Kiwi claims flat white invention video

Hospitality stalwart Fraser McInnes says he invented the flat white when trying to make a cappuccino.

We gave the world Lorde, pavlova, and now - according to the Wellington man who says he invented it - the flat white coffee.

Global coffee empire Starbucks listed the flat white coffee on its United States and Canadian menus this month. It was already available in England and Australia.

According to the Starbucks website, the flat white is thought to have been created in the 1980s in Sydney, Australia, though there are claims of it being in Melbourne earlier.

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A statement from Starbucks said the flat white "became a coffeehouse staple in the UK and is now a budding favorite among coffee aficionados in the United States and Canada".

The statement, though, made no mention of New Zealand.

The real history of the flat white is murky, with the name seemingly preceding the drink as we know it and the drink itself changing from city to city.

THE AMERICAN OFFERING: "Expertly steamed whole milk poured over two shots of espresso, topped with microfoam swirled ...

THE AMERICAN OFFERING: "Expertly steamed whole milk poured over two shots of espresso, topped with microfoam swirled into beautiful latte art," that's how Starbucks is selling our flat white.

But Wellington hospitality stalwart Fraser McInnes claimed he invented the exact flat white being used by Starbucks.

Rather than considering legal action he was "chuffed" to see his invention being drunk around the world.

It was New Zealand's "greatest contribution to the world's cuisine since the pavlova", he said.

His flat white - a double shot of espresso topped with a silky layer of foam on top - came about when he was trying to make a cappuccino at Cafe Bodega in Willis St in the summer of late 1989.

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It was the end of summer and there was not enough fat to properly froth the milk. "I went over to the [customer] and said 'sorry, it's a flat white'."

His business partner then listed the flat white on the menu blackboard. "A Wellington flat white is a failed cappuccino," McInnes said.

From its invention it quickly spread around Wellington's handful of cafes that used espresso machines.

McInnes was quick to admit that other flat whites may have preceded his but those recipes - such as the Auckland flat white of a single shot of coffee with warm milk - were not the ones adopted by Starbucks.

Craig Miller, who is about to release his book Coffee Houses of Wellington, 1939-79: The Pre-Espresso Period, said many laid claim to inventing the flat white but it was a "generic drink" with no clear original.

He remembered making a drink called a flat white in Auckland in the mid-1980s using a recipe from Australia. That version was a double shot black coffee with a jug of milk on the side.

Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment.

 - The Dominion Post


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