I’m sure that most of you who have entered a Starbucks in the past two months have seen the HUGE sign for the new and exciting drink—the flat white. The flat what? Let’s break down this trendy new moneymaker.

According the the Starbucks website, “This coffee connoisseur’s choice combines ristretto shots made with Starbucks signature Espresso Roast and freshly steamed whole milk with microfoam, expertly handcrafted for a genuine Flat White experience.” The site also refers to the drink’s finishing touch as the “Starbucks signature dot.” I think I just peed a little from laughing. Come on, signature DOT? Sounds like an excuse not to make latte art.

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Photo by Phoebe Melnick

Technically a flat white is a latte without foam, that is why it is “flat,” but can’t you just say “no-foam latte?” Here in America we like to pump things full of sugar, fat and apparently extra words. Ask an Aussie what a flat white is and I guarantee you they will not use the word “microfoam.” I really did not think that an espresso shot covered with steamed milk could be so complicated.

flat white

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

It is also important to note that Starbucks did not invent the flat white. We can actually thank Australia for this drink, it was created there in the 1970s and later developed in New Zealand. When I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia the flat white was just one of many new coffee vocabulary words I learned.

I felt like I had entered the first grade again, unable to decipher these foreign coffee words and completely dumbfounded. “Uhh, can I just have a cup of coffee please?” No. It was not that simple. So, why bring the complicated latte language here, Starbucks? And why make it even more complicated? I am distressed.

So this drink is not original, difficult to understand and not particularly pretty. I will admit it is rather tasty when you get past the flat whiteness of it, but I still don’t see how and why it got its Starbucks green card.

So now for all of my fellow Americans who love sugar, words and
choices—whole milk, 1%, 2%, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk—the flat white can be added to your coffee list when you’re feeling a little less foamy.


Photo by Christina Chu

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