Before I moved to New Zealand, my partner lived with me for a while in Seattle. He’s a native Kiwi and had quite a bit of fun exploring the birthplace of Starbucks. He sneered when Starbucks started a campaign in Seattle in 2015 ‘introducing’ the Flat White. Introducing? He scoffed. New Zealand has had Flat Whites since the age of dinosaurs and created the Flat White, etc. etc. etc.
What is a Flat White, I asked? He would define a Flat White as espresso with steamed milk and no froth. But his answer isn’t nearly as eloquent as Wikipedia’s:
The beverage is prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk consisting of small, fine bubbles with a glossy or velvety consistency) over a shot of espresso. It is somewhat similar to the traditional 140 ml (5 imp fl oz) cappuccino or the latte although smaller in volume, therefore having a higher proportion of coffee to milk, and milk that is more velvety in consistency – allowing the espresso to dominate the flavour, while being supported by the milk.
Apparently you can also order a ‘very’ flat white that has absolutely no froth. The important part for my partner is that there shouldn’t be lots of froth. My stepdaughter and I hide our heads and sink into our seats in embarrassment if we go into a coffee shop and he orders a Flat White and it comes out with froth. We will quickly start scooping out the froth so that he doesn’t call the poor barista back and make them fix it. Some people take their froth VERY seriously J.
The Flat White at its root is just coffee with milk. That’s all. There are disputes about where the Flat White originated. Kiwis say it started in Wellington. Australians say it started there. But it is crazy common in New Zealand – it is served in all of the coffee shops and is the go-to drink for most people I know who drink coffee. At work, if we go to a coffee shop and don’t know what to order for a friend we just get a Flat White because you just can’t go wrong.
As an interesting tidbit, McDonald’s McCafe was founded in Melbourne, Australia. Wikipedia says that McCafe outlets generated 15% more revenue than a regular McDonalds and, by 2003, were the largest coffee shop brand in Australia and New Zealand! That is largely though because big chains aren’t as common here.
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