Starbucks, the world's favorite source of caffeine, introduced the Flat White to their menu this week, causing a frenzy of people, mostly Australians and Europeans, lauding the coffee drink.
So, what, exactly, is a Flat White? Is it a new flavor to compete with the Pumpkin Spice Latte and its cult following?
Ummm... No. The Flat White contains no added flavorings, no sprinkles, no pixie dust.
To put it in layman-speak, the Flat White is a high-test latte that, according to legend (or a Starbucks press release), originated in Australia in the 1980's and because a UK sensation. Starbucks has been serving the Flat White in its Aussie stores since 2009 and in the UK since 2010.
The Starbucks website describes the Flat White a, "expertly steamed milk poured over ristretto shots of espresso and finished with a Starbucks signature dot."
There are two "secrets" to the Flat White that make it different from a regular latte. First, the drink is made with two ristretto shots vs. espresso. A ristretto shot is a "restricted" espresso shot, meaning it's cut short before the full shot is poured. The result is a stronger, sweeter, more intensified and concentrated flavor than an espresso shot. Here's a great, short video that demonstrates the difference:
Secondly, whole milk is used for a true flat white, which is steamed into a micro-foam, then poured in a way to allow the ristretto to rise to the top.
How does all this taste? I went to my local Starbucks to try it out. The drink looks like a latte -- nothing special, but unlike most lattes, you get a rich, strong coffee flavor throughout the entire drink. In other words, the drink is more precise without stirring. Plus, the coffee flavor is rich, sweet, and intense -- no sugar needed for most people.
As I sipped, my friendly barista gave me a surprising tip, telling me that I can actually make my own Flat White at home if I have an espresso machine with multiple settings.
"Just use two ristretto shots instead of espresso and use whole milk," he sagely advised. The same recipe can also be used at any good coffee house.
I tried it at home with my Nespresso machine, using their dedicated Ristretto capsules. The only challenge is pouring the milk so that the coffee rises to the top. Mine was a little "sloppier" than that of a professional barista, but the result was pretty close to the Starbucks version in taste and cheaper.
Mine came to a little more than a dollar, taking into consideration a Nespresso capsule is 68 cents and a serving of milk is about 40 cents, while a Starbucks grande Flat White cost $4.45.
In any event, a Flat White gives coffee lovers a sweeter, richer experience. No wonder Australians give such a hardy "G'day" in the morning.
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