will (as you can glean from the overall small size of a flat white at 5-6oz) ultimately change the balance of flavour with each different coffee used in the grinder. Generally speaking though you’ll find a 2-3oz espresso shot topped with steamed milk, and the signature being the silky texture of this milk, and likely a little latte art too. For a visual indicator of what this might look like, see below!
Everything You Need to Know About Starbucks’ “Flat White”
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With the new year, Starbucks launched its newest addition to American and Canadian stores: the flat white. This espresso-based beverage is described as “bolder than a latte, yet smoother than a cappuccino” and has already been a staple in Australian and UK locations.
According to the Starbucks site, the flat white is made up of “expertly steamed milk poured over ristretto shots of espresso and finished with a Starbucks signature dot.”
Be warned frappuccino fans, this drink is nothing like the sugary creation the chain is known for. Instead it’s an attempt to break in to the artisan coffee movement and bring new customers to the brand.
The Starbucks rendition may not satisfy true flat white aficionados, but it certainly makes the Australia-based drink more accessible to the everyday coffee drinker. Next time you’re in Starbucks, see if this drink is on the menu and taste what all the hype is about.
Image courtesy of Starbucks
Here’s what people are saying:
If you love hot milk water then you’ll love @starbucks‘ new flat white. Which is also the title of my new autobiography.
— Bryson Leach (@brysonjleach) January 21, 2015
Holy Carp. Tried the new Flat White at #starbucks and it’s actually good. Not as good as the Aussies make, but good.
— Josh Marinacci (@joshmarinacci) January 21, 2015
[email protected] Flat White: the worst latte you have ever had. Real Flat Whites: manna from heaven.#terribleisanunderstatement
— Stephanie Chase (@acornsandnuts) January 14, 2015
PSA: Starbucks has a new drink called Flat White. It is exactly how it sounds. No-go, unless you like milk with a shot of espresso.
— emily ♡ (@_ScherzoDiNotte) January 6, 2015
What is a flat white?
“A flat white is a small latte.” Said the barista at the Workshop Cafe in London to an enquiring British visitor. My ears pricked up. To me, a flat white is much more, but those Workshop Coffee guys really know their stuff.
One of the great debates in the London cafe scene is the difference between a Flat White vs Latte. In some cafes, a flat white is just a small latte, but in others it’s an entirely different drink.
Flat White from Foxcroft & Ginger pop-up cafe in a shipping container in Shoredtich.
“A flat white is just a cappuccino with less froth isn’t it?” I overheard a slightly confused Hungarian cafe owner say to a Kiwi customer. This was the final straw and set me off on a journey to search for a good definition of my favourite drink. To me, a flat white is like the Supreme Court’s 1964 definition of pornography I’m not quite sure how to define it but “I know it when I see it.”
For purists there is a lot to a flat white. Including but not limited:
1. Velvet micro-foam instead of stiff froth.
2. Medium size, bigger than a macchiato or cortado but smaller than a latte.
3. Double shot so the coffee does most of the talking, not the milk.
4. Free poured milk so that the foam is folded through the whole drink and there is no discernable layer separation between liquid coffee and foam. This also help preserve the crema.
And that’s just the basics of being a Flat White, let alone a good one. A good flat white is all about packing as much taste as possible into a small package.
Searching For Official Definitions of a Flat White
To settle the issue, I collected together the most authoritative definitions from around the world. We have some differing opinions including:
The flat white has less milk, less foam (hence flat white) and therefore proportionately more coffee than a latte. The desired texture is a velvety sensuality and there should also be a natural sweetness. New Zealand flatties tend to be double espresso shots while Australians typically pour a single. – Joseph Hoye from Electric Coffee Bean
A flat white is a coffee beverage prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk from the bottom of a pitcher) over a single or double shot of espresso. It is similar to the latte and the café au lait. – Wikipedia
A latte consists of a shot of espresso in a glass with steamed milk poured over, topped with a one-centimetre layer of froth. Contrary to the widely held belief that a flat white is stronger, the only difference between the two drinks is the vessel in which they’re presented. A flat white is served in a ceramic cup, usually of the same volume as a latte glass. – Sydney Morning Herald
The main difference between a latte and a flat white is the ratio of milk and espresso. The flat white has less milk than a latte and usually a bit less foam on top. Unlike many people think, the flat white does have foam on top. – Coffee Info
Steamed milk poured over two shots of espresso, topped with microfoam. – Starbucks
The cappuccino is the “Marge Simpson” of espresso-based drinks, with the milk whipped into a bubbly froth and placed on top of the espresso like a high Marge Simpson “bee-hive” do. The latte, on the other hand, has had a hair cut, but nonetheless, has enough froth left to top the drink off with a slight bit of teasing on top. The flat white, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of that volume on top, but rather has all that tease distributed throughout. – Espresso Coffee Snobs
Richard Rees, owner of the Nude Espresso, said that the secret of the flat white lay in the quality of the beans used for the double-shot espresso base and the “texturing” of the milk. He said: “When you heat the milk you get different layers in the jug. Further down you get the most silky, textured milk. You use that, not the frothy milk on top. The coffee has a stronger taste because you just use the first half of the shot… Probably about a third of the coffees we sell now are flat whites.” – Evening Standard
Why are we fighting over coffee?
One common point of confusion is when people say a Flat White is “like drink xyz.” because their definition of drink xyz may not be the same as everyone else’s. So we’re building on quicksand. The most common example is “A Flat White is a Caffe Latte.” It’s a common attempt at a simple definition of a flat white – but only from people who make Lattes in a certain way (with textured micro-foam). In most cafes, there is a significant difference between a latte and a flat white.
The flat white at Dose Espresso is smooth and silky.
For people around the world who have never had a Flat White, this definition is confusing because they might only ever have had a Latte made in a certain way (milk scalded, pan heated, or wand heated with no velvet).
To me, a Flat White is simply a medium sized espresso with milk where the coffee does the talking. What’s your definition of a Flat White?