illuminate

The Flat White

The “Flat White” is about to be all the rage. In the U.S. at least.

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It’s been all the rage overseas for years. I’ve found it in almost every country I’ve been to, especially in Europe, the Middle East & Oceania.

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I’ve even run across a few coffee-shops called “Flat White.” And they definitely lived up to the name.

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By now, you may be wondering what in the world a “flat white” is. I’ve certainly been asked this a lot, since I tweet & instagram it almost every time I find one. =)

Well, I’ll tell you this. It’s not a regular cappuccino. It’s not a latte. And it’s nothing that you are going to find at Starbucks (a few Starbucks overseas make them but they are horrible, as is to be expected.)

A “flat white” is like a smooth, velvety cappuccino.

To me, it’s the best “white coffee” drink I’ve ever had. Think of it as being between a capp & a latte.

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There are a few characteristics that make a flat white unique:

• 2 shots of espresso with a good layer of natural crema; a lighter roast (which has more flavor) is used instead of a dark, bitter roast most commonly found in modern espressos.

• (traditionally) served in a 5-6oz ceramic mug; it’s defined by it’s size & the vessel it’s served in. If it’s served in a much larger glass, then you’re stepping into latte world.

• micro-foam milk: creamier than steamed milk, yet thinner than regular foam…the goal is to steam & lightly foam the milk in a whirlpool fashion so that the milk & foam folds into a smooth, velvety cream with micro-bubbles that are the same size as the micro-bubbles of the crema (the top layer of your espresso).

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Think of a cappuccino as being made with steamed milk & a dollop of large, stiff foam sitting on top. Think of a latte as a much larger drink made mostly of steamed milk with a small amount of foam on top.

Then you have the flat white: 2 shots of espresso wrapped in creamy, velvety micro-foamed milk…the coffee & foam are one. The top layer is “flat” & melts with the crema, allowing the opportunity for latte art.

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HISTORY

Some say that flat white originated in New Zealand, while others claim Australia. Here’s a breakdown of the history, from what I’ve been able to piece together (so far):

• a flat white is really a true, traditional Italian cappuccino (what America knows as a cappuccino these days is a grossly burnt alteration from the Second Wave Coffee movement of the American Northwest in the 80s).

• after WWII, many Italians sought to start a new life in New Zealand & Australia. As espresso machines grew in popularity in the 1950s, this smooth, velvety version of the cappuccino was requested.

• in the 1980s, the term “flat white” was coined in Australia (along with other coffee names like “long black”); cafes in NZ & Oz started carrying it on their menus.

• starting in 2005, the flat white makes its way out of Oceania into the cafes of the UK; and then it starts to spread. By 2010, it’s introduced & marketed as an exciting new type of coffee drink in cafes around Europe, the Middle East & parts of Asia.

My first flat white was served to me in New Zealand in 2010, & I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. & they’re especially good in NZ because of the thick creamy dairy found down there.

In the past year, I have come across very few coffee-shops in America that have heard of this drink, & even fewer that have carried it.

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As is the way with everything, there are multiple interpretations of the flat white. I’ve had it served many different ways & in many different sizes. I welcome the variety, & I enjoy the conversations with the baristas I meet along the way.

There are some true artists out there.

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I don’t know why it’s taking so long for the flat white to reach America, but they are slowly & quietly becoming more & more popular by the day. Word is getting out. Before you know it, it will be all the rage. Just you wait! =)

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So what in the world does coffee have to do with creativity & worship?

More than you might think.

Don’t even get me started on how the Second & Third Wave Coffee movements parallel the recent trends in modern worship. I’ll save that for another article. ;)

Have any of you run across a flat white? If so, what was your experience? Do you think it’ll catch on in the States, as it has in other parts of the world?

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Remember to tip your barista!