Did you know that the most contentious and debated espresso drink to this date is a flat white?
With its growing popularity around the world comes a never-ending argument about it. What is a flat white coffee? Where did it originate? Why is it called flat white and how is it different from other varieties of lattes?
In this article, we will give clarity to some of these controversial questions and delve into everything flat white. We will also discuss why suddenly this specialty coffee drink gained popularity to coffee enthusiasts and baristas alike.
What is a flat white?
When we talk about the semantics of specialty coffees like a flat white, we tend to have preconceived notions of what they are based on how they were introduced to us. There are also a lot of claims and guides about flat whites online.
Coffee masters have also shared their opinions about it. Not only are there multiple ways to make flat whites, but its origin countries are also hypersensitive when it comes to their claims with this coffee.
A flat white is a double shot espresso-based coffee with steamed milk finished with a thin layer of textured microfoam on top—sort of a velvety consistency. This specialty coffee drink is prepared by pouring drinkable velvet steamed milk into a double shot espresso.
Depending on your barista, it is typically served in a ceramic cup and gives off an extra-strong flavor of caffeine.
The Conflict Between Australia and New Zealand
The origin of flat whites is still disputed to this day. Australians have claimed this specialty coffee as theirs around the same time when a barista from New Zealand said he invented it by accident. For many decades, flat whites have become a war between Australia and New Zealand.
The Australian flat white origin story began in 1985 at a cafe called Moors Espresso Bar. An Australian guy named Alan Preston claims that cafes in Sydney have long been using several versions of white coffee which is essentially just black coffee with milk.
One of these white coffees is called ’flat’. When Alan opened his cafe in 1985. he used the term “Flat White” in his menu. It started growing its popularity around the city. Alan is so adamant that he was the first person to ever use “flat white”. Alan would also post pictures of his cafe online claiming that flat white was the main item in his menu.
New Zealand’s flat white origin however claims that flat white was originally invented by accident. In 1989. a barista at a cafe in Wellington named Kiwi Fraser Mclnnes said the incident happened when one of his customers ordered a cappuccino from him.
Unfortunately, when we poured in the steam milk, there wasn’t enough fat to make the cappuccino rise. He thought it was flat. He then apologized to his customer and for serving him a flat white. It caught on and became a part of his menu as flat white.
The conflict about which origin country lays claim to flat white seems to really depend on people’s personal alliances and experiences. Maybe that is why up until now. we really cannot tell who invented flat white first.
Michael Symon, a well-known Australian food expert/historian wrote in 2012 that flat white started in Australia but was created poorly and under-appreciated.
It was in New Zealand. Wellington in specific, that they perfected the craft of making flat whites. Symon said that flat white originated in Australia but it got its reincarnation in New Zealand.
Whether this specialty coffee originated in Australia or New Zealand, it really does not matter.
It could evolve in both places because as coffee masters would say coffee beverages are always related to one another. What’s more important is both countries can take pride in producing and exporting quality milk and a signature coffee drink in North America, and even, across the globe.
Why is it called flat white?
It is high-likely that the term flat white was coined by the Australians. Aussies call their regular espresso short black. They also made a larger espresso by adding hot water and call it long black.
White coffees are essentially just black coffee with milk. A flat white is a smaller version of a latte that consists of two shots of a more concentrated and sweeter espresso made with less water.
The velvety texture on top of this specialty coffee is a flat microfoam made out of full-fat steamed milk.
Peter Thompson, a coffee master himself, has a theory that the squeezed milk from cows in Australia and New Zealand hardens and turns into large bubbles when frothed This velvety texture creates a flat surface on top of these espresso shots.
He then said that flat white’s main component is the quality and texture of milk they use in Australia and New Zealand. Basically, it is just a coffee made out of a coffee press with a dash of freshly squeezed milk on top.
What is the difference between a latte and a flat white?
