The Australian answer to the latte: the flat white
December 9, 2014 9:24 AM   Subscribe

“I was in London on business in the fall of 2013 when an Australian colleague brought me to a coffee place at Canary Wharf,” says Jason Fox, the global head of product, technology, and program management at Reuters News Agency. “She ordered something called a ‘flat white,’ and I had no idea what it was, but she raved about it, and I got one too. I was hooked.” ("Meet the Flat White, the Coffee Drink Taking the U.S. by Storm", Bon Appétit)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (144 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can confirm the flat white has taken over in Cape Town as well.
posted by PenDevil at 9:25 AM on December 9, 2014


This is the first article I've ever seen that explains what exactly a flat white is supposed to be. Not that it makes a difference in the Bay Area; from what I can tell, no one around here can agree on what constitutes a cappuccino, let alone anything else.
posted by asterix at 9:27 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


IT'S A NEW ZEALAND BEVERAGE! LOOK AT THE PICTURE AT THE TOP OF THE ARTICLE! THAT'S A SILVER FERN THERE IN THE MILK FROTH! (THE SIGNATURE FLOURISH OF FLAT WHITES EVERYWHERE.) KIND OF A GIVEAWAY, DON'T YOU THINK?
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:28 AM on December 9, 2014 [26 favorites]


(Probably should have linked to this previous post from 2010 from vacapinta.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:30 AM on December 9, 2014


(previously)
posted by narain at 9:31 AM on December 9, 2014


Man, I just made the cortado my go-to pretentious coffee drink. I can't handle this much change.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:38 AM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Flat White Privilege.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:39 AM on December 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


this might be the tip of the iceberg away from Italian coffees

I don't understand what you're saying but I guess that's just how the cookie bounces.
posted by All Out of Lulz at 9:40 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Flat whites became a Thing round these parts about four years ago.

Which confused me, because 'cappuccino' per our hip coffee shops seems to mean "a latte, but with less milk", and no foam. Which serves me just fine, and is how I like it.

So, when I order a cap, I'm actually after a flat white, but just that nobody makes them that way.

Regional differences!
posted by pmv at 9:40 AM on December 9, 2014


So to me this sounds like... the top half of a good latte?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:40 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It sounds mostly like they were just making cappuccinos wrong and now they've got the microfoam thing down.
I love this quote:
“We’ll simply say, ‘Absolutely!’ but we’ll make them a drink that’s pretty much our cappuccino,” he says. “And if they get the drink and say, ‘No, no, no, that’s not a flat white,’ we’ll work with them on it. But in general, they get it and say, ‘This is the best flat white I’ve had in the States.’”
posted by chococat at 9:42 AM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just to quibble, but a macchiato is an espresso with a spot of milk, hence the name.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:42 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Flat white guilt.

Flat white supremacist.

[Single] Flat white female.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:43 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


love them now, before Starbucks rolls them out Q1 2015
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:44 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


One of these days it'll be koffie verkeerd's turn to shine.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:44 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


love them now, before Starbucks rolls them out Q1 2015

Way too late for that, at least in the UK.
posted by vacapinta at 9:48 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


love them now, before Starbucks rolls them out Q1 2015

They're already available at McDonalds (Macca's) in Australia. And the ones I had were pretty good, I must say.
posted by Zedcaster at 9:48 AM on December 9, 2014


Here's a random question while coffee is the topic: Has anyone ever gotten a real Cappuchino at Starbucks?
posted by Yowser at 9:48 AM on December 9, 2014


It's kind of heartbreaking that Fox had to make this coffee discovery in London of all places. I have a theory as to why coffee in this city tastes so resolutely awful (something to do with the hard water), but it's almost impossible to find a decent cup of coffee here. (The only places where it's even halfway drinkable are Antipodean-run joints like Caravan.) The place to really discover the flat white would have been Auckland about 15 years ago (NOT Wellington, pacé Infinite Jest in the other thread; Wellington coffee's too bitter). Discovering it in London in 2013 is just tragic—a bit like saying you've "seen" the northern lights because you once saw a picture of them on the internet.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:48 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


> IT'S A NEW ZEALAND BEVERAGE!

My local fancy coffee shop (well, one of many...I live in one of Those Neighbourhoods) is owned by Kiwis and has flat whites on the menu. My wife developed a taste for them when we were in Sydney five years ago, but I mostly stick with ordering "coffee," which depending on which shop you're in (not this one) is a terribly grave and shameful faux pas.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:49 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


BTW, I walked into a MaDonalds in Toowoomba (Queensland) to get a coffee and saw that they use a proper espresso machine - portafilter - grind, tamp and polish! No pushbutton automatic - totally surprised my North American expectations.
posted by Zedcaster at 9:51 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of these days it'll be koffie verkeerd's turn to shine.

This will only happen in the US if there's more than one cookie involved.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:56 AM on December 9, 2014


I have a theory as to why coffee in this city tastes so resolutely awful

The story I heard, and which sounds plausible, is that would-be-snob coffee shop owners go to bean tastings to buy their beans. The beans there are expressly roasted and then brewed to over-emphasise their flavours; it helps the discerning palate to choose. They're not supposed to be actually roasted or brewed like that for consumption.

Not knowing any better, those guys take the beans back to their shops and prepare their coffee to taste just like it did in the tasting, thinking that's how "real" coffee should taste. Of course, their customers then also start to think that's how "real" coffee from "real" coffee shops should taste and the whole thing spirals until everyone's drinking burnt coffee.

