Heady Latté: New Zealand’s Flat White

It sort of looks like a latté, except that the surface of the beverage is shinier rather than foamy. The flavor is strongly espresso-like, the milk seeming to play an almost minor role. This is New Zealand’s flat white, which my wife who appreciates milky coffee drinks became enamored of when she first tasted it in 2010. Although originally invented in Australia, it has become ubiquitous all over New Zealand, any coffee stand or shop offering it alongside other espresso beverages. Now, whenever we set foot on Middle Earth, my wife has to have a flat white at least once.

Regular coffee in New Zealand is dreadful. Why? Because it’s instant. Go to any market there and you’ll find the coffee aisle replete with instant coffees. There are no coffee filters for electric drip machines nor any vacuum-sealed tins of grounds. One small section will be devoted to whole beans, but the pre-ground packages are only for espresso machines or plunger pots. I sometimes forget this situation when I order regular coffee, only to be served instant. The only way to get a truly flavorful cup, as you might’ve guessed, is to order espresso drinks. That includes the flat white.

The volume of milk in a flat white is less than that of a latté or cappuccino in the U.S., which gives the beverage a more robust coffee flavor. It also is not as foamy, more appealing to me for the same reason that I don’t like a head of foam on my beers.

When you’re in New Zealand, give it a shot.