One of my favourite weekend rituals is picking up my book and going out for a coffee, not to one of the many (many) coffee shop chains which seem to be on every other street but rather a small coffee shop near my flat. This coffee shop is independently run and prides itself on the quality of the coffee they sell and the care and attention to preparing each cup that you don’t get in the chain shops.
Personally, the setting is just as important to me as the coffee itself and finding a local shop where you can tuck yourself away in a corner and take your time to enjoy your coffee, read and listen to some of the surrounding conversations is crucial.
Different people have different preferences when it comes to the style of coffee they like, but personally I like the Flat White. Similar to Lattes they are prepared with milk, but the Flat White is prepared with a double shot, I like my coffee strong, and with a smaller amount of milk. The milk is steamed but not foamed in the same way as a latte. The preparation of the milk is known as stretching, and unlike a latte or cappuccino you do not want to “froth” the milk and introduce air into it. This stretched milk is then gently poured over the double shot of espresso. If you pick the right coffee shop with a skilled barista you’ll often notice that the milk is beautifully patterned or there may be a small heart in the centre of your cup, achieved by the barista as they slowly pour the milk into the rich espresso which rises up, a deft hand will create a beautiful ripple across the top of the cup.
Don’t be surprised when your flat white arrives in a smaller cup than you may be used to for lattes, cappuccinos or from any coffee in a chain shop. A Flat White allows you to enjoy an artisan coffee, where taste and preparation skill are key and volume needs to take a back seat.
You may also need to decide which particular coffee you want for your Flat White; I love a coffee shop that offers you a little choice. Many will have their own house blend of coffee beans and this is always worth a try but if the café has a good relationship with a roaster then they may also have speciality coffees from time to time. A very popular coffee for Flat Whites is the Australian Skybury bean, this is a light and buttery taste which results in a very smooth and velvety Flat White, delicious but it lacks a little strength for my own personal taste. My local café stocks coffee beans from York Coffee Emporium, and I find that their Four Bean Blend makes the perfect Flat White. Coffee bean blends rely upon the skill of the roaster and their ability to match different single origin beans and create a well-balanced blend that enhances the taste of each individual bean.
So you’ve selected your coffee, the bean or blend of choice and the coffee has been prepared with the attention and love of a skilled barista. You are sat on a comfy sofa all that is left to do is open your book and relax, take some time out and watch the world go by with a beautiful cup of artisan coffee.
Photo: Russell J Smith