I’ve always been an at-home coffee drinker. My dad makes excellent coffee, so I’ve always had his, and I started making my own once I left home. Compared to his coffee, a $4+ cappuccino seemed like a terrible joke, so if I ever went to get coffee with someone I’d order a small brewed coffee and pour lots of vanilla powder in it.
Then I found myself living in Australia and quickly learned they take their coffee seriously. And by quickly, I mean immediately. My first stop in Melbourne was a small coffee shop down Brunswick street. I asked for a small coffee, and the barista replied with “what type?”. I said a regular, and she replied with “yea, but what type?”. I searched my brain for the answer she wanted but only came up with, “Um, a small brewed coffee.” She laughed a little, asked me where I was from, and gave me a deliciously strong cappuccino on the house.
I began to order cappuccinos until one glorious day. While at lunch a friend she noticed I was incessantly freeing my cappuccino of all its froth and messily setting it on my napkin. She asked why I get cappuccinos if I don’t like froth, that’s apparently, like, their thing. I must have looked clueless because she took the liberty of ordering me a strong Flat White straight away.
It was love at first taste.
The Flat White originated in Australia and New Zealand, made its way to London, and is hopefully making its way to the US as I type this. It may seem like a simple drink but you notice the difference when you taste it.
It’s a single or double shot (double for me) topped with micro foam found at the bottom of the pitcher, instead of stiff froth. The milk used is steamed until it’s velvety and rich; not as milky as what’s used in caps and lattes. It’s also smaller than a cappuccino, but bigger than macchiato. And it’s almost always decorated with latte art. It’s perfection.
The best explanation I’ve found is: The cappuccino is the “Marge Simpson” of espresso-based drinks, with the milk whipped into a bubbly froth and placed on top of the espresso like a high Marge Simpson “bee-hive” do. The latte, on the other hand, has had a hair cut, but nonetheless, has enough froth left to top the drink off with a slight bit of teasing on top. The flat white, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of that volume on top, but rather has all that tease distributed throughout. – Espresso Coffee Snobs