Monday, 17th February 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

I return to the Starbucks website hoping for more caffeic and educational fun, but am once again disappointed by the factoids on offer:

The Flat White was reportedly created in the early 1980s in Sydney, Australia. Although others claim that this [sic] was being drunk earlier than this in the 1970’s [sic] in Melbourne.

The “others” claiming that the flat white predates the ’80s include the editors of the OED, which quotes a usage in Two Ages of Man (1971), a collection of plays edited by Alan William England. However, what the OED does not say is that the play in which the line occurs is Peter Shaffer’s The Private Ear, which was first performed and (more to the point) published in 1962. The lines in question run,

BOB: I asked her if she’d have a coffee with me… So we went to an expresso in South Ken.
TED: And held hands over two flat whites?

So, even if Starbucks say that ‘espresso coffee served with steamed milk’ (OED) didn’t make it to the antipodes until at least the 1970s, others claim that it was being drunk earlier than this. In the 1960s. In South Kensington.