(That said, there are some bloody great coffees to be had in London, I don't know what you're on about.)
posted by bonaldi at 9:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ugh.

“It’s like a cappuccino, except that instead of a top layer of flavorless, airy, milky foam, it’s a velvety, dense foam that is mixed evenly through the drink,” Fox says

You're doing your cappucino wrong.
posted by standardasparagus at 10:01 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


One of these days it'll be koffie verkeerd's turn to shine.

Wait...how does that work? You don't brew the coffee with milk, do you?
posted by clockzero at 10:01 AM on December 9, 2014


Larry David: How to order a latte
posted by standardasparagus at 10:03 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yowser: Here's a random question while coffee is the topic: Has anyone ever gotten a real Cappuchino at Starbucks?

If you ask for a short cappuccino most Starbucks will make you a proper cappuccino. They're not bad and were my go to drink when life washed me ashore a Starbucks.
posted by Kattullus at 10:04 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


So to me this sounds like... the top half of a good latte?

Flat whites have always tasted like no-foam lattes to me.
posted by peripathetic at 10:06 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just to quibble, but a macchiato is an espresso with a spot of milk, hence the name.

That's an espresso macchiato. A latte macchiato is milk with the espresso poured into it. In North America a "macchiato" is normally an espresso macchiato but it's not like that in other parts of the world. Even at third-wave shops in Germany you have to specify "espresso macchiato" or you might get this gigantic milky concoction.

To be on the safe side I learned to just order a "cortado," which is around 4 oz and is between a wet macchiato (ie not just a dollop a foam but more like a tiny traditional cappuccino- they used to call this Seattle style btw). Pretty much the identical drink is known as a Piccolo in some parts of the world and a Gibraltar in others- the main difference being that the Gibraltar is served in a glass tumbler (called a Gibraltar) and a Piccolo is served in a porcelain cup that's basically a small cappuccino cup.

Flat whites are too milky and I don't care for them or for lattes, which is really all a flat white is no matter what anybody claims. A flat white is a "small" (say 8-oz) latte. That's all- nothing special about them.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:09 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I walked into a McDonalds in Toowoomba (Queensland) to get a coffee and saw that they use a proper espresso machine

Yeah, McCafes are legit coffee joints.
posted by MillMan at 10:12 AM on December 9, 2014


Great, yet another way to infect a perfectly good cup of coffee with stomach churning milk.
posted by octothorpe at 10:15 AM on December 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's kind of heartbreaking that Fox had to make this coffee discovery in London of all places. I have a theory as to why coffee in this city tastes so resolutely awful (something to do with the hard water), but it's almost impossible to find a decent cup of coffee here.

Boy was that not my experience when I was there last year. (Caravan was indeed one of the places I went, but there were plenty of others.) I'm sure it depends on where you are, though.

But I'm wondering what the next fad in espresso-based drinks will be. Maybe we can make the espressino a thing outside of Italy.
posted by asterix at 10:20 AM on December 9, 2014


I'm thrilled that the flat white is catching on globally. Loved having them in Sydney. It's just the right amount of milk for me; there's too much in a latte and not enough in a typical crummy cappuccino. The flat white works out just right. Also it's nice for Australia to finally have a new cultural export (or is it New Zealand?). Maybe we can finally erase the memory of pavlova.
posted by Nelson at 10:22 AM on December 9, 2014


This is the first article I've ever seen that explains what exactly a flat white is supposed to be.

Did it? I read the thing twice, and I still can't find the part where it actually spells-out what a damned flat-white is, exactly. As in, "This is how you make it". The article seems to breathlessly bounce between latte, cappuccino and flat-white almost interchangeably but never really spells it out. Wetter foam? Less foam? Mixed in? More milk? Hotter? It never really says. I kind of come away with the feeling that it's a latte, but not really, cause it has wet foam, but not exactly.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:26 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


You can pry my black Americano from my over caffeinated, dead, shaking hands.
posted by msbutah at 10:35 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


This has been a Vancouver thing for some time, no?

Another example of sci-fi creating a future. Gibson has been on flat whites for years now.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:35 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


All these variations, cappu's, lattes, flat-whites, etc. all seem to be from the same book: "How To Drink Coffee When You Hate Coffee".
posted by Chitownfats at 10:36 AM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Perhaps the narrow font made it hard for people to see the description of a flat white, so I'll quote it here for deliciousness.
With a flat white, the star of the show is a very specific stratum of the steamed milk, the luscious microfoam that lies between the steamed milk below and the big bubbles of stiff foam above when a barista riles up a pitcher of milk with a steam wand. This microfoam, which has the sleek, smooth look of latex paint, is poured—not spooned—from a height into a double espresso, ensuring a whole cup full of silky, milky coffee goodness that’s kind of like a stronger latte or a wetter, hotter cappuccino, but is also not quite either.
posted by Nelson at 10:37 AM on December 9, 2014


If you are looking for a real change to your cappacino or macchiato, try using whole really goaty goat milk (ie. NOT the one at Trader Joe's, tastes just like cow milk). Honestly, I prefer the goat milk coffee drinks I can make at home to almost any cafe in Portland.
posted by Corduroy at 10:42 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Can we not make this into a milk vs. no milk squabble? That's petty, immature, and uninteresting. Drink your coffee as you fucking please and keep your damn opinions to yourself.
posted by blue t-shirt at 10:44 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


About time. I can't believe it took so long for flat whites to reach the US. It's like the killer app for coffee
posted by Bwithh at 10:50 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"even the National Coffee Association hasn’t begun tracking it yet.

