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.


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.


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).


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.



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.


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! =)


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?



Remember to tip your barista!