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Australian for “Coffee”

New York catches flat-white fever.

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Chroniclers of the New York coffee scene might have noticed the advent of the flat white, an espresso-based drink beloved by a cohort even more finicky about their daily joe than the jittery residents of San Francisco and Portland, Oregon: Australians and New Zealanders, otherwise laid-back blokes who turn vituperative on the state of our hometown brew. Their obsession derives from the postwar period Down Under, when Italian immigrants established an espresso-coffee foothold that evolved into a source of national pride. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the flat white—it’s simply a single or double shot topped with milk that’s been steamed into velvety “wet” foam, smaller and less milky than a latte, served in a cappuccino cup but without the froth. Although spottily available in New York’s few Australian restaurants and meat-pie shops for at least a decade, it has grown in prominence with the rise of our coffee culture, materializing at cafés like Glass Shop in Crown Heights, Milk Bar in Prospect Heights, and Montauk’s Coffee Tauk. Now, though, the import has stepped into the limelight as a featured attraction at the New York flagships of two expansion-minded Australian chains: Toby’s Estate, which has just debuted a soaring new café and roastery in Williamsburg, and Pie Face, a meat-pie purveyor in midtown. And Laughing Man, the tiny new Tribeca coffee bar that has positioned the flat white as its signature drink, has co-owner Hugh Jackman as celebrity endorser. Still, this isn’t London, a city that spawned not only the Flat White coffee bar but a website, flatwhite.org, devoted to finding the city’s best. That designation may or may not extend to Starbucks, which added the drink to its London menus over two years ago. Perhaps one day, the flat white will attain the same status here—followed in short order by its compatriot, the long black, a sort of antipodean reverse Americano (hot water first, espresso second).


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