“It’s just so new, we don’t have anything on it,” NCA spokesman Joseph DeRupo says, confessing he hasn’t even tried one yet."


*winces, sharp intake of breath*
Dude, what are you doing?
posted by Bwithh at 10:55 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


“It’s like a cappuccino, except that instead of a top layer of flavorless, airy, milky foam, it’s a velvety, dense foam that is mixed evenly through the drink,”

Having lived in Milan, this to me is simply a description of exactly what cappuccino is supposed to be. The milky foam in Italy is always fully integrated with the coffee, never a floating 'lid'. It is also served at a gently warm kind of temperature. You can sip heartily from the moment you receive the cup with no danger of scalding. Finally, it doesn't taste bitter either. It was great stuff.
posted by colie at 10:59 AM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


With a flat white, the star of the show is a very specific stratum of the steamed milk, the luscious microfoam that lies between the steamed milk below and the big bubbles of stiff foam above when a barista riles up a pitcher of milk with a steam wand.
This is just a confusion, though, as far as this ex-barista is concerned. If you're doing it right, there aren't any big bubbles of foam. Which is why Blue Bottle can just nod and give the flat white orderer a cappuccino--because to people who don't suck at foaming milk, flat white just seems to be code for "I'd like a milk-based espresso drink in these proportions, and don't fuck up the milk please." (Just like "latte, extra hot" codes "I don't like how you regularly make drinks, please scald my milk or I will send it back for being tepid.")

I'm willing to find out that there's a real distinction, but it isn't there in that description
posted by felix grundy at 11:02 AM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Blue Bottle Coffee director of training Michael Phillips, who was the 2010 World Barista Champion, says that when a customer asks a Blue Bottle barista for a flat white (and it’s only Aussies and Kiwis who ask for them, he says), the protocol is to not make a fuss, but to serve a modern American cappuccino, which he says it “incredibly similar” to the flat whites you’ll get in, say, New Zealand.

“We’ll simply say, ‘Absolutely!’ but we’ll make them a drink that’s pretty much our cappuccino,” he says. “And if they get the drink and say, ‘No, no, no, that’s not a flat white,’ we’ll work with them on it. But in general, they get it and say, ‘This is the best flat white I’ve had in the States.’”


YUP.

This is why I haven't really gotten on the Flat White bandwagon. If you like third wave cappuccinos and macchiatos, its only the slightest bit different. I think of the Flat White as a cap-sized macchiato.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 11:16 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


So what you do is, you nab one of them no-sugar-added hot cocoa packets, and you put it in your coffee mug along with three splendas. Then you fill it up from the giant vacuum thermos, and if you play your card right, it might actually be still sort of hot. If they just made it and it's actually hot for real, plunk in an ice cube from the break room where the ice machine is on the way back to your desk. Hit it with a dropper full of liquid B-complex vitamins once you settle down, and arrange the fish oil and ibuprofin tablets in a neat row.

"Whatcha got there?"
"Flat White. It's what fancy people from Austria or New Seaworld drink when they're this hungover on a Wednesday."
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:18 AM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


All this talk of doing things properly, the correct way, the way one is supposed to do them, the way things are supposed to taste, debates about what is (and is not) an Americano ...

Is there, in fact, an authority on such things? Is there an American Kennel Club of coffee, a Académie française of cappuccino?
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:19 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]




Is there, in fact, an authority on such things?

There will be one in Italy. The price of an espresso in a cafe is actually regulated by the government there.
posted by colie at 11:23 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry but, as an Australian who just spent four months travelling around the United States, Americans have no right to participate in a discussion about what constitutes good coffee

That goes for beer too.
posted by smithsmith at 11:30 AM on December 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


Were these 4 months travelling in America spent in 1978? If so, I would agree with you. Otherwise...
posted by entropicamericana at 11:38 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


It sounds like a bucket of paint.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:40 AM on December 9, 2014


No, but they involved travelling to areas other than New York, Portland and San Francisco.
posted by smithsmith at 11:40 AM on December 9, 2014


I ordered a flat white from an Italian barista in Wellington (nz) the other week. He replied in an endearing Italian accent, "What is this flat white bullsheet? Everyone today ees ordering the flat white. You can no have flat white! You have espresso, or you have cappuccino, but it is not breakfast time so you get an espresso!" And then he made me an espresso.

And then his boss came over, booted him off the counter, apologised ("He just started this morning. He's only been in nz a week ") and made me my flat white.
posted by lollusc at 11:48 AM on December 9, 2014 [42 favorites]


Sounds like from the article that many (not all) fancy US coffee shops are ripping off their customers by saying their regular cappuccino or whatever is same as flat white
posted by Bwithh at 11:55 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, but they involved travelling to areas other than New York, Portland and San Francisco.

Oh, right, the rest of us all drink Bud Light and Freeze-dried Taster's Choice. All of us.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


That goes for beer too.

You couldn't have been trying too hard if you couldn't find good beer in the US.
posted by octothorpe at 11:57 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Bwithh, that gets to the heart of my question--who says what a flat white is? Who says it's not a regular cappuccino or whatever?
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:58 AM on December 9, 2014


Your favorite coffee sucks
posted by Corduroy at 11:59 AM on December 9, 2014


Oh, right, the rest of us all drink Bud Light and Freeze-dried Taster's Choice. All of us.

