The Flat White, for my American fellows.


Almost every week at Intelligentsia’s coffee bar in LA we seem to get the odd Aussie or the even odder American who has just returned from Australia, ask for a flat white. Now this was all Ok as I explained to my fellow workers, that its a 6 oz coffee with espresso, steamed milk and 5 Mils of textured foam on top (or a wet cappuccino for any travellers to the states).

Now this was working fine till we had an American with an Aussie in tow come in and ask for a flat white. When he received the above coffee as I have described, the American (apparently) flipped out and proclaimed that this beverage was not a Flat White and that his friend was an Australian and he could tell you that it is a 12 oz coffee!!!

Now I feel I have to explain, the coffee culture that is in Australia at present,  still offers (as with most countries) all sizes 6oz through to 12 oz, sorry no 16 oz coffees down under. Whether it be a cappuccino, flat white or an americano (long black). So maybe to the uneducated yank and his Aussie hand bag, they had only been going to truck stops and petrol stations back home, where 12oz flat whites are expected.

The flat white exists only because, even the most respected and revered espresso bars in Oz still put Chocolate powder on their traditional cappuccinos (which they still offer in all sizes). Now feel free to object but is not a traditional cappuccino served in a 5 to 6oz cup and has no chocolate powder on top which would only aid in disguising the coffee nuances through milk? I love that Intelli LA only offer a 6 oz cappuccino and that’s it, full stop, no chocolate powder, no large sizes, no more questions. This is how a flat white should be as well.

Now, ask for a Flat White in Ireland or in most parts of the UK you will find yourself drinking a cafe au lait, which for my Aussie readers (Mum) is a filtered coffee with steamed milk added.

 I look forward to the day when I can go home, ask for a cappuccino and get a TRADITIONAL cappuccino at any of the espresso bars that I walk into. Till then, when I am back home its flat whites and espresso’s (or to some, short blacks) and most likely no filter option unless I’m at a pertrol station (gas station)…


  1. I now feel we’re closer to getting this whole ‘flat white’ thing defined and sorted.

  2. The flat white, as I understand it has come from the aussie obsession with instant coffee, hot, flat and with a dash of milk. It is kind of an espresso makeshift equivalent.
    Choc dusting on the cappuccino – is actually present in some parts of (southern??) italy, and was brought to Australia with the immigration and espresso machines, but as I like to think of it, the chocolate hides bad coffee and icky crema taste 🙂

    go Aussie.

  3. HAHA! Your right Emily, I forgot about the old instant coffee that my old man still enjoys, even though there is a Jura sitting next to the tin of International roast. I reckon that culture comes from the Brits and is still, most likely the number one way Australians drink their coffee at home.

    As for southern Italy with the type of coffees they could offord pre and post world war 2 it makes perfect sence that they covered up the dark roasted robusta with some chocolate.

    Who ever is reading this (Mum) please don’t think that I don’t like the flat white, its still the drink I order in the morning, much to the displeasure of our baristas…

  4. I find no displeasure in making a flat white. Cheerio.

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