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.

Breakfast at Café Melba (Auckland, NZ)

The receptionist at our hotel suggested that we have breakfast at Café Melba, a small but popular restaurant in a section of town called Vulcan Lane, an alleyway lined with small shops and restaurants. We walked since it wasn’t too far from the hotel, thanks to good directions by the staff.

We started off the morning with a flat white with hazelnut syrup. A wonderful brew. No one does this kind of coffee like the Kiwis. Their latte art seems to be a source of pride.

Flat white with hazelnut syrup

A special on the blackboard was The Buttie, €”grilled bacon served on toasted ciabatta bun with hashbrowns, caramelized onions and avocado. The very tasty filling was enough to overcome somewhat dry ciabatta.

The Buttie

On the regular menu is Melba Mince, a savory ground meat sauté on toasted ciabatta bread, topped with a poached egg. I’d never had anything like this before, but I did enjoy it, even if I couldn’t identify the meat.

Melba Mince with Poached Egg

Café Melba is a great place to have breakfast.

Café Melba
33 Vulcan Lane
Auckland, NZ
09 377 0091

Breakfast at Lime Caffeteria (Rotorua, NZ)

One of the recommended places to have breakfast in Rotorua is the Lime Caffeteria, only a few blocks from the Rotorua Museum. The interior is sleek, slightly retro. There is an upscale ambience but not stuffy. The wait staff is very friendly, helpful when you have questions.

The coffee here is stellar, served in a stainless steel French press with enough for two servings. It also came with a small square of chocolate fudge, presumably to mix into the coffee if I chose. I popped it into my mouth instead. My wife had her favorite NZ beverage, a flat white.

French press coffee

Flat white

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