Flat White vs Latte: What Is the Difference?

By: Valor Team

Published On: June 21, 2024

Category: Education

Comparing flat whites and lattes can be a bit like comparing apples and oranges—they each have their unique appeal and distinct characteristics. While lattes are a common find on U.S. menus and found in cafes around the world, flat whites can be a bit harder to find. You're more likely to see them abroad, especially in places like Australia and New Zealand where they originated, or other European/Asian countries, but the drink has also certainly found its way into many U.S. shops in recent years. For those that aren’t familiar with the flat white but may have heard or seen it on a menu whilst traveling, this article will cover all you need to know about the drink and its coffee-cousin, the latte.

Defining a Flat White

A flat white is a coffee beverage that originated in Australia and New Zealand during the 1980s. Known for its perfect balance between a bold espresso base and a creamy, velvety texture, the flat white quickly became a favorite in coffee shops across these countries. It offers a unique coffee experience that emphasizes the robust flavor of espresso, complemented by the smoothness of micro-foamed milk.

  • Espresso Base: Typically made with a double shot of espresso.
  • Milk Froth: The milk is micro-foamed to create a velvety texture, while being certain not to over-aerate and cause milk texture akin to an Italian-style cappuccino.
  • Ratios: The milk-to-coffee flat white ratio is usually around 1:3.
  • Size: Generally served in smaller sizes, such as 5 to 7 ounces.
  • Texture: Offers a richer, creamier taste compared to other milk-based coffees, while not being to foamy.
  • Hot or Cold?:  The flat white is certainly a hot beverage, as it’s defined by its steamed milk texture, but similar iced results can be achieved by diluting espresso with cold milk at a 1:3 ratio and simply adding ice.

A flat white emphasizes the flavor of the espresso while providing a creamy consistency, making it a favorite for those who enjoy a robust coffee experience with a smooth finish.

Defining a Latte

A latte, originating from Italy, is a staple in the coffee world and translates to "milk" in Italian. This beloved beverage has been enjoyed for centuries, especially in Europe, and has made its way into cafes worldwide. The latte is known for its milky, smooth flavor that balances the espresso with a generous amount of steamed milk, making it an ideal canvas for flavored syrups and latte art.

  • Ingredients: Double shot of espresso, steamed milk, and a small amount of microfoam.
  • Ratios: Ratios vary greatly depending on cafe, with most falling close to a 1:4 or 1:5 ratio of espresso to milk.
  • Texture: Creamy and smooth with microfoam on top.
  • Flavor: Mild and milky, allowing the espresso flavor to blend into the flavor of the steamed milk.
  • Size: Often enjoyed with flavored syrups like vanilla or caramel and is served in a large cup, ranging anywhere from 8-16 ounces.
  • Hot or Cold?: Both, and then some. The latte is commonly prepared and ordered both hot, cold with ice, and can be found more recently as a popular canned-coffee option. 

Cultural Context Behind These Iconic Choices

Both the flat white and latte have rich cultural backgrounds that influence how they are enjoyed today. In Australia and New Zealand, the flat white is more than just a drink—it's a cultural icon that represents the thriving coffee culture of these countries. On the other hand, the latte, with its Italian roots, embodies the traditional European coffee experience. In Italy, a latte is often enjoyed as a morning beverage, while in other parts of the world, it has evolved to become a versatile drink enjoyed at any time of the day, often personalized with a variety of flavors and artistic touches.

Taste and Texture:

  • Flat White: Upon tasting, you’re likely to notice a stronger espresso-forward coffee flavor, slightly muted by the microfoam, characterized by a velvety silky texture. Flat whites are usually kept simple to highlight the espresso's flavor, with the microfoam adding a subtle sweetness and smooth texture.
  • Latte: Provides a creamier, more velvety taste driven by higher milk content, exhibiting a more substantial layer of foam yielding a frothier mouthfeel. Lattes are incredibly versatile and can be made in a variety of flavors by adding syrups like vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, and many more, making them a favorite for those who enjoy a sweet and flavorful coffee experience.

Serving Styles:

  • Flat White: Typically served in smaller cups, usually 5-7 ounces, with minimal microfoam creating a velvety texture.
  • Latte: Served in larger cups, anywhere from 8-16 ounces, with a thicker layer of foam on top.


Both flat whites and lattes offer unique coffee experiences, each with distinct characteristics in flavor and texture and can be reminiscent of the regions they hail from. If you find yourself at a cafe that serves a flat white and a latte, expand your palate and see the difference between the two for yourself.

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