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The flat white coffee has come to America!

Posted 7 years ago in Xero news by Catherine (OG)
Posted by Catherine (OG)

Or has it? I’m a bit of a coffee snob(as only an ex-Wellingtonian can be) and have already made sure I can get a flat white in various U.S. cities before visiting them over the last few years of living here. Perhaps not known colloquially as a ‘flat white’ until more recently, if you strike the right place (not necessarily run by New Zealanders or Australians), their competition cappuccino-style drink is pretty much the same as a flat white.

Catherine (OG) with the 'What is a flat white?' sign

So there was a bit of a fuss about the flat white arriving at Starbucks in the States last week. Lots of people who know I hunt out the good coffee had been asking me if I was going to try it. Of course I scoffed NO, but then I’m not the kind of person to operate on assumption, so I did my coffee fans a favor and took one for the team by going to try it.

It was exactly as I expected. Doesn’t taste like coffee (it comes in different bucket sizes for crying out loud) is searing hot, is made with some kind of plastic-tasting milk. Those who’ve tried Starbucks and don’t like it will know just what I mean – their flat white is basically the same as every other ‘coffee’ drink on their menu (in an emergency once I went in there), although yes, they have attempted to make it less foamy. It certainly doesn’t look like their own picture of a flat white.

So what started out all smiles (not sure why I was smiling even… I think it was the deranged smile of someone who feels so totally inappropriately out of place worrying that in a city of millions that someone they know will spot them in a place you vowed you’ve never set foot in that it was just a gut reaction) ended with a burnt tongue and regret mixed with gleeful I-told-you-so! In my defense, I didn’t order the drink, nor pay for it, I was with American business associates who wanted to try it so I just took a tiny first sip!


Gif – Catherine tries Starbucks 'flat white'

Luckily I know lots of places in New York City where, for a while now, if you want a flat white, you just rock on up to the counter and ask for one and they don’t ask for clarification, they just make it (properly). And I have a list of those places, so tweet me for a recommendation next time you’re over this way!


Jacinta Hoare
January 15, 2015 at 2.50 pm

I am constantly amazed that a Nation as advanced as the US simply can’t do coffee right.

January 15, 2015 at 4.23 pm

The Americans drink coffee flavoured milk shakes

Larry Timpano
January 15, 2015 at 6.13 pm

I was in the States and Canada for 5 weeks in mid 2013. Did not have one decent coffee the whole time I was there. They simply have no idea when it come s to coffee.

January 15, 2015 at 6.18 pm

OG – I feel your pain!! I got so excited on a trip to the US when I found a little coffee van that actually made a flat white on real milk, not the plastic tasting UHT or powder stuff that seems so prevalent over there (and they call themselves a civilized nation!)

I have to admit to finding a Starbucks in Bali a few years ago, and thinking I had struck gold! The Indonesian coffee that we were drinking was absolutely horrible – could barely stomach it, but needed the caffeine to stop the dreaded withdrawal headaches kicking in. I nearly cried when I found a Starbucks, and they could at least provide me caffeine that was moderately palatable!

Coffee snobs unite!

Robert Hook
January 15, 2015 at 9.24 pm

I feel your pain from recent trips. It’s a shame when Starbucks is probably as good as it gets. lol

Catherine in reply to Robert Hook Xero
January 16, 2015 at 3.26 am

Thanks for the comments guys! I was worried about the coffee situation moving to live here but did a bit of research and had some tips from coffee shops in Wellington so I knew there was hope! It helps that just about all the cities I’ve visited have at least one or two decent places, including Kansas City. The only place I’ve been where there is no hope is Las Vegas, but I knew in advance so had taken my emergency travel kit. I take it now if I’ve been unable to find something in advance – it’s a plastic dripper, filter papers, stainless steel burr grinder and beans (all TSA approved! (and pictured in this earlier post)) so all I need to find is hot water and a cup. I did go to Starbucks on my first trip to Las Vegas but even in the smallest cup, with milk not to the top, and an extra shot it was $7 down the drain!!

January 16, 2015 at 9.07 am

I haven’t been to the USA for coffee, but even within Europe coffee quality differs dramatically. The difference between a cappuccino in Tuscany (lovely) and whatever mud they serve in Crete (foul) is enormous. We’re very lucky in NZ – strong coffee culture and access to the best ingredients as a matter of course. And no proclivity towards the over-sweetness that plagues the USA.

Gayle Buchanan
January 16, 2015 at 11.17 am

You crack up OG (love you were first with a vid on blog btw) Feel your pain, more and more kiwi coffee snobs are carrying travel kits through the US – thankfully family xeroites have OG to tweet for guidance you trail baser! Mr O take the vid?

John Shone
January 16, 2015 at 1.34 pm

I first asked for a flat white in Washington DC in 1978, at a classic USA 1950s diner. A 2m tall Afro-American leaned over the counter at me and stated assertively, albeit politely, “We don’t serve whites here, you can have it with or without cream!. You damn Aussies, I served with you in Nam, you never get the racism thing right, do you? Now, how do you want ya corffee, with or without cream, or just true black? I ordered a black corffee …

Ben Smith
January 16, 2015 at 3.29 pm

I am currently in the US from Australia and are struggling to find a good coffee, when Starbucks made a big deal of releasing the Flat White last week i thought finally they have caught up with the rest of the world, but it tastes the same as all the rest of the coffees on the menu. Its a great place to travel but i do miss my morning coffee.

Kathryn Silva
January 17, 2015 at 6.01 am

Well, going to Starbucks was your first mistake. If you’re on the west coast, you might try a Pannikin and if you’re ever in Flagstaff, AZ, go to Macy’s coffee house on Beaver Street – they should do you up right. (Must admit I’ve never had a ‘flat white’ myself – I’ll tweet you for that list!)

Catherine Xero
January 17, 2015 at 2.10 pm

@Gaye – no Mr O didn’t take the video, he wasn’t going to set foot in the place! Ha ha!

@Ben – snap! It was the same as the 2 or 3 other times I’ve tried the latte with several shots. Where are you in the States?

@Kathryn – yes, I realize my mistake, but so many people asked if I would go and when friends said they were going to try it I saw my opportunity to grab a sip. Thanks for those tips for Flagstaff!

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