You couldn't have been trying too hard if you couldn't find good beer in the US.


Gees, guys. Don't get so parochial. Of course there were good beers and good coffees to be had in America. I just don't get your weird and creepy obsessions with IPAs and filtered (through someone's armpit I presume) coffee and "cream".

Add self-effacing diffidence to the list of things Americans don't do well.
posted by smithsmith at 12:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'd demand a Flat White as well if my country didn't have Half & Half.
posted by wcfields at 12:20 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


flat white just seems to be code for "I'd like a milk-based espresso drink in these proportions, and don't fuck up the milk please."

Bingo!

If a place has a flat white available, I'll always order that. Somehow Latte degenerated into: heat some milk and mix it with an espresso shot. Cappuccino became: Throw some foam on top.

For those places, Flat White means: Make me a coffee drink like you're supposed to. It is superfluous at good coffee places where it basically means: Make me a short latte.
posted by vacapinta at 12:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is where I admit my favourite coffee-flavoured beverage is Lidl's Winter Cappuccino, which is only like 7% freeze-dried coffee and mostly whey and sugar and cinnamon flavouring, isn't it?

fuck, it is so good.

And already sold out at my local. I could only hoard two containers of it this year.

And one's already empty.

I'm heartbroken.

posted by Katemonkey at 12:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


sooo...some variation of coffee and milk? again?

groundbreaking.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just don't get your weird and creepy obsessions with IPAs and filtered (through someone's armpit I presume) coffee and "cream"

Coffee fills a social function in the US akin to Tea in the UK. It is a drink you can keep drinking and drinking in a social setting or over a long breakfast without becoming over-caffeinated so it traditionally has been weak. It's not that hard to understand.
posted by vacapinta at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


What is nice about a "flat white" is that it has an English name that makes sense.

All these people across the world (and Germans are probably the worst) using Italian words in strange and confusing ways should be fined. Or maybe pillaged. It's not that I don't enjoy your coffee, guys, it's just that I never know what I will get.

And btw, coffee with hot milk after 11 is not a good thing. A small splash, as in a macchiato, can be nice. If you are hungry.
posted by mumimor at 12:37 PM on December 9, 2014


thanks for this thread, it reminded me to buy a ticket for the big western 2015 competition in Long Beach.

"It is superfluous at good coffee places where it basically means: Make me a short latte" Yes yes yes.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:40 PM on December 9, 2014


I have a theory as to why coffee in this city tastes so resolutely awful
It is completely possible to find excellent coffee in London, Workshop Coffee in Marylebone for example. It can take a bit of work to locate the good coffee and sometimes involves arduous travel, especially if you reside in the coffee desert of NW.

Thank goodness I'm now back in New Zealand where the Flat White Act 2012 has made it illegal for any house to be more than 50 metres from a cafe, and new houses must be built with plumbed-in espresso machines, with mandatory barista training in primary schools.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 12:41 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I hope that one day I will be able to visit the USA and order a "strong long black" without getting strange looks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:45 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


So . . . what is the difference between a flat white and a properly made cappuccino? This sounds to me like antipodeanese for "non-shitty cappuccino."
posted by slkinsey at 12:54 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


saw a show that Jack had a sinus infection. The flat white stripes..
posted by shockingbluamp at 1:22 PM on December 9, 2014




Oh, right, the rest of us all drink Bud Light and Freeze-dried Taster's Choice. All of us.

You couldn't have been trying too hard if you couldn't find good beer in the US.

Gees, guys. Don't get so parochial. Of course there were good beers and good coffees to be had in America. I just don't get your weird and creepy obsessions with IPAs and filtered (through someone's armpit I presume) coffee and "cream".


As an American living in Australia the last four years, I will get up on Edwin T. Starbucks' coffee table in my cowboy boots and tell him straight out that Australian coffee is the best goddamn coffee in the world.

That being said, as a beer nerd American living in Australia these last four years, I tell my American friends that Australian beer has a higher floor than America (e.g., VB > Bud Light), but a much, much lower ceiling (e.g., Bell's Two Hearted >>> Feral Hop Hog, which is consistently voted Australia's top craft beer).

That being said again, if beer has an aspirational and metaphorical terroir, nothing in the world tastes so much like where it's from* than Stone & Wood's Pacific Ale. That's Byron Bay surf and sunshine in a bottle, mates. Beautifully evocative of that coastal paradise.

*I'd also accept the argument that Old Milwaukee tastes a lot like Milwaukee.
posted by GamblingBlues at 1:35 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


This has been a Vancouver thing for some time, no?

Another example of sci-fi creating a future. Gibson has been on flat whites for years now.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:35 AM on December 9
[1 favorite +] [!]


Commonwealth 1 USA 0

In his 2014 novel, The Peripheral, Gibson also predicted that cronuts would go mainstream in the near future. This turned out to be absolutely right because Dunkin Donuts rolled out cronuts later that year!!!! I am not even making any of this up in the slightest.
posted by Bwithh at 1:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Back in the day, I worked at Starbucks and we made proper drinks. Very shortly after I left they got one of those push button machines and haven't made proper foam since. The scourge spread, and now people think that the "big bubbles" is proper foam and it's nearly impossible to get a decent coffee anywhere. If the flat white can bring me back some good foam, I will be in its debt.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:55 PM on December 9, 2014


I welcome this export. I did think the only reason coffee is anywhere near decent in Australia is due to the mass immigration from Italy post WWII.

