Dining With Denise Neil

A review of Starbucks’ new Flat White drink

The Flat White is Starbucks’ newest drink.
The Flat White is Starbucks’ newest drink. The Wichita Eagle

Starbucks has a new drink – the Flat White – and we wanted to know what it was like.

So my editor sent intern Jake Trease, a recent Wichita State University graduate, out to give it a try. Jake is a coffee expert. He works at the Starbucks counter at the Barnes & Noble at Bradley Fair, and I can attest he makes a mean mocha. He made one for me while I was after-Christmas shopping before I ever met him in his role as intern.

Here’s Jake’s take on the new drink, which is made with two “ristretto“ shots of espresso and a bit of steamed whole milk then topped with a dot of latte art. The drink was inspired by a beverage that’s been popular in Australia and England since the 1980s.

The Flat White takes Starbucks back to the basics: A review by Jake Trease

In recent years, Starbucks has been represented by its decadent dessert drinks with whipped cream and caramel drizzle billowing out the top of a dome lid. It’s easy to forget that the coffee giant was built on traditional drinks like the latte or the Americano.

Maybe that’s what Starbucks was trying to remind everyone of with the release of its newest menu item, the Flat White. Instead of new flavors or interesting whipped toppings, the flat white relies on steamed whole milk and an additional shot of concentrated “ristretto” espresso.

The drink hit the menu on Tuesday. To try it for myself, I went to a Starbucks at 2525 S. Seneca.

I ordered a grande, which was $4.66. Alexa Dunford, a shift supervisor at the Starbucks on South Seneca in Wichita, said she had a few people order it that day. With my expectations low, I tried it myself. They were exceeded, slightly. The espresso taste was much stronger than in a regular latte or cappuccino.

Dunford explained that the ristretto espresso has less water, which makes it more concentrated. An additional shot is also added. That means that in a 12 oz. “tall” drink, there are two shots.

“It’s more traditional,” she said. “It definitely accentuates the espresso.”

The drink is traditionally made with whole milk, giving it a silkier texture. Dunford said they aerate it for less time as well. She calls the foam used here “microfoam.”

The milk treatment definitely made it silkier. But the espresso still took over. While I liked the stronger taste, Starbucks barista, Amanda Burdett, said it wasn’t her cup of Joe.

“It’s strong,” she said. “I’m more of a sweet person, so it’s not my favorite. But it is good if you like lattes and espresso.”

My drink had the traditional “dot” floating on top that is prescribed by the recipe. But Burdett said that some baristas try doing “latte art” with the foam. With the silkier milk, baristas can more easily get creative with their designs.

“I know some people try to do more of the foam art with it, than just that little dot thing,” she said. “That’s what the whole milk helps for.”

While it’s promising to see Starbucks returning to its roots of traditional coffee beverages, and the drink really is pretty good, I will probably return to my go-to — an Americano with three pumps of white mocha and an extra shot.