What is a Flat White?

Updated: Dec 16, 2019


A flat white is an espresso-based drink that contains steamed milk. That much is probably already obvious.

It is a no-nonsense option for those looking for a dairy beverage with a strong taste of coffee and is made with a small amount of steamed milk and a thin layer of microfoam.

If you want a coffee that allows you to strongly taste the espresso but with the creamy mouthfeel of steamed milk, the flat white is a great choice. But where did it come from and what sets it apart from a latte?

The Origins of The Flat White

There is some debate about whether the flat white originated in Australia or New Zealand. Either way, it has been around down under since the 1980s. In the years since, it has popped up on menus in the US, UK, and elsewhere and is now a specialty café standard.

Ben Bicknell is Strategic Projects Manager at Five Senses Coffee in Melbourne. He says, “Without digging deep into the history of Australia and New Zealand, I would say that the flat white naturally evolved in both places.”

“Consumers transitioning from instant coffee to espresso-based coffee were seeking something familiar rather than cappuccino, which at the time had mountainous sea-foam peaks, and so asked for it ‘flat’. The actually drink has evolved to be ‘flatter’ than a cappuccino (which has also been scaled back to more delicious micro-foam).”

When Starbucks began to serve flat whites as a “bold” alternative to latte in the USA, it became clear that the drink had entered the mainstream.

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