Still have nightmares about trying to get a decent coffee in Chicago in 2006. And don't get me started on whatever the hell it was I was served in New Orleans.

Thankfully I have my coffee with milk so my absent minded requests for a flat white just got me bemused looks. Instead of asking for a long black which I presume would have gotten me stabbed.
posted by arha at 2:11 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


That being said, as a beer nerd American living in Australia these last four years, I tell my American friends that Australian beer has a higher floor than America (e.g., VB > Bud Light), but a much, much lower ceiling (e.g., Bell's Two Hearted >>> Feral Hop Hog, which is consistently voted Australia's top craft beer).

Happy to concede that, having tasted some amazing local craft beers on my travels through the States, although I actively sought them out for the most part.

Just a little gentle competitive ribbing on my part, which, as as a long-term guest here, you'll know is all done with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
posted by smithsmith at 2:16 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Kattullus: If you ask for a short cappuccino most Starbucks will make you a proper cappuccino. They're not bad and were my go to drink when life washed me ashore a Starbucks.

Yes, this. And then everyone looks at you funny when you pick up your miniature 8oz drink from next to someone's Venti monstrosity.

I am a smallish person. My hands fit around this tiny off-menu cup just fine, thank you, and drinking 20 ounces of anything makes me feel kind of sloshy inside.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


But this line: "a macchiato is kind of a latte in reverse, with the espresso added to the milk" is dead wrong. That is an abomination.
For example, in Western Australia, this is almost always a double shot latte. If you serve the drink this way, the majority of your customers will get what they want, though you’re always going to disappoint a few.

The easiest way to take an order for a long macc in [Western] Australia is to ask the customer whether they would like it topped up. If the customer gives you a weird look, you might predict that they are after something completely different…

Let’s look at a macchiato. It’s an Italian word meaning stain or mark. Keeping in mind the huge espresso drinking culture in Italy, it’s safe to translate that a macchiato is an espresso with a little bit (stain) of milk. How much milk? Hmmm, well, I would say a dash. Some might say a splash, cold, warm, spoonful, foamy — it’s open to interpretation, it’s basically just a little bit of milk. My preference is a dash of hot milk, which smoothes out any edge to the espresso and adds a bit of body and sweetness.
Fortunately, that seems to be a problem specific to WA. Since moving to Melbourne I've never been asked about "topping up" a macchiato—they just make it properly, with a stain of milk.
posted by robcorr at 2:31 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Australian here. This article is insane. 'Latest Aussie invention'? The flat white has been around for decades. What are you people going to discover next? Fire? The Wheel?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:43 PM on December 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


Perhaps this extensive coffee infographic will help, via Pop Chart Labs.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:50 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Perhaps this extensive coffee infographic will help, via Pop Chart Labs.

Ha, I have never in my life seen a latte with only four ounces of milk. And their cappuccino is second wave style, in which there's a distinct layer of foam over milk. Third wave cappuccinos are a double ristretto (short) shot of espresso and foamy milk. They should not be larger than eight ounces. Flat whites are milkier, at least every time I've seen them in London. Every time I ordered a capp and my boyfriend ordered a flat white, they came in the same size cup, but the flat white was heavier, i.e. more milk.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:58 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


As an American in Australia I find that the U.S. and Australian coffee cultures are simply not intersectional. The Americans I know who like strong black coffee (or really, anything not a froofy Starbucks drink) hate Australian-style coffee, and Australians (as seen in this thread) think American-style coffee is abhorrent. As a tea drinker with no dog in the fight, I find it entertaining trying to help someone from one country order a coffee they can stomach in the other country. But it is really interesting to me how this is evidenced by the fact that Starbucks has utterly failed here. I think the only ones in Sydney (which I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand) are in the CBD just for the tourists.
posted by olinerd at 2:59 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


What are you people going to discover next? Fire? The Wheel?

"This 'fire' sounds suspiciously like the sun, which is why I'm not jumping on the whole 'fire' bandwagon."

"An Aussie asked me for a wheel, so I gave him a sled, which I'm pretty sure is exactly the same. He said it was the best wheel he's had in the US. I'm sure he wasn't just being polite, or sarcastic."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:00 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the flat white was invented by baristas that couldn't be arsed balancing the foam quantities when making a pair of lattes.

Also, lattes are popular because they taste okay even if the barista fucks up the shot.
posted by um at 3:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


But it is really interesting to me how this is evidenced by the fact that Starbucks has utterly failed here. I think the only ones in Sydney (which I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand) are in the CBD just for the tourists.

Actually, Starbucks has recently entirely given up in Australia - their few remaining stores were licenced out to the group that runs 7-Eleven in Australia.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:04 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


That coffee chart is pretty but a nightmare to actually use. Whoever "designed" it should be forced to drink nothing but drip Folgers for a year as punishment.
posted by mr. manager at 3:11 PM on December 9, 2014


That coffee chart is pretty but a nightmare to actually use.

Yeah, I know. But it's really pretty. They seem to go for aesthetics rather than utility.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:16 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


lollusc, where?
posted by ddd at 3:16 PM on December 9, 2014


As an Aussie, I can confirm that a flat white is just fucking coffee with milk. Coffee people are awful. Burn it all to the ground.
posted by Jimbob at 3:19 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I ordered a flat white from an Italian barista in Wellington (nz) the other week. He replied in an endearing Italian accent, "What is this flat white bullsheet? Everyone today ees ordering the flat white. You can no have flat white! You have espresso, or you have cappuccino, but it is not breakfast time so you get an espresso!" And then he made me an espresso.

