The Flat White Has Just Landed In America, But WTF Is It?
The Debrief: Chill out everyone. It's basically a stronger latte.
Yesterday, in what was basically breaking news, Starbucks announced the introduction of the Flat White on to it's North American menu in the following tweet.
Now, this may not come as news to us Brits seeing as we can head in to any coffee shop in the country and order flat whites to our hearts content. But across the pond it's kind of a big deal. Cue a barage of tweets that made it quite clear a lot of people just didn't get what the 'eck it was:
What the fuck is a flat white? Whatever happened to just coffee?— Curtis Silver (@cebsilver) January 7, 2015
What in the world is a flat white? Most basic?— Wyoming Bromo (@WyomingBromo) January 7, 2015
Being a flat white novice myself it seemed like the perfect opportunity to head out and find out, once and for all, what a flat white actually is. Whilst giving them a taste test, obviously...
First stop was... Fernandez & Wells, on Flitcroft Street where I meet Sonya, who has been a barista for 7 years.
So what is a flat a white? 'The flat white orignated in either Austrailia or New Zealand. It’s a double shot of espresso topped up with milk'.
How is it different to a latte? 'There’s less milk in a flat white and less froth. A flat white is definitely stronger because there’s less milk'.
And are they popular? 'They’re very popular. In general, it’s split about 50/50 on people ordering a latte and flat white'.
What does it cost? 'The price is the same (£2.80) whether it’s a capuucino, flat white or latte'.
Finally the taste test: The coffee is really smooth, not overly milky and has a sort of woody taste. It's also tiny (it's fine because you don't need a lot) so, aesthetically, it's just really cute. 5/5
Next up... It was my regular lunch spot Pure on Shaftsbury Avenue. There I chatted to Cristina, 23, who has been a barista for a year.
So what actually is in a flat white? 'It has the same amount of coffee (2 shots) as a latte but it has less milk so it’s a stronger coffee. It’s smaller. It’s the same milk but maybe flat white has less foam.'
And is it popular? 'It’s getting really popular now. I’m from Spain and coffee with milk is a flat white - we don’t have latte’s because it’s too much milk, it’s too long. Only in the UK and America do people drink such big coffees. I think it's because people want stronger coffees and a latte can be too much.'
And how much is it? 'It’s the same price as a latte (£2.50) because it takes the same time to make it and the same work goes into it.'
Most importantly the taste test: It wasn't as obviously milky and it didn't seem as thick. Relatively smooth but probably a little more bitter. Not bad though. 3/5
Finally... I headed to a UK branch of Starbucks on Charing Cross Road and spoke with Anne, 26, who has been a barista for 7 years.
Tell me about the flat white? 'It's a double shot of espresso with steamed whole milk. The milk is steamed in a particular way to make the it very dense and velvety. We pour the foam in a way so there’s a pattern on top of the coffee at the end. That’s a flat white!'
How is it different to a latte? 'Because of the proportion of coffee to milk. Also, the default milk we use is whole milk whereas in a latte it’s semi skimmed milk. It’s a bit stronger and it tastes a bit creamier because of the whole milk and the art is more intricate. The latte would normally come with a dot on top, a heart or a little tree but we aim at a perfect rosetta everytime with the flat white. It’s just a technique.'
Is it popular? 'It is, especially on the weekends when people take the time to sit in you get alot of orders. It just looks better when you have it in the little china cup so we get a lot on the weekends or late afternoons when people sit in and actually have the time.'
And how much does it cost? '£2.50, the equivalent is the tall latte which is £2.25. It’s a little more because it’s stronger, the quality and the ingredients are a bit different and because there’s a lot more effort that goes in to it.'
My final taste test: This tasted really milky, so if you don't like that, steer clear. This is a bit more like your standard cup of coffee but still good. 4/5
All in all I wouldn't recommend drinking three flat whites in a row. As I write this, I'm on a come down from a caffeine-induced high that left me a little wobbly on my feet and spouting a lot of rubbish. That said, I think I've been converted to the enigma that is The Flat White. Enjoy America!
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Picture: Andrajos Lobato
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