If You're Tired Of Lattes, Try Sipping A Flat White

The latte has long held a place of familiarity and comfort in the wide world of coffee drinks. However, there's a new player in town gaining attention – the flat white. A 2023 National Coffee Association report reveals that while lattes are still America's top choice in espresso drinks with 18% of people preferring them, cappuccinos are not far behind at 15%, and the flat white is making a noteworthy entrance, capturing 5% of coffee lovers' hearts. This is quite impressive for a drink still relatively new to many in the U.S.

For those accustomed to the routine of ordering a latte or cappuccino at the local coffee shop, the flat white offers an intriguing alternative. It shares the fundamental elements of espresso and milk you're familiar with but brings a bolder flavor. Next time you find yourself at the counter, consider shifting out of autopilot mode and trying a flat white –- it just might awaken your taste buds with its vibrant coffee flavor.

Getting acquainted with the flat white

Although its origins are debated, the flat white is widely believed to have been born in either Australia or New Zealand. The story goes that an Australian barista named Alan Preston solidified the name for the drink after numerous customer requests for a "white coffee, flat" with steamed milk with espresso. Since that was a bit clunky-sounding, he started calling it a "flat white."

When you sip a well-made flat white, you'll taste bold espresso notes softened by the silkiness of steamed milk, perfectly balanced in a 1:3 milk-to-espresso ratio. To make the drink, a barista will blend a double shot of espresso (complete with rich espresso crema), with just the right amount of steamed milk. Layering the two creates a smooth layer of microfoam, sometimes adorned with latte art if you're lucky. The relatively minimal foam content in a flat white makes it adaptable to various milk types, even those that don't foam as well, including non-dairy options like oat or almond milk. 

Traditionally, a flat white is served in a small 5 to 6-ounce cup to ensure the espresso's robustness shines through. However, many mainstream coffee chains (yes, even Starbucks and Starbucks Reserve) often serve it in larger cups, sometimes exceeding 10 ounces. This can lead to a diluted flavor, tipping the scale towards a milkier drink and straying from the authentic flat white experience.

Comparing the flat white with its coffee cousins

Within the espresso drink family, each member boasts a distinct recipe and offers a unique coffee experience. Compared with the bold flat white with its high ratio of espresso to milk, lattes offer a milder taste. Prepared in an 8 to 12-ounce cup, a latte typically combines one to two shots of espresso with three to four times the amount of milk, finished with a light foam topping. This composition yields a creamier, smoother drink where the espresso's presence is noticeable but not dominant.

Cappuccinos, another popular choice in America, traditionally come in a smaller 6 to 8-ounce cup. The drink is crafted with a balanced mix of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam in a 1:3:2 ratio. This blend creates a coffee-forward beverage that is less milky than a latte but more frothy than a flat white.

Each espresso-based drink serves different tastes and preferences. Whether it's the robust and flavorful flat white, the velvety smoothness of a latte, or the frothy and rich cappuccino, there is a perfect choice for every coffee enthusiast. These variations cater to a wide spectrum of coffee lovers, each with its unique appeal and coffee experience, but don't be shy, give a flat white a try the next time you order a coffee.