The flat white – a new, very smooth arrival which has had coffee connoisseurs clambering for more.
Among the already-occasionally daunting range of coffee styles available today, one newcomer is finding a place and making a big name for itself: the ‘flat white’.
Admittedly, the new kid on the block doesn’t quite possess a name as exotic as that enjoyed by some of its coffee companions. This coffee is focused on delivering taste – substance over style, for a change, you could say. Loved by those seeking a coffee which is stronger in flavour than a caffè latte, but not overpowering, the coffee is the star, with the milk formed to create a creamier and smoother supporting role.
The ‘flat white’ – a small, strong, white coffee – packs a punch, thanks to a double shot of espresso, yet is silky smooth, since it’s topped with hot milk and a dense microfoamed layer.
Paul Johnston, from Lavazza, welcomes the arrival of this new style and knows that its ‘perfect serve’ is a blend of great coffee and the skill of the barista (the person making your coffee), as he explains: “The full-bodied coffee taste comes from the quality of coffee used in the espresso, but, when it comes to the silky finish, that really is down to the barista’s skill. “The milk element of any white coffee is really important; it is what determines the texture, by which the taste and ultimate enjoyment of the coffee are defined. “The perfect foam is known as a microfoam – incredibly fine, densely packed bubbles which create a velvet-creamy texture at the top of the steamed milk.” It isn’ t, as I discovered, just the size of the froth on which the barista must focus. There is a degree of taste science in everything associated with the milk. For example, when steaming the milk (where the milk is heated, using the steam wand), the barista must take great care to ensure that the milk doesn’ t rise above 65°C, since this is the temperature at which sugars are created and released which can alter the flavour profile of the finished coffee.
“For a perfectly served flat white, the barista will keep the prepared milk at 65°C; this is why it is important to start by using well-chilled (0.5°C) milk, before adding the steam.
“Once the steaming is finished, the barista’s work is far from done, as the jug now needs to be ‘banged’, to break up any large bubbles which have risen to the surface. This foam is then swirled and folded in the jug, until all of the foam has been integrated into the milk, giving a nice, shiny, velvety texture.”
The tightly packed velvet foam, with a smooth, flat finish, gives rise to the drink’s name, distinguishing it from its more frothy ‘cousins’.
The not-so-new newcomer The flat white is most definitely antipodean.
There is some dispute about its country of origin; as to whether it was New Zealand or Australia, I am happy to give each of them equal billing and thanks – and to let them wrangle over that between themselves.
Whatever the precise origins, this is no overnight sensation; it has actually been enjoyed ‘down under’ since the early 1980s and is pretty much the coffee of choice for the majority of coffee-lovers.
Paul thinks that the reason behind the delay in its arrival here is both logical and complimentary: “Quite simply, I think that a lot of the big coffee chains paid little or no attention to it, in the early years, preferring to stick to what they (and their customers) knew.
“Introducing a new coffee, with associated high skill levels, into an established hierarchy of coffee styles might well have deterred them. However, with an ever-growing number of independent coffee shops being set up by those antipodeans seeking their coffee of choice, the wider market became all too aware of the flat white’s appeal. “The result is that more and more customers are making the ‘flat’ their preferred coffee style.”
So, if you like your coffee bold, yet smooth, why not give it a try?