Since the rise of the coffee chain corporations, we all know that ordering a coffee can seem as difficult as a PhD in molecular biology. Unless you’re familiar with a skinny decaf three-shot hazelnut latte ordering a coffee can issue a challenge to the caffeine-loving and often confused customer. One of the most frequent occurrences for this confusion, at least in the UK, is: What’s the difference between a flat white and a latte?
Broadly speaking, a flat white is a smaller latte. Both drinks contain two shots of espresso, and both are topped with shiny velvety milk foam. Ideally, flat whites and lattes are served in different-sized cups, the latte in a larger one. The same applies for takeaway: Ideally, a flat white cup is smaller than the latte cup, to restrict the amount of milk used and to make it a stronger drink. If you find this confusing already, the next time you’re queuing for your caffeine fix simply remember that latte is the Italian equivalent for “milk“.
In terms of the type of milk used for either coffee, typically speaking, it is almost the same – but only almost. When frothing the milk for a flat white, the steam wand is kept just under the surface of the milk and will make a sizzling noise, while the milk inside the jug is swirling in circles. That way, the barista slightly heats the milk without letting much air in, so that the milk will be flat on your flat white.
Should you order a Latte or a Flat White?
If you happen to visit a café that doesn’t serve flat whites – interestingly, they are entirely unknown in major parts of the US and in many European countries – a small latte is your to-go drink. However, if you have the choice between either, the strong, short flat white is the drink that will make you jump out of bed in the morning. A latte, on the other hand, is softer, milkier and lastly larger; which makes it the perfect drink for a relaxing coffee break.
Personally, I am a flat white girl – a skinny flat white girl in fact, as I believe that the taste of skim milk is not as dominating as full-fat milk –, and on the odd occasion often even order a cortado. Now, if you’re wondering what this is, I’m happy to talk about cortados, or even macchiatos and ristrettos, another time. Believe me, we have many more coffees to discuss!