How the Flat White Conquered UK Coffee Scene
Latte, Americano, cappuccino … the flat white might be relatively new to the scene (and sound less glamorous), but it now amounts for about 10 per cent of UK coffee sales, according to The Independent.
Jeffrey Young, founder of The London Coffee Festival, describes the flat white as “one of the key innovations in the last decade in the UK coffee”.
“It epitomises the Third Wave or artisan coffee scene, now accounting for often more than 10 per cent of coffee beverages ordered in quality UK coffee shops,” he tells The Independent. “Very few good outlets would not offer flat white.”
And, as Pact Coffee expert Melissa Dabs says, “It’s also become the go-to drink for coffee connoisseurs.”
So how did the apparent bastard child of the latte and a white Americano come to conquer Britain’s coffee culture?
The story of the flat white begins Down Under, in New Zealand or Australia … In fact, it’s a bone of contention between the two. Not unlike the pavlova, both countries clash over who actually invented the drink.
New Zealander Fraser McInnes says he accidentally invented the flat white when the milk needed for a frothy cappuccino refused to rise. “Sorry,” he said, “it’s a flat white”.
But Australian Alan Preston, who opened the Moors Espresso Bar in Sydney in 1985, claims he was the first to coin the term “flat white”, drawing inspiration from a type of espresso popular in Queensland in the Sixties and Seventies, described as the “white coffee – flat”.
Visitors to our rainy shores complained about the lack of flat white options, perhaps confirming their stereotypes about British culinary culture.
And then came Cameron McClure, a New Zealander, who opened up a coffee shop in Soho in 2005 to bring “the refined artisan-style coffee prevalent in Australian and New Zealand cafes to London”. The name of his establishment? ‘Flat White Soho‘.
Because, the shop now explains: “It was nigh impossible to get a flat white; the strong, delicious, creamy coffee of our namesake.”
By 2009, McClure told The Independent he was making 700 flat whites a day.
Bit by bit, Antipodean-style coffee shops began knocking the big American chains by storm.
Starbucks started serving the beverage in its London stores in 2010, but Costa Coffee was the first high-street chain to launch the flat white nationally, just a week or two after.
Rick Tingley, coffee specialist at independent Yorkshire brand Taylors of Harrogate, says:
“The flat white is the poster child for the rise of the speciality coffee scene in the UK. As the out of home coffee industry has grown here, consumers have become more educated and curious about coffee.”
Original article by Harriet Marsden, The Independent, April 10, 2018.