Nothing says you’re in your 20s more than drinking a flat white
Hailing from down under and now in Belsize Park
Busy Londoners don’t have time for a cappuccino; indeed, this is a point of pride. Coffee is a status accessory – and the one Londoners covet is a flat white. The flat white signals that we are discerning professionals; that we are rushing to a meeting; that we don’t have time for latte talk – which is for mothers by the schoolgates. You don’t sit and drink a flat white.
Of course, we also seek the caffeine, for we like to quip about how we’re addicted to caffeine, on repeat, until a colleague is impelled to invite you to talk further on the subject. We need something stronger, but bigger than and not as bitter as an espresso. We don’t want a cup of scalding hot milk with a bit of caffeine for good measure. We want a rung above the “basic” festive spiced coffees and caramel shots: a shot of espresso, with steamed milk and a thin layer of froth served in a 170ml tulip cup. We like that it came from a land down under, populated with sunny connoisseurs.
Even Greggs the bakers – formerly purveyors of macaroni pie – has introduced the flat white to their menu. Wait, what?
Forget that. The flat white fan has a velvety surface, just like the flat white itself. He is sleek, well-crafted and classy – though underneath it all, he is as mean and important and bitter as everyone else who has a better salary than them. He wears smart trousers and cream woolly jumper (she is slightl neurotic). He is a metrosexual man in round glasses, pigeonholed as a hipster – he tried to rock a top knot at some point. He sips them outside organic boutique coffee shops off Camberwell Green or Belsize Park smoking rollies and posting each visit to Instagram to 1,000 plus followers. He thinks of – and refers to – himself as an “influencer”.
The establishments that specialise in flat whites describe themselves as Antipodean, independent, and artisan; their brand suggest cosiness and comfort, even though their furniture is definitely made out of recycled wood. The tanned Australians servers flirt outrageously while offering takeaway boxes of salads filled with nuts, kale and buckwheat. He like that.
The flat white is jettisoned by young creatives with beards and New Balance – not bankers, lawyers and accountants. The creatives know that whatever the numbers people say, they are just pretending. They wear suits and work in glass skyscrapers, they are not tucked in offices with bare brick walls and high ceilings where you can bring your pet dachshund, and which are patently superior. The creatives know that their life choices are superior, though cannot explain why – don’t ask them to. Coffee?
But really, the creatives are drawn to the lack of pretension. For in essence,the flat white is not intimidating. For once, it’s two English words put together, not an Italian one you sort of burble.
Finally, they understand a coffee for what it is, they know what they’re getting.