Time to wake up and smell the flat white

A new breed of Antipodean-run coffee houses are showing the big chains that there's more to life than a bucket of insipid latte

Caffeine connoisseurs have long despaired at the buckets of milky froth that get dished out by the big boys of the coffee-chain world. But help is at hand from a new generation of Antipodean-run coffee bars that are springing up all over the country offering a punchier alternative to the grande latte.

The "flat white" is the new must-clutch drink for the caffeine-deprived, according to market experts, who predict Britain is on the verge of a new coffee boom that will come as a wake-up call to established chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee. A small, strong white coffee, made with two to three shots of espresso topped with very creamy, well-frothed milk, the flat white is the star of the show at new coffee shops from Edinburgh to Brighton.

Market analysts predict the new bars will prosper because the big coffee chains, which control more than half the UK's 4,000 outlets, are falling out of favour. Coffee Republic recently went bust and Starbucks has been shutting stores around the globe to stem a decline in its sales. In a sign of consumer malaise with ubiquitous chains, Starbucks recently opened a non-branded outlet that it hopes will capture the vibe of a beatnik coffee hangout, called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, in Seattle.

A report from retail coffee experts Allegra Strategies predicted that quality independent outlets would flourish on the back of a "growing demand for more 'authenticity', something the chain operators find difficult to achieve".

In the UK, although Americans once called the shots – and served them – when it came to coffee, now Australians and New Zealanders are leading the caffeine charge, opening new shops such as Edinburgh's Wellington Coffee and Press Coffee and London's Milk Bar and Nude Espresso.

All serve a flat white, which Jeffrey Young, who runs Allegra Strategies, said is the UK's fastest growing new coffee brew and provides the "perfect antidote to the latte". He added: "Flat white sales are growing more than 10 times as fast as the rest of the market. Flat whites have the potential to bring a new identity to coffee in the UK."

Ben McCormack, editor of the restaurant and café guide Square Meal, said Antipodean-run coffee bars had "a certain cool cachet", making them popular with "the sort of consumer who is likely to turn their nose up at, say, Starbucks because of a knee-jerk anti-Americanism or anti-globalisation". He added: "Plus there's a lot of affection towards Australia and New Zealand in the UK, so the businesses are starting off on a strong footing." Cameron McClure, a New Zealander who named his Soho coffee bar Flat White, said the new coffee culture was based on serving stronger coffees that don't get drowned by vast quantities of milk. He makes 700 flat whites daily. "They started out as an in-the-know sort of coffee but are now becoming better known," he said.

The new class of British coffee connoisseur has already produced the first British world barista champion: Gwilym Davies, who runs two coffee stalls in east London. Next year he will fight to retain his crown on home turf when the UK, which has a £1.6bn-a-year coffee market, hosts the championship for the first time. "There is a huge new coffee boom. Customers are demanding a better coffee," Mr Davies said. He thinks the likes of Starbucks have been good for business because they've "created a market, promising it something but failing to deliver". He serves more flat whites than any other type of coffee.

Unlike lattes, which are served in anything up to a 20oz cup by coffee chains, less is more when it comes to making a flat white. Ian Boughton, who edits the trade magazine Boughton's Coffee House, said: "It needs to be served in a 5oz or 6oz cup. It's a more powerful, stronger, creamier drink but not uncomfortably strong. The milk needs to be very well stretched and well spun to make sure it has plenty of tight bubbles – a micro foam – which makes it very, very creamy."

The skill needed to make a flat white means big chains are giving it a wide berth – for now at least – although Allegra's Mr Young predicts it is only "a matter of time before one of them takes up the challenge and ups the ante with their coffee offer".

News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'