White Hot

Australia’s Flat White coffee beverage finds U.S. fans


Since originating in Australia in the 1980s (though some dissenting Kiwis claim it was invented in New Zealand), the Flat White has become a café staple in the UK and is now a budding favorite among coffee aficionados in the United States as well. Like the recent rise of matcha, the beverage’s move to the mainstream reflects how young consumers’ tastes are becoming increasingly global.


041515-1Starbucks: In January, Starbucks added the Flat White to its espresso drink menu at cafés throughout the US and Canada. The java giant’s version of the beverage is made by pouring steamed whole milk over two ristretto shots – a sweeter, more intense espresso – and finishing it with signature microfoam. This is not Starbucks’ first foray into Flat Whites, having offered them to customers in the UK since 2010 and Australia since 2009. Though the brand’s efforts Down Under were not received well, as the country already enjoyed a thriving coffee culture, North Americans have so far been enjoying the still novel Australian specialty.


041515-2Bluestone Lane: The Flat White at Bluestone Lane inspired Vogue to hail the drink as “our latest coffee obsession,” and New Yorkers seem to be agreeing; the drink is becoming one of the most popular menu items at the company’s five locations around the city. Before opening his first shop in 2013, Melbourne native Nick Stone had been attending business school in Manhattan, where he lamented the lack of cafés serving premium coffee like the ones in his hometown. Thus, he pitched the idea for Bluestone Lane, which has since morphed into a chain of shops that could number six or seven by year’s end.


041515-3Blue Bottle: Australian-owned or inspired cafés in New York that serve Flat Whites – including the aforementioned Bluestone Lane, Toby’s Estate, Little Collins, Brunswick, and Two Hands – are exploding throughout the city. Now, some American-owned specialty coffee roasters are beginning to see the light as well. Though it’s not officially a menu item, baristas at Blue Bottle Coffee cafés in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are now meeting customer demand for Flat Whites with a custom version that is essentially a modern American cappuccino consisting of hotter steamed milk topped with a lighter layer of foam.