There’s always been a certain rivalry between Australia and New Zealand, even when it comes to the origin of the controversial, silky coffee drink known as the flat white. Both countries claim to have created this fine brew, and while we might not be able to settle that debate, we can certainly delve into the rich history of this beloved beverage.
The Birth of the Flat White
The flat white’s history is a bit hazy, with both Australia and New Zealand claiming it as their invention. The term first appeared in Australia around the mid-1980s. The story goes that Alan Preston moved from Sydney to Queensland in 1985 and started a coffee shop named Moors Espresso Bar. Preston claims he invented the term “flat white” as a way to simplify the coffee menu. He wanted a term that would encapsulate the idea of a milky coffee without the froth and foam associated with a cappuccino.
On the other hand, New Zealand’s claim lies with Fraser McInnes, a barista at a well-known Wellington coffee shop named DKD Cafe. In 1989, McInnes claims he inadvertently created the flat white when the milk for a cappino failed to froth correctly. He served the drink anyway, and it became popular as a new style of coffee.
What Makes a Flat White?
A flat white is essentially an espresso-based coffee drink that contains a similar amount of coffee but less milk than a latte, and less foam than a cappuccino. A flat white is typically served in a smaller ceramic cup and features a higher ratio of coffee to milk, allowing the espresso’s flavor to shine through.
The secret of a great flat white lies in the steaming of the milk. The milk is steamed to create microfoam, which is velvety and smooth, creating a rich, creamy texture when poured over the espresso. The result is a beautifully balanced coffee drink where the espresso and milk complement each other rather than one overwhelming the other.
The Rise of the Flat White
The flat white remained a Down Under secret for many years, with only the most discerning international coffee lovers knowing of its existence. That began to change in the 2000s, as Antipodean coffee culture started spreading worldwide, especially in the UK and the USA.
The flat white started gaining recognition internationally in the late 2000s and early 2010s when big-name coffee chains began introducing it to their menus. In 2010, Starbucks started selling the flat white in their Australian stores before launching it in the USA and UK in 2015. This boosted the flat white’s popularity, and it soon became a staple on coffee menus worldwide.
The Legacy of the Flat White
Today, the flat white is a globally recognized coffee beverage. It’s the pride of Antipodean coffee culture and a testament to the influence of Australian and New Zealand coffee techniques worldwide.
In the end, whether the flat white was born in Australia or New Zealand might not matter as much as what it represents: a commitment to quality, an appreciation for balance, and a love for coffee that transcends borders. This creamy, smooth coffee drink has become a gift to coffee lovers around the world, and for that, we have our friends in the Southern Hemisphere to thank.
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