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The Flat White Is the Newest Coffee Drink That’s Taking Over America

It's already popular in Australia, and now it's taking the US by storm. See ya, latte.
The Flat White Is the Newest Coffee Drink That’s Taking Over AmericaCourtesy of Starbucks

Americans love fun, out of the ordinary coffee drinks. (Does the Unicorn Frappuccino at Starbucks ring a bell?) While staple drinks like the latte, mocha, and cappuccinos remain top picks among coffee enthusiasts, there is another drink that emerged just a few years ago in the western hemisphere that is currently capturing the taste buds of many in the U.S. Enter: the flat white.

It’s the drink that’s shaking up coffee shops nationally, and according to Square, a credit card processing service, flat white sales increased 41 percent in the past year alone.

So, what’s the deal with the flat white? We got the lowdown on the latest drink that’s becoming more and more popular in the U.S.

What is a flat white?

Like other typical coffee drinks, flat whites consist of espresso and milk. There is a distinguishing factor, however, and that is micro-foam, which is steamed milk with bubbles. Ultimately, it’s stronger than a latte, but also wetter than a cappuccino.

How is a flat white made?

Here’s how coffee giant Starbucks makes the warm, creamy beverage. Baristas add two shots of ristretto, a very strong espresso, to the cup, followed by a layer of steamed whole milk that has taken the form of micro-foam. Viola! That’s all it takes to make this strong, yet slightly sweet coffee drink that’s quickly becoming a favorite.

Where did the flat white originate?

The true flat white inventor remains a mystery, but there are two strong theories as to where its roots lie. Evidently, the term flat white has been around for quite some time, as a phrase that describes a “milky coffee.” One of the individuals that boasts credit for the increasingly popular drink is Alan Preston of Australia. He claims to have invented the name when he opened Moors Espresso Bar in Sydney in 1985.

Preston told the Telegraph in 2015 that his inspiration for this new and improved cup of joe came from the cafés in his former state of Queensland. Cafes in the northern part of the continent sold drinks coined, “White Coffee—flat.”

But another individual, though, claims to have invented the flat white. Former barista from New Zealand Fraser McInnes says he is the one who pioneered the drink’s name while working at a café in Wellington. The name apparently came to McInnes in 1989 after whipping up a cappuccino with low-fat milk. The cappuccino—to no surprise—fell flat, hence lending him the name.

The question behind who made the now popularized drink ultimately remains a dispute between the two nations. Who knew coffee could stir such a debate?

Who sells flat whites in the U.S.?

Starbucks began selling the flat white in the U.S. in 2015, although the drink had been available in British Starbucks locations five years before that. Many local coffee shops across the country have gotten on board with the drink as well. Next time you’re in line at your favorite coffee spot, check out the flat white to see what all the fuss is about!

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