What Is A Flat White?

  • By: Scott
  • Date: May 17, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Flat whites are a type of coffee that has become the pinnacle of elitism for coffee connoisseurs. There have even been adverts mocking those who give flat whites an air of mystery. But with mockery and snobbery put to one side, very few people can explain what a flat white is.

Let’s scrap that nonsense today. We will explain what a flat white is and the difference between a flat white and other popular coffees.

What Is A Flat White?

Flat whites were designed as a “non-nonsense” option for coffee drinkers who like their beverage with steamed milk.

The idea is to create a strong taste of coffee with less milk than you’d find in a latte or cappuccino and the smallest amount of foam on top.

For the mathematical learners among you, that’s ⅓ coffee, ⅔ milk. The foam should have been created from the frothed milk, making a tiny topping.

The History Of A Flat White

In the 1980s, this new and consistent version of coffee started emerging around the Oceania continent. Some say that Australia came up with the beverage, others say New Zealand, but it could have simply evolved from both locations as both cultures tend to desire stronger flavours.

Wanting an espresso-based coffee but desiring the silky addition of milk, some people found that their only options were to have a lot of unnecessary froth or so much milk that it diluted the coffee flavour. Cappuccino ended up being this type of person’s go-to drink, but they would scoop out the froth.

In this part of the world, cappuccino foam would act like peaks on mountains instead of the rolling foam of a hillside that many of us would recognise. After a while, it became popular to ask the barrister for a “flatter” curve on the cappuccino. Over time the term changed to “flat cap” and then again to “flat white.”

Starbucks saw this growth in a new and popular coffee type and so added it to their North American stores in 2015. It was at this point that flat whites became mainstream.

The Difference Between A Cappuccino, A Latte, And A Flat White

We’ve been comparing flat whites to lattes and cappuccinos, but if you don’t know what separates them, then we might have confused you further. They are all espresso drinks with steamed milk and some variation of foam. Their main difference is to do with ratios.

Cappuccino

Cappuccinos are often a small drink, although you can buy them in large sizes. They are made with ⅓ espresso shot, ⅓ hot milk, and ⅓ foam from the milk. This creates a strong and smooth flavour from the milk and coffee, along with an additional bubbled texture and milk sweetness from the cappuccino.

To boost this sweetness, barristers often offer chocolate dusting on top.

Latte

Latte drinks favour the milky smoothness over a strong coffee taste. The additional milk dilutes the coffee flavours to create a more casual and less intense flavour. They are made with ¼ espresso shot, ¾ milk, and a light layering of foam residue on top.

It is also common for lattes to have sugary syrups added to their flavouring. Remember that the coffee taste in a latte is meant to be mild, but this additional flavour combined with the coffee taste elevates it.

Many coffee connoisseurs consider the latte to be too weak for their appetites, but we all enjoy the flavour in different ways. One person’s “too weak” is another person’s “just right.”

Flat White

We have already described what a flat white is, but now you can see how it compares to its more well-known counterparts. Like a cappuccino, the flat white has a strong coffee flavour, but like a latte, there isn’t a lot of milk foam layered on top.

As we said before, the flat white is the “no-nonsense” version of these two popular coffee styles.

However, although the flat white started out as a serious drink, it has begun to take on a new form. As with everything that stays in the popular limelight for too long, some coffee stores have started adding chocolate dustings, syrups, and other additions to the drink.

Why Are There Different Interpretations?

Of course, it’s not a crime to add a little flair to a classic, and every barista will have their own spin to add to their coffee, but many of you may have realised that some coffee shops mislabel their drinks.

A coffee shop that cares more about their cakes than their coffee will not teach their staff about how these styles are different.

If you want more from your coffee than a randomised amount of milk and foam, you should look for a shop that focuses on coffee more than anything else. These shops might add their own flair to the drink, but they will understand the original concept and will keep to it.

Gatekeeping

There are some in the coffee community that like to think their coffee knowledge is what sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. These people will criticise any flare, reinterpretation, or misunderstanding they can find. They are also the same people who have made it hard for those of us willing to learn.

A flat white shouldn’t have this air of mystery. It started off as a “no-nonsense” drink and, in recent years, has become the drink of those in the know.

We want to break down this gatekeeping community that has made people feel inferior and remind everyone that coffee is a drink that brings people together.

A flat white is a strong coffee – ⅓ espresso, ⅔ milk. That’s all.

Summary

As we have learned, coffee will adapt and move with the times. In another decade, the flat white might become unrecognisable, but for now, consider it to be a strong coffee with smooth milk and only a dash of foam.

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