“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What in the world...

...is a Flat White? Someone asked for one of these at the restaurant the other day, and I have to say I had never seen such a performance over a cup of milky coffee in my life. One of our newer employees, Josh, was the unfortunate target of this woman's wants and needs. It was only his second time manning the drinks section, and so he was still getting used to all the differences between lattes and cappuccinos and double espressos, so to try to explain in great depth the correct way to make a 'flat white', as this lady did, was like speaking in tongues to the poor boy. "You have to tap, TAP the jug on the counter to tighten up the foam," she cried, as  Josh struggled manfully to accommodate her requests. I, meanwhile, was trying to help and interpret the woman's instructions, all the while thinking "Isn't this just a latte with a bit of foam on top?"

Evidently, no, it's not. What it is, is a drink originating in the early eighties from Australia and New Zealand. Derek Townsend is the co-owner of DKD café in Auckland, and he claims to have been the developer of the recipe, but he acknowledges that the term "flat white" was already used in Sydney to describe a similar style of coffee. However, both the "correct" recipe and origin of creation is a subject of many a heated argument.

Similar to a latte in that it involves steamed milk and espresso coffee, it generally comes in a smaller cup than a latte and a lighter roast of bean. In a Flat White, the milk is steamed to 60°–70°C (140°F–158°F). Steaming the milk to a lower temperature retains the fats and proteins in the milk which add a sweetness to the cup, apparently. If it gets above 82 degrees it is then considered 'scalded' and tastes different. Who knew?

The foam is important as well. The milk is poured onto the shot of espresso gently while holding back the light frothy foam with a spoon. The milk being poured from the jug is then the type with small bubbles known as "wet" microfoam, giving the drink a smooth velvety texture. Usually it's served with a fancy swirly design on the top so they can charge extra for the artwork, I guess.

The beverage is now so popular in London it is claimed to have helped the Costa Coffee chain increase sales by almost ten percent. Even Starbucks have given in to the market pressure and introduced the drink to their range.

There is even a Flat White Cafe in Soho, and of course a blog charting the rise of the drink with a map showing where you can buy it in London.

Well, sorry and all that, but I think I'll stick to my French Roast from Tesco.

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