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Wake up and smell the Flat White

Starbucks add 3,135 extra shots of espresso to customers' drinks in Manchester every week, so they’ve invented the Flat White. Perhaps we’re all just mugs, thinks Lynda Moyo, or maybe we simply enjoy the taste of Starbucks coffee?

Written by . Published on January 21st 2010.

Wake up and smell the Flat White

A new coffee has hit the café scene to cater for those who like to keep it strong and simple. It’s called Flat White and is reportedly in response to ‘the growing sophistication of the country’s coffee drinkers.’

Starbucks declare it to be sophisticated, rich and velvety smooth with two shots of espresso. It also, apparently, won’t leave you with that acidic espresso mouth. They also claim it’s not lacklustre like a latte or overloaded with foam (hence the name) like a cappuccino. It’s top quality, strong coffee and milk. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Flat White makes the most of the Arabica coffee bean crop used by Starbucks. The price is £2.25 and it all fits in their smallest cup. The idea originated from New Zealand and Australia.

Alan Hartney, a Starbucks Coffee Ambassador (don't you just love those US of A job tags?) said: “We’ve noticed that coffee drinkers are becoming very specific about their coffee and there are a growing number of customers looking for a stronger more intense coffee flavour. One in five of our customers ask for an extra shot, syrup or different type of milk to personalise their coffee.”

Any mention of a mass franchise such as Starbucks, of course, always sparks debate about global monopoly and ethical practices, more so than the supposed devil's brew itself. As a frequent target of protests on issues such as fair-trade policies, labour relations, environmental impact and political views, to name but a few, Starbucks probably spend as much time wiping up negative press as they do spilt coffee.

However, look around and you will see on the streets of Manchester, or anywhere in the country for that matter, endless branches of Starbucks gleefully playing a life size game of drafts with Café Nero. Starbucks still has the most kings. They must be doing something right. If it's a love hate drinking experience Starbucks, it seems, are keen to please, and either we love them back, or we're too lazy to find another coffee choice.

The critic's view: Jonathan Schofield likes it...but only somewhat
“I've tried a couple of cups. The first Flat White still had that overstewed acrid aftertaste which is the bane of the Starbucks blend and brand. The second was much better, much smoother, with the nasty aftertaste almost gone. It seems that the trick with the Flat White is to get the right member of staff making it – luck in other words. Still it will be my Starbucks brew of choice in future, when I need coffee in a hurry and there's nowhere else to go.”

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Phil NichollsJanuary 23rd 2010.

I've actually developed a penchant for Costa at the mo. Better than Starbucks but there isn't enough round the city. After Costa, I would put Nero ahead of Starbucks.

Liam14066January 24th 2010.

Nice idea. But £2.25? Way too expensive. Especially when Carluccio's in Spinningfields do all take-out coffees for £1.

AnonymousJanuary 24th 2010.

A bit confused, as there IS a coffee house called "Flat White" in London Soho, who makes really good (or best) coffee.

Andrew WallaceJanuary 27th 2010.

I've never understood the appeal of Starbucks. Weak coffee in a drab environment. I'm still feeling despondent over the comment on here last week that people in the city centre prefer chain coffee bars to independents.

SNFebruary 16th 2010.

@CITIZENANDREW, do you think people overall prefer the chains?
on balance i think you'd have to say yes, sadly.
it's always a pleasure to see Titchy busy on a weekend afternoon, for instance, but that pod Nero up above in the heights of the Triangle seems to always be rammed at the same time, too.

Suburb always did well enough, i suppose. if there is one positive to be taken from Suburb closing, it is i have increasingly noticed Matthew Algie - whose coffee i know ManCon rightly rate - has machines in quite a few areas around here nowadays, eg the Black Lion on Chapel Street has a machine, Y McGregor on Altrincham high street does, and so on.

funny about the flat white is it did originate in the Antipodes, but Starbucks in that region closed a lot of their Aussie outlets (dunno about NZ) the other year. Aussie punters know their java...

DescartesFebruary 16th 2010.

I like the idea of it, but my 'extra dry soy chai latte' suits me perfectly, but maybe I'll give it a go for a change. My preference is for independents, but you always take a risk on first visit (I've had some gawd awful coffee in some places). Stasrbucks, Nero's et al, well, they're consistent, you know exactly what kind of coffee experience you're going to get, and we humans do like familiarity.

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

ure flat white is for those WHO WANT TO BE CONSIDERED 'the county's sophisticated coffee drinkers.’ Smell the con!

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

sophisticated coffee drinkers have that cat poo stuff

snFebruary 16th 2010.

a cockney mate of mine has been living in, variously, Sydney and Auckland for the last few years. he's worked at tons of coffee places and that's what he currently does for a living. he makes hundreds of flat whites a day and is rather scathing about them. he once said "the flat white is a latte with the foam left out. its thin hot milk poured on to espresso". an American mate tells me they would call it a wet latte. it's all rather convoluted. as Liam says one quid from Carluccio's FTW...

Smyth HarperFebruary 16th 2010.

mmmm, going to give it a go, although it strikes me as a tad expensive. Two things come into play for me when I buy coffee: 1) the taste of the coffee and 2) are the people harvesting it making a living wage. Starbucks are to be congratulated that most of their coffee is now fair trade. And, much as I hate to disagree with Jonathan, their Estima blend is the best filter coffee in the world, for its price.
@anonymous, is it not bat poo? and anyway, anyone who thinks they are sophisticated because they drink coffee that has been through the bottom of another living creature deserve all they get lol

snFebruary 19th 2010.

i had my first of these from Sbux in town today (Peter St behind library one), and Jonathan's second cup sounds like mine. two thumbs up to be fair.
have now realised i have drank thousands of cups in American indie coffeehouses down the years very similar, so i guess latte without the foam is indeed a fair characterisation, basically.

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