I have a terrible imperialist American confession to make: when training new baristas in NYC, I often instructed them that “if someone orders a drink name you don’t recognize, like Gibraltar, Cortado, SG-120, or flat white, what they really want is two shots of espresso, lightly steamed milk and about 5.5oz total drink volume.” Because I believe they’re all pretty similar, drink size is the #1 determinant of flavor experience, and you’re never really going to make a flat white in NYC the way an Australian or Kiwi thinks of it from back home. So why not just make the best version of whatever your cafe calls that drink, because basically every fancy cafe offers a drink at approximately that size–a “small latte with a funny name,” as we called it back in 2011.
I am tempted to apologize for the insensitivity of this position though, because oh my god do people have a lot of feelings on how exactly a bit of milk and espresso should be combined. And especially a lot of of feelings on what exactly is a “flat white.” These tempestuous feelings have recently gone full teapot with Starbucks’ introduction of a “Flat White” to their menu. Everyone is freaking out, rushing to cluck over how Starbucks has misunderstood the spirit, intent, and Kiwi origin story behind this drink.
All this hubhub has laid bare the fact that there is no agreed upon definition of what a flat white is. Ask what a classic cappuccino is and any barista worth their salt will tell you: 1/3rd coffee 1/3rd milk 1/3rd foam. But the flat white is far less clear.
This situation has gone on for far too long. The time has come. Once and for all, we are going to get to the bottom of what is a flat white. And we need your help. I’m tired of being a silly American, befuddled and unenlightened, forever wondering whether I am truly achieving flat whiteness. The time has come to fully interrogate flat whiteness, to examine it from every possible vector.
Sprudge readers in Australia and New Zealand, please fill out this poll. Help the world understand the flat white. For Science. For Love. For Coffee.
(If you’re not from Australia or New Zealand but still have strong flat white feelings you’d like to share, that’s charming and why Twitter was invented, but sadly not statistically relevant to our poll.)
After a sufficiently large flat white sample size has been gathered, we will present these results back to you dear reader. Don’t forget, this poll is legally binding and definitive for all time, so this is your one chance to help shape the world’s understanding of this stately beverage. Please share widely.
Alex Bernson is the managing editor at Sprudge.com. Read more Alex Bernson on Sprudge.