what is a flat white coffee text overlay a person holding a flat white coffee in cup

What is a Flat White?

What is a Flat White?

Essentially, A flat white is a coffee beverage comprised of espresso coffee, steamed milk and 2-4mm of microfoam on top. It was invented by Australians/New Zealanders and was borne out of the fact that the Australians didn’t like “all that stupid frothy fluff on my coffee” referring to old-style cappuccino froth. Traditionally served in a cup rather than a glass, it is often mistaken for being stronger than a latte, but ideally, it should be the same strength just with a little less froth.

 

The world of coffee can get pretty confusing sometimes. Cappuccino? Latte? Flat White? So. Many. Options! What is the difference? It can get overwhelming so let’s take it one step at a time and start with the classic and smooth flat white.

Created in Australia and New Zealand around the 1980s, the flat white is a wonderful concoction of espresso coffee, with steamed, velvety milk and a flat layer of micro-foam to top it off. It’s a very similar description to that of a Latte and Cappuccino so let’s run through the differences.

History of the Flat White

In keeping up with Australia’s healthy competition with New Zealand, there’s much debate between who invented the Flat White. They popped up on menu’s around the same time and slowly built popularity in both countries. In Australia – it was created due to being too fancy. All that over-the-top, excessive fluffy foam on the top was too much to handle for our humble Aussies, so a drink with a completely flat surface was invented – hence the term ‘Flat’ White. In New Zealand, it’s said that it was made to recreate the sort of coffee that people were making at home. Whether it was first made in New Zealand or Australia, good job to both for giving the world the joy that is the Flat White! It’s actually only been recent that its popularity has reached international lands – reaching the UK around 2005 and landing on American Starbucks menus in January 2015.

Myths about the Flat White

There is a common misconception that the Flat White is some sort of breakfast drink because it’s stronger than a Latte or a Cappuccino. Truth is, there is no difference other than the amount of foam. Some countries might make the Latte weaker by putting it in a tall glass where the ratio of Coffee to Milk is larger (1:14) but let’s say we have a small takeaway cup 8oz (236ml) a ratio of coffee to milk here should be one-part coffee (~30ml) to 7 parts milk (206ml) or ~1:7. This goes for Flat White, Latte or Cappucino.

Yes, certainly there will be a little more strength in a cappuccino because the froth is mostly air and when that dissipates you will have a little less milk than a flat white, but I think this is negligible and only the most astute drinkers will notice any difference.

Why it’s important to the Coffee Industry

These days, with specialty coffee quickly growing in popularity, it’s important to learn about the differences in the drinks available to you. So while there’s very little difference between a latte, flat white and cappuccino, it’s all about refining it to you’re personal preference. It may be a very small difference, but why shouldn’t we aspire to create the perfect drink for ourselves? The Flat White was only created in the 1980s because people wanted to create their perfect coffee and wanting to refine their drinks to get the best out of it and now it’s an internationally recognised drink that’s a favourite for many.

The picky drinker today could invent the best coffee ever tomorrow. So the next time you’re ordering a coffee – why not order the Flat White and see for yourself how a small difference can go a long way?

 

Ryadan Jeavons

by Ryadan Jeavons

Ryd is a passionate coffee educator who started his career in 2000 as a barista. Having seen the coffee industry develop over the years and how much there is to learn about coffee still, his personal mission has become a role as the conduit between the industry and the consumer. He is passionate about educating the public on all the wonderful things we are learning about this golden liquid drink.

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