FLEE FLEE is located in Hannam-dong, Seoul and serves up the New Zealand and Australian import — the flat white. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
New Zealand and Australian drink that has gone mainstream in Britain served at new cafe
FLEE FLEE co-owners Park Kwan-joo and Choi Chung-hwan, who enjoyed the flat whites they downed in England, knew from the start that the drink would be a fixture of their cafe’s menu.
“In a flat white, you can really taste the coffee,” Choi, 35, said explaining why he likes it. “Flat white rides the line between a cappuccino and a latte.”
“A good-sized amount is served up and it tastes good,” said Park, 35.
Park and Choi are referring to the New Zealand and Australian import called flat white or “flatties.”
Flat whites are made by extracting one or two shots of espresso and pouring “microfoam” (steamed milk rendered to a thick but not excessively foamy consistency) over the brew. Generally steamed milk from the bottom of the pitcher is used to prevent the spongy foam on top from pooling up over the coffee. In most cases, a thin layer of foam is allowed to form on top at the end.
To make a FLEE FLEE flat white, steamed milk that has been made as dense as possible by putting the nozzle close to the bottom of the metal pitcher when steaming is poured over a double shot ristretto to send the crema to the top. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Experts refer to the steamed milk used to make flat whites as “microfoam” because of its dense, not too frothy texture, which sets it apart from cloud-like, foam-topped cappuccinos.
What emerges is a creamy yet strong brew, kind of “like having an espresso and half a latte,” says Park of the drink, which has caught on in the United Kingdom.
“People really started drinking it about three to four years ago,” said Park, who lived in England for a little over seven years. In fact, the flat white got so popular it was added to Starbucks’ London menu in 2009 and then to its U.K. menu in 2010.
While living there, Park used to frequent a hotspot known for its flat whites in London’s Soho district. When Choi came to visit, he too got to tip back some flatties.
For the two middle and high school friends, putting the drink on the menu of their new Hannam-dong cafe was a no-brainer.
Deciding how they would whip up their flatties required a lot more brain power. After doing some research with a barista consultant, they figured out how they would make their flat whites.
For their flat white, they decided to do a double shot ristretto and steam the milk with the nozzle close to the bottom of the metal pitcher, to minimize the amount of foam created.
“We do that to get the steamed milk as dense as possible,” said Park so that “when you first pour the milk over the espresso, it sends the crema to the top.”
The concept seems to run against common sense. The whole charm of a cappuccino is that huge swab of foam left on top of the brew. Perhaps that is why the flat white is called an “antipodean” drink, because it runs counter to that theory.
Park explained that if a thick layer of foam is left on top of the brew, then that is the first thing that comes into contact with the palate, amping up the flavors of dairy over that of the coffee.
“And we need that strong coffee flavor,” Choi explained.
Save for a few flecks of artistically rendered latte art ivory, the top of a FLEE FLEE flat white is light, golden brown.
Served in a cup that is bigger than an espresso cup, but smaller than the bowl-shaped ones generally used for cappuccinos, the brew is smooth, rich and round.
The milk adds just the right amount of creaminess without overwhelming the caramel-edged flavors of the coffee.
Given that, it is surprising to hear that customers are not zooming in on FLEE FLEE’s flat white.
“People don’t know about it yet,” said Choi.
“Only people who know what a flat white is, order it.”
Considering that the flat white has spread as far as New York, that may change in the near future as more and more people learn of it.
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org
FLEE FLEE is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and is closed Sundays. The flat white costs 5,000 won. For more information call (02) 795-4040.
To get there go to Hangangjin Subway Station Line 6, Exit 3. Walk straight to the intersection opposite Cheil Worldwide. Turn left into the leftmost fork. Walk straight several blocks. FLEE FLEE will be on the left.