What is a Flat White?

What is a Flat White?
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In case you didn’t know, Australia Day took place last week. I was encouraged by one of my friends on Twitter to go and grab a Flat White in celebration. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the time but it did get me thinking: what exactly is a Flat White?

The name gets banded around a lot but there seems to be a strong debate over what the drink actually comprises of. You think I’m joking? In the coffee world the exact definition of a Flat White has become a contentious issue – one that is close to the hearts of our antipodean friends.

One fact that is not up for debate is that the Flat White originated in Australasia (either New Zealand or Australia depending on who you’re talking to) and that it spread to other parts of the globe a few years ago. The debate, it seems, goes a long way back.

I did a bit of research whilst on my travels around London coffee shops, trying to work out if there was a common way to characterise a Flat White. Sadly, it couldn’t be found. The only variables that stayed constant were that a Flat White has at least one shot of espresso and some (the type and amount varied considerably) milk.

The devil’s in the detail but in this case, the detail appears to change with each person you ask.

It’s strange that the drink is so popular, yet has such a big air of mystery around it. While the Flat White started as a drink exclusively served in independent coffee shops, it has found its way on to Starbucks and Costa menus around the country – they both have very different definitions of what it is too.

You would expect people to be able to give a commonly shared view on what a Flat White comprises of but, alas, this is not the case. However, as the title of this post is ‘What is a Flat White?’, I should probably attempt to answer the question.

I have identified five common indicators of what makes up a Flat White, with the help of a couple of Kiwi & Australian friends in the industry.

1. Double shot of espresso (Or quite often a single shot)

2. Microfoam milk

3. Milk poured in a way that the foam is folded through the whole drink, so that there is no layering

4. Served in a medium sized cup, bigger than an espresso but smaller than a latte

5. As it’s usually quite skilled baristas who make a good Flat White, you’re likely to find some latte art on top of your drink

So there you have it: the five key components that make up a Flat White. Due to the nature of the topic, I realise that one or more of the components listed above will infuriate those with a different definition of what a Flat White is. Please comment below if this is the case!

Henry Clifford
is a coffee enthusiast intent on sharing useful information about coffee and exploring the best independent coffee shops London has to offer! Aside from my love for coffee I also love running, art, football & jazz (in no particular order).
Henry Clifford

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