Study up, aspiring coffee snobs. Image courtesy of Starbucks.

Starbucks' newest espresso drink is available in U.S. stores today, and it has nary a drizzle of caramel or a speck of sprinkles, not a skinny- or -ccino to its name. In fact, its name couldn't be more unassuming: it's a flat white.

A flat what, you ask? Turns out the answer isn't so simple. Coffee cognoscenti disagree on what sets this drink apart, but most agree that microfoam—that silky result of perfectly aerated milk that's said to resemble latex paint—is a must. So are ristretto shots, which are pulled with half the normal amount of water for fuller body and less bitterness. The two are mixed at a higher-than-usual ratio of espresso to milk and traditionally served in a petite six- to eight-ounce size (Starbucks will offer theirs all the way up to a 20-ounce venti, per usual).

As for Starbucks' take on the mysterious drink, a press release promised "an espresso beverage made with two ristretto shots, combined with a thin layer of velvety steamed milk and finished with a latte art dot."

The drink hails from Australia, where cappuccinos are usually topped with a fluffy spoonful of foam. Frequent requests for a cappuccino with foam throughout, instead of on the top—"flat" milk, as it were—led to the flat white. It's long been the drink of choice in Australia and New Zealand, and has been on Starbucks menus in the UK since 2010.

The release comes just a few months after the company's last beverage launch. Topped with a mound of whipped cream and a crumble topping, the Chestnut Praline Latte was pretty much the typical Starbucks sugar bomb (and, like the famous PSL, it contained exactly none of its titular ingredient).

The flat white, on the other hand, is squarely marketed toward espresso purists—a group the coffee giant seems eager to court these days, from the launch of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Capitol Hill to the expansion of the Clover brewing system.

Starbucks opponents can still get their taste of the flat white at Seattle Coffee Works, where it's available as a secret menu item. The drink is reportedly quite popular among tourists from Australia and New Zealand—and with Seattle Opera director/erstwhile Kiwi Aidan Lang, who once called the flat white his favorite coffee drink.

Fellow flat white fans, fear no more. Your favorite drink is now available, probably on the next street corner (and the one after that, and the one after that).

 

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