Flat whites


So I live in town where it’s well nigh impossible to get a good coffee.
As a mostly tea drinker, it’s mostly ok, but for meeting a friend I want a coffee.
And when I want to sit and read, or write, or watch and ponder, I need a good flat white in front of me.
( and an atmosphere and ambience that vibes to all of the above)


Moving to the US was a shock having grown up in the antipodean coffee culture….real espresso served sit down style in a one off, owner operated coffee shop.

“But where do I go to have a coffee?” asks the immigrant bride!

All I could see were brewers and glass pots perched in a diner or breakfast place, and the coffee places in the mall reeked of sweet artificial flavorings and there was no where to sit.


In Australia,  commercial espresso machines proliferated after WWII and the ensuing influx of European immigrants and most every  cafe had one.Even in small country towns, fabulous n fancy machines dominated the counters at main street “milk bars” and if the actual coffee wasn’t so great, we grew up drinking cappuccinos with our friends and seeing espresso as the basis of any coffee drink.


Unlike the USA where electric brew pots reigned supreme, most Aussies had percolators, a French press or drip paper system at home. Maybe a stove top espresso, and instant for emergencies! Quality coffee was becoming more and more prevalent and roasters pushed the industry forward with branded sponsored umbrellas, cups and paraphernalia for the coffee bars and cafes.


In the late 70’s and early 80’s the flat white/short black phenomena exploded, and the terminology continues today.

It was only the arrival of Starbucks that brought paper takeaway cups and “Big Gulp” sizes to Sydney and Melbourne. No surprise to anyone ( except the coffee execs perhaps?) when 2/3rds of the stores closed within a year of opening. Why would anyone reared on great coffee want the McCoffee style experience?

Different here where it’s the benchmark. But beyond a wrenchingly early morning at the airport , or in a drive thru on road trip why?


Over the past year I have found my way back to my favorite coffee…..the flat white.

It’s 2 shots of espresso and a smaller amount of velvetty, foamy stretched milk.Served in a real cup, 6 to 8oz with a gorgeous merged crema and foam.


Originating in Australia and New Zealand it’s de rigeur in London, most parts of Asia, Berlin and now available here: notably at my favorite coffee place in LA, Deus ex Machina in Venice.coffee3

Not to be confused with a latte which is bigger and whiter or a cappuccino which floats dryer foam on top of the espresso and milk, the secret of the flat white is the milk/coffee ratio and the micro foamed milk.


So big coffee news this week.
Starbucks will begin selling the flat white in the USA this Tuesday.

Drippingly ironic as just last year the company officially exited Australia after apparently losing millions of dollars.Completely unsuccessful in the face of an obsessive coffee culture which prizes quality,flavor and technique over ubiquity and mass production.


So maybe give one a try but I’m not confident that the push button machine, harsh roasts and paper cups will do justice to my favorite .
Better still, seek out a real coffee house where baristas work their magic on a glorious La Marzocco or Nuova Simonelli and sit and savor the best coffee of the day!


flat white:2 shots of espresso and about 6 ounces of foamy milk.

short black: one or two shots of espresso.

long black: espresso with hot water, an americano.

cappuccino; espresso w an equal amount of steamed milk , topped with a thick layer of foam.


5 thoughts on “Flat whites

  1. Interesting read. I love coffee, and I notice that lots of products are made better in other countries than in America. The United States is all about high consumption and quantity over quality of products. I loved the coffee in Greece when I visited there.


  2. Growing up in the Perth Hills in a village that was at least 85% Italian immigrants, decent coffee was a given, and in the city Lebanese coffee was the go, we were spoiled. When my family and friends visited here and wanted decent coffee I took them to a little local place called ‘The Corner Store’ 🙂


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