Flat White-the espresso drink of disputed origin

Not a latte and not a cappuccino, the flat white is a unique beverage all its own from, depending on who you believe, Australia or New Zealand.

What is a Flat White?

A Flat White is a coffee drink made with espresso. Layered on top of the espresso is a layer of foamy milk, The milk is frothed so it has small beads of microfoam rather than large bubbles. The foam should be in a layer thin enough so that the espresso slightly mixes with the milk, creating a pleasant mix of white with brown tinting.

The Flat White is most similar to a latte. However, the Flat White has less foamed milk that a latte. A cappuccino, on the other hand, has a lighter foamed milk with larger bubbles while the Flat White’s foam has a more velvety texture.

Flat White origin story

Flat Whites & a cookie at Midnight Espresso, Wellington (photo: Brent Petersen)

Where was the Flat White invented? Well, that’s up for discussion. If you’re a Kiwi, you’ll likely say it was invented at Auckland at Cafe DKD. Or, in Wellington at Bar Bodega when a failed attempt to make a latte resulted in a new caffeinated bevvie .

But, it looks like the Aussies might have it on the Kiwis when it comes to the original Flat White. In 1983, a cafe in Sydney called Miller’s Treat had something described as a “flat white coffee.” By 1985, Moors Espresso Bar in Sydney had the Flat White on their menu. The owner said he had been serving it in his native Queenstown since the 60’s.

Where to get a Flat White?

These days, any fancy coffee shop in North America or Europe will have the Flat White on the menu. Heck, even Starbucks has a Flat White.

Maybe it’s just my bad luck, but I’ve yet to find a good Flat White outside of New Zealand (I’ve yet to visit Australia). I’m sure they’re out there, I just haven’t found them yet. So, I tend to stick to lattes and cappuccinos (made with oat milk, if available).

In Auckland, Espresso Workshop roasts their own beans and has a single origin espresso blend that makes a lovely Flat White.

As for Wellington, Cuba Street is the main tourist avenue in Windy Welly. There’s several good coffee shops on Cuba Street including Midnight Espresso and Fidel’s. Havana Coffee Works is a great roaster and you’ll find many of the best coffee shops in Wellington use their beans.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, PortoSintraMonsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Author: Brent