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Flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes

by Dom Majdandzic 15 Sep 2016

How a mistake led to something beautiful.

So many great things were discovered through a simple mistake. For instance, the guy who discovered the Slinky was trying to work out how to monitor power on naval battleships. Instead, he discovered a simple toy that has brought joy and wonder to literally millions of kids around the world. The same is true for Pacemakers, Penicillin, Potato Chips and Post-It Notes. All discovered by mistake. The humble flat white was also discovered this way. It first originated in Australian and New Zealand (the stories differ slightly in each country), but what is common to both, is that it was discovered simply through a mistake. Let me explain. The skill of the common barista in our countries during the 70’s and 80’s was fairly low which funnily enough led to the discovery of a new style of coffee. If you were of coffee drinking age in the 70’s and 80’s you will remember those Mt Fuji style cappuccinos with a gigantic, meringue-looking, foam monstrosity on top. Maybe you recall your folks enjoying one of these crazy coffees after dinner at your local restaurant. Sadly, this approach to making cappuccinos was not traditional and did not taste very good. And in response to our ‘cappuccino-failure’, customers began ordering their cappuccinos with “no froth please!” Thankfully, this style of cappuccino became extremely popular and very soon this new coffee became known as the flat white, and is now one of the most popular styles of coffee in Australia. The flat white is rarely seen in other countries, although Starbucks have recently added it to their international menu and through their extensive reach it’s gaining popularity beyond our shores. But the modern day Australian flat white has evolved to be more like a traditional cappuccino, the way the Italians would make it, with no chocolate and a thin layer of velvety-sweet microfoam.

A Flat White I made at my mate Daz's place using his Breville Home Espresso

What’s the difference between a flat white and a latte?

In terms of how they are prepared (by us), a flat white comes in a cappuccino cup of 150ml and a latte comes in a 220ml glass. Both beverages receive the same amount of coffee - a freshly drawn full shot of espresso between 25-30ml, then topped up with steamed milk. The latte gets its reputation of being weaker because it has an extra 70ml of milk which softens the flavor, and also typically has a thicker layer of microfoam on top. At White Horse Coffee we don’t steam the milk differently for cappuccinos, flat whites and lattes as some may do. Our aim is to create silky smooth, perfectly steamed milk regardless of the style of coffee. There will always be Mt Fuji devotees who love lots of foam, and in contrast, those who want their flat white extra flat. And if a customer asks for “extra flat” we do our best to accommodate and make them the best ‘no foam’ flat white they’ve ever had. Over the years we have become better at preparing and serving Italian espresso coffee. Thankfully we have moved on from the corner store school of cappuccino. I truly believe that as a nation we have improved so much that we can say we are kings of the milky, espresso based coffee. With four world latte-art champions coming from Australia, we are certainly at the top of our game and up there with the best in the world. All thanks to a mistake. Dom

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