There is an Italian place of great renown up the road from my house, a local institution, that is famed for its crabbiness. They have a sign:

NO SOY
NO SKIM
NO LIGHT
JUST MILK


The FUCK YOU is implied. Great coffee though.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:36 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


That is a coffee culture I can get behind, red thoughts. Good on 'em. Skinny soy latte drinkers will be first against the bloody wall.
posted by Jimbob at 3:40 PM on December 9, 2014


Coffee people are awful. If no one ever spends a second discussing coffee again it'll still be several hundred thousand hours too late for us to cure cancer. I say this as a coffee lover. Everyone please shut up already and drink whatever. No one cares. I'm just glad I was born two hundred years too late to put up with tedious competitive bickering about the hippest new tea blends, milk proportions, milk order, spoon shape and widdershins/turnwise stir motion.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:57 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


That is a coffee culture I can get behind, red thoughts. Good on 'em. Skinny soy latte drinkers will be first against the bloody wall.

Yeah, if you ask for decaf I think they stab you in the throat with a dessert spoon.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Second Cup has a jump on Starbucks in offering flat whites in Canada. I haven't tried them; I much prefer brewed coffee to espresso beverages, which is good, because I'm also way too cheap to pay for espresso beverages.

this review likes it
posted by jb at 4:46 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


lollusc, where?

At Te Papa.
posted by lollusc at 4:55 PM on December 9, 2014


I always assumed the flat white was the posh (aka non-instant) version of coffee with milk but with none of that frothy stuff that gets stuck in your mustache.
posted by kjs4 at 5:41 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The place to really discover the flat white would have been Auckland about 15 years ago (NOT Wellington, pacé Infinite Jest in the other thread; Wellington coffee's too bitter).

"THE STYLE WAS DEVELOPED AND STANDARDISED IN WELLINGTON" IS KIND OF A GIVEAWAY, DON'T YOU THINK? ;-)
posted by Pink Frost at 5:46 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Australian flat white snob here, but I don't think I've ever had a coffee as good as the sweet hot milky garbage I had at a Dunkin Donuts in the Chicago loop just after I'd gotten off the subway from the airport and was so fucking cold my ears were ringing and I was seriously afraid for my life.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 5:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


As others have mentioned flat whites have been a thing for decades, but to my mind they started as the exact opposite of a coffee-snob thing. They were for someone who just wanted a "coffee with some milk in it like they had at home, and none of your fancy frothy cafe rubbish". So a shot of espresso with some heated, but not frothed milk.

Over time some cafes started to learn how to actually steam milk properly (espresso machines were in wide use in Australia much earlier than in the US, but most operators had no idea of what to do with them) and in those places there is very little difference between the milk in a latte and a flat white). But flat white to me still has connotations of my grand parents just wanting "coffee with milk".
posted by markr at 5:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


But flat white to me still has connotations of my grand parents just wanting "coffee with milk".

This, exactly. A "flat white" is just the default "coffee with milk". A "long black" is just the default "coffee without milk". Real easy. There's nothing to see here, people. Move along.
posted by Jimbob at 6:04 PM on December 9, 2014


nicolas léonard sadi carnot: That's what I love about this town - context is EVERYTHING!
posted by Chitownfats at 6:10 PM on December 9, 2014


I actually don't drink coffee much anymore since it makes me jittery and gives me the runs. so I start my day with Gatorade, which hydrates me nicely with minimal side effects. Maybe the coffee thing that began back in the 90's is finally starting to fade.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on December 9, 2014


Ok, Gatorade with milk or without??
posted by Chitownfats at 6:12 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


take a wild guess
posted by jonmc at 6:13 PM on December 9, 2014


Is it fair trade organic locally sourced ethical seasonal Gatorade, or are you a complete bastard?
posted by Jimbob at 6:16 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


So maybe it just boils down to the vessel the coffee and milk comes in.

Latte = tall glass mug with handle
Flat white = short glass, no handle
Cafe au lait = a bowl
Cafe con leche = coffee cup and saucer

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by peripathetic at 6:18 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Flat white = short glass, no handle

No. There's a damn handle. It's just a cup of fucking coffee with milk.

*angry*
posted by Jimbob at 6:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Australian?!

O

NO

U

DINT
posted by Sebmojo at 6:28 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The place to really discover the flat white would have been Auckland about 15 years ago (NOT Wellington, pacé Infinite Jest in the other thread; Wellington coffee's too bitter

why is this thread so full of wrong

why
posted by Sebmojo at 6:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's just a cup of fucking coffee with milk.

That's like saying a unicorn is just a horse with a pointy bit. All the parts are there, but it's missing the magic.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 6:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Gamblingblues, not sure where you're drinking but it's definitely not at my bar, where we pretty much always have something on tap stronger than Hop Hog. (Checks website, oh yes by quite some margin)

Hop Hog though is basically the platonic ideal of an Australian style IPA. It is everything to all men and women whatever the season.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:36 PM on December 9, 2014


Barrista, imma let you finish, but I just wanted to say that strong hot Nescafé with lots of milk and sugar African style is the hottest coffee jam right now.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


clvrmnky, some friends from Singapore and Malaysia introduced me to the wonder that is Kopi, which is made with sweetened condensed milk.

