Coffee is a very personal business.

My own personal journey started fairly late in life, coffee culture in England (where I spent most of my adult life) being somewhat behind Australia's. Up until several years ago the main coffee I drank was some form of frothy monster from Starbucks, full of caramel, copious amounts of milk and very little coffee flavour. Then I spent some time in Italy and was introduced to a far more simple way of enjoying coffee, pure, plain and uncluttered. Just dark, hot and strong coffee in the form of an espresso, or maybe with a dash of milk in the form of a macciatto. From then on I generally only ever drank black coffee as I always felt if the coffee was good enough, it didn't need anything else muddying it's flavour. I'm even a fan of many Italian's source of disdain, that most American brewed filter coffee, found in diners the length and breadth of the United States.

Now, coming to Australia and the occasions I fancy milk in my coffee and I'm out and about, I tend to delve into the world of flat whites, finding the ever-popular latte far too milky for my tastes. Whilst most cafes worth bothering about clearly distinguish between lattes and flat whites I frequently come across baristas who don't actually seem to do anything different between the two varieties and my flat whites seem to just be a sea of milk with a vague coffee taste lurking somewhere. So the question is...

What is the difference between a flat white and a latte? Is there an official difference, or is it purely personal?

According to Wikipedia and it's strangely fascinating coffee pages, a flat white is made by pouring about 120ml of milk over a 30ml espresso shot and a latte? Well, now it gets very confusing. 'Latte' means different things in different countries, whereas a 'flat white' is uniquely Australian / New Zealand and as far as I can tell is actually quite similar to an Italian latte. 'Officially' an Australian latte is about 235ml of milk poured over a 30ml espresso shot, so the coffee is diluted to nearly twice the level of a flat white. So according to the numbers there shouldn't really be any way of a barista 'mixing up' a flat white and a latte as it's all based on cup size. Who knows what it is that makes some flat whites taste so milky, it must be more down to the quality of the coffee beans served or purely the care put into making the coffee. Or maybe it's just me...

As I said at the beginning, coffee is a very personal business.