Traditionally speaking, in Australia, they serve a latte using a 200 ml glass while their specialty flat whites are served in a 180 ml ceramic cup to lessen its diluteness. Lattes are slightly foamy with 1 -centimeter foam than flat whites with 0.5-centimeter foams.
Lattes are also usually made out of one or two shots of espresso depending on what the customer prefers.
For flat whites, however, it always features two shots of espresso, not one. It is has a much stronger coffee taste than lattes and cappuccino. Recent versions of flat whites use double ristretto to get that extra strong coffee flavor.
The difference between a latte and a flat white depends on the knowledge and skills of your barista. Coffee masters would say that the difference between these coffee beverages is in the coffee to milk ratio.
Both of them have very similar components. They both use aeration to pour latte art but at a level where the milk is frothy. In terms of ration, your barista must serve flat whites in 5 oz cups and lattes in 8 oz cups.
You cannot serve a flat white using a cup that is bigger than 5 oz. It becomes a latte.
The size of the cup and the ratio of coffee to milk may vary depending on external variables but the point is, flat whites are much smaller than lattes and it usually has more espresso shots than the latter.
Is a latte stronger than a flat white?
If you are the type of coffee drinker that enjoys the sensorial profile of your coffee beans then you must opt to choose flat white.
Flat whites have more concentrated shots of espresso and contain less steamed milk than lattes. But if you want a dairy-based coffee that is not too strong for your liking, then go for lattes.
Are they objectively better than the other? Absolutely not. There are different personal preferences with coffee and there are various ways to drink and experience specialty coffee. The taste of your specialty coffee really depends on your personal preferences.
Is a latte stronger than a flat white? Definitely not As mentioned above, flat whites have an extra-strong coffee flavor than lattes.
Flat whites are also more concentrated in taste and have more caffeine in them because of the two shots of espresso What is nice about a flat white is that it combine the rich flavor of coffee beans in the espresso with the rich dairy-based drink. This specialty coffee drink combines the concoction of nicely made espresso and steamed milk.
In a nutshell, you cannot separate flat whites from lattes. The criteria are the same, but for flat whites, size does matter. Your barista should serve your flat white in a smaller cup than lattes.
Of course, this can change depending on what location you are in. but for the most part, this can actually work as a rule of thumb. When it comes to the milk they use, it’s basically the same.
However, the milk that forms on top of flat whites is usually referred to as microfoam. Basically, microfoam has a more velvety texture and glossy finish than the usual steaming process of milk lattes.
The process usually starts from steaming the milk allowing tiny air bubbles to form on the top surface of a flat white.
By understanding the history and components of a flat white, we can now ask our baristas to make us these kinds of specialty coffees and not just stick to the regular ones.
Does it really matter if we solve the mystery about where it originated from? Not really. For as long as we know the history of both origins we can now communicate with our baristas about how we want our flat whites to be like.
Flat whites are synonymous with quality coffee and people from the growing community of coffee drinkers should start creating more conversations about it.
What’s healthier flat white or latte?
Craving for a warm cup of coffee? Would you prefer a flat white or latte? These two variants comes with a distinct white froth on top made of milk.
They even have a similar coffee amount. Does it mean the two hve the same calorie count? But why are they named differently?
The reaon is how the milk was prepared. A flat white has its milk frothed, folded, and swirled to blend the bubbles and the liquid milk. A microfoam is formed creating a velvety texture. In a Iatte, the foam remains on top with small layer of microfoam and liquid milk underneath.
So which is healthier? A regular sized skim latte has 1 gram of sugar and packs 60 calories.
A flat white has a higher amount of sugar. At most 10 grams making its calorie count 120. In terms of calorie count and sugar content, it can be said that the healthier choice is the latte.
How about you? What is your definition of flat white? Start making conversation by commenting down below and let us know your thoughts and suggestions about flat whites.
You can also share your own recipes so that people would know that other kinds of specialty coffee exist too.