Also, Milo is apparently hugely popular in Malaysia for some reason.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:53 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


because it's made with the same crack sweetened condensed milk XD
posted by cendawanita at 7:18 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


(possibly also the local version is either maltier or chocolatier, but I'm only speculating.)

Kopi tastes strong, but it really isn't, but the way the (usually liberica - the kind grown locally) beans are roasted is why it tastes so good, because the beans are practically caramelized, as they're roasted with margarine and sugar. all colonial-era ingredients.
posted by cendawanita at 7:20 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pssst. You can get tubes of sweetened condensed milk with instant coffee already in it. Just suck on one of those, and help put arrogant useless baristas out of a job.
posted by Jimbob at 7:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Horlicks with heavy cream is also good.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:27 PM on December 9, 2014


"And don't get me started on whatever the hell it was I was served in New Orleans."

That would be chicory, and that would be anathema.
posted by Chitownfats at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2014


I just remembered ... I had a paper route as a kid, began at around 4:30 in the morning. Midway through my deliveries I'd stop at a divey working man's grill and the waitress wouldn't serve me "a cuppa Joe" but would instead bring me what she called a "Boston coffee". About 3/4ths cream and 1/4th coffee. Saturated to just near suspension with sugar, it would become my favorite drink for a couple of years (the "pre- diabetes" years).
posted by Chitownfats at 7:45 PM on December 9, 2014


Pssst. You can get tubes of sweetened condensed milk with instant coffee already in it. Just suck on one of those, and help put arrogant useless baristas out of a job.

And who even needs 'food'? A pointless waste, I say. Just give me a goodly tot of generic nutrient slurry every day or two, that will suffice. Just intubate me and pour it down my throat. Chewing is for chumps!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:48 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Have you tried switching to decaf, Jimbob?

Artisanally-roasted, fair trade, yirgacheffe, microfoamed, pour-over decaf?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:28 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


*vibrates*
posted by Jimbob at 8:57 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ok, so when I moved to Australia I was quickly educated in the True Way of Coffee (Melbourne style, natch). It took only one sneering waiter in a Brunswick Street cafe to tell me my coffee vocabulary was all wrong, and the beverage I was served was unlike what I had previously thought of as coffee. Initially I could only drink lattes, and even they were too strong. But eventually they got to seem too milky. I started drinking long blacks.

I went to Austria and had the hardest time finding decent coffee. I settled reluctantly for an Americano, but it was a decidedly inferior beast.

Then I came back to NY not just on holiday, but to work. Coffee was suddenly not something that could be gotten wrong, as it made the difference between being able to function and, well, not. I was working in Midtown and didn't have time to get to Little Italy for a proper coffee on my break. In the end, what got me through was a triple-shot espresso from Starbucks. It was almost good enough.

Now black coffee is too acidic for me so I'm back to milky coffees. Flat whites are my drink of choice, not least because they come in a cup with a bloody handle instead of a stupid hot glass. I have really abdicated my role as a coffee snob. Sometimes I drink instant. By choice.

And yet here I am, back in the US again, bewildered once more by this strange beverage that is served in lieu of coffee. I'm sure good coffee is achievable - my sister-in-law makes a reasonable facsimile - but I just don't understand how you can order a coffee when at a restaurant and not be asked what kind. You just get a cup of dark brown water to which you add white stuff and/or sugar. Even at the dodgiest cafe I've been to in rural Tasmania, they still made me a great flat white.

I guess it comes down to different default versions of coffee. In the US it seems to be weak and nasty drip filter coffee. In Australia, it's some variant on espresso. Sure, you can find nasty Australian coffee - a burnt long black is not an experience I want to have again - and good US coffee. It's just the default is different.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:05 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I remember the change from "tea in little metal teapots with a teabag" to "every country service station has an espresso machine. It was really amazingly quick. When I was a kid, espresso machines were only in Lygon St, and they were A Big Deal.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:09 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would like to apologise to Wellington coffee culture. What I did yesterday was wrong and I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. I love you all. But it felt so good!
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:19 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Flat whites available seemingly everywhere in England and in Hong Kong in my experience, plus over the last couple of years a growing number of hipster-approved places in Toronto. I assume the first two are due to a diffusion of Australian/NZ expats, but I expect the latter is a 'third hand' byproduct of the 'second hand' New York trend.
posted by modernnomad at 11:42 PM on December 9, 2014


I have really abdicated my role as a coffee snob. Sometimes I drink instant. By choice.

Yeah in all honesty, this is how it is with me. I like coffee. Cafe coffee? Great. I order something different every time. Brewed coffee at a conference or restaurant? Fine with me. Instant freez dried coffee in the break room at work? It does the job just fine.

The best coffee I ever had was a mug of instant International Roast with three sugars and UHT milk after hiking half a day through sleet in western Tasmania, water boiled in a copper pot on a camp stove.

