HONG KONG — Americans, you’re in luck. Starting on Tuesday, Starbucks will begin offering the flat white as part of its regular menu in the U.S., the coffee chain confirmed.
A flat what, you say?
Few Americans have had the pleasure of drinking a flat white, a coffee concoction thought to have originated Down Under in the 1980s that has since become Australia’s unofficial national beverage.
Here’s the skinny: A flat white consists of espresso and steamed milk. If that sounds like a latte, it is. But coffee connoisseurs note that an artfully-made flat white will have a higher coffee-to-milk ratio, and a more velvety texture. Flat whites are typically smaller, too.
That definition is not universally accepted, and there is a thriving cottage industry of food writers trying to tease out the subtle differences between flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes.
Even the drink’s origins are controversial, with some New Zealanders insisting they actually invented the drink, only to have it stolen by Australians.
Wherever the flat white came from, Starbucks says its version will be made with two ristretto shots, and topped with “a thin layer of velvety steamed whole milk and finished with a latte art dot.”
The new offering appears to be part of an effort by Starbucks to attract sophisticated coffee drinkers. Late last year, the chain opened its first “Reserve Roastery,” an upscale facility in Seattle that offers premium drinks.
The flat white has already made major inroads in Europe, where it has earned a reputation as the coffee of choice for hipsters. What’s not clear is whether Americans will similarly adopt the drink.
Australians are already claiming victory, with one leading news website claiming that, thanks to the flat white’s arrival, “Americans will soon be able to enjoy a real coffee.”
Americans might retort that Australia could hardly do worse than the current situation — where the beverage primarily associated with the country is Foster’s, a nearly flavorless beer that has long been marketed as “Australian for beer.”