Poseurs who insist on Their Exact Specific Beverage From The One Barista At The Hip Cafe Two Blocks Away don't actually like coffee. They are weak. They are pathetic. If they want perfectly reproducible drinks they should hammer down on the Mountain Dew.
posted by Jimbob at 1:25 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks to everyone in this thread I think I now understand Flat Whites.
They were all over the place here (London) in the last few years, but being generally a black coffee drinker I could not figure out how they were different to any of the other variations of coffee + milk. Now I think I more or less do.
Given the exciting variations in the world of coffee (vietnamese style, turkish chewy coffee and the aforementioned ambrosia of the gods which is palm oil margarine roasted kopi-O or ipoh white coffee, Red Tie, Yuanyang, Café de olla {which is made in a clay pot}) it's really odd to see the specific variant of steamed and served with milk be so endlessly endlessly varied that we end up debating how many air bubbles in the milk can dance on the head of a pin. Surely we can be more inventive?

I'd would love to be able to get a decent kopi-O in London, I have yet to succeed but apparently there's a place in an alleyway off Macclesfield Street that might do it. I've not had time to check out yet.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:52 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I realise that it seems posier than anything written so far, but the only cup of coffee that was so nice that I actually stopped and said "Wow, that's an incredibly nice cup of coffee" was in a small cafe in Kyoto. As they only offered coffee with milk or cream and coffee without I couldn't say whether there was anything particular about the methodology. Perhaps it was just jetlag.

I do spend a bit over the odds (in time and effort) to walk up to a particular shop* to get coffee beans every month, but accept that the general ritual and routine of it is what makes me happy as much as anything else. Although it does usually taste very good indeed.

*Algerian Coffee Stores on Old Compton Street. I get whatever is on offer each month, not so much for the discount as the variety. I have to go tonight, actually.
posted by Grangousier at 3:24 AM on December 10, 2014


I never thought to look for Singaporean Kopi in London! omg brilliant!

I never drank flat whites in NZ because they were the domain of my in-laws and give me my latte any day thank you. But now I'm in Europe where coffee snobbishness is everywhere including Starbucks and lattes are the drink of the peasant class, I'm discovering flat whites for the first time as a form of caffeinated nostalgia. There are way too many kiwi cafes in London. It's a little creepy. And I love it.
posted by tracicle at 6:30 AM on December 10, 2014


Ha! I invented the Flat White years ago with my Macys Xmas gift of a Krupps espresso maker. This unit couldn't make the airy & fluffy foam.

As I consumed more from this cheap working man's espresso machine, I realized the cappuccino's airy-foam-that-sticks-to-the-end-of-your-nose is only a decadent bourgeois European coffee drinking trick. Make mine flat white.
posted by xtian at 6:38 AM on December 10, 2014


Even at third-wave shops in Germany you have to specify "espresso macchiato" or you might get this gigantic milky concoction.

This tripped me up when I first visited Berlin.
posted by acb at 6:58 AM on December 10, 2014


Back in the day, I worked at Starbucks and we made proper drinks. Very shortly after I left they got one of those push button machines and haven't made proper foam since.

Apparently Starbucks is now planning to jump on the specialty coffee bandwagon in their most recent attempt to be groovy and down with the kids. (What happened to their plan to do up some of their outlets with mismatched rescued furniture and stencil-art logos a few years ago, by the way?)

Anyway, if Starbucks do succeed in muscling into single-origin coffee, the hipsters will need somewhere to go. As such, the time could right for the next trend: Normcore Coffee. Imagine a generic-looking place with the vibe of an insurance office canteen in Des Moines circa 1982, whose only offering is coffee from an electric urn.
posted by acb at 7:06 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cafe au lait = a bowl

I've heard of a café (in Brisbane, I think) calling this a “Betty Blue”, after the French independent film in which such a beverage features in a scene.
posted by acb at 7:08 AM on December 10, 2014


In North America a "macchiato" is normally an espresso macchiato but it's not like that in other parts of the world.

In Kosovo, where my daughter lives, a "makiato" is what I'd call a capuccino. Ask for a cappuccino, and you'll get a makiato with chocolate sauce squeezed over the top.

And I have to say that the cafes in Pristina serve consistently the best coffee I've had anywhere; I can't recall ever getting a bad one.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:29 AM on December 10, 2014


My Dad: Why would you ruin perfectly good coffee with milk?
Me: The same reason I ruin perfectly good cake with icing.
posted by Sparx at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's been amusing to read how people get tripped up when moving between cultures by different terms for essentially the same thing, and same terms for slightly different things. It's a good reminder how there's really no standardization for those sorts of things, and one person's café au lait may be another person's latte. It's probably better to stick to something universal everyone understands, like football.

No, the other football.

No, not that, the other other football. The proper kind.

No, not that either! Football, goddamnit!
posted by Kattullus at 2:16 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Who knew I was making a flat white when all along I thought I was just making shitty lattes on my Breville.
posted by savvysearch at 7:10 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Congrats, you're a barista!
posted by thylacinthine at 8:56 PM on December 10, 2014


My understanding, as a lover of flat white's when I'm in Oz, is that a lot of the flavour difference is that the milk they use in Oz is like 15% MF compared to the 2% you'll get at most coffee places in North America.
Then they don't burn the fuck out of the milk when steaming it.
And, finally, they pour it over a good espresso shot in a 6 OZ cup, not some 32 OZ barrel like most coffee shops offer that you have to lift with your knees so you don't put your back out.

If you do those three things, you'll get a hell of a nice coffee.
posted by drinkmaildave at 11:46 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


If that milk fat is something important to you, you can always order your drink with half and half.
posted by Night_owl at 8:44 PM on December 11, 2014


In the spirit of coffee nitpickery shown so far in this thread:


I never thought to look for Singaporean Kopi in London!

MALAYSIAN kopi.
posted by awfurby at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2014




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