Shock news in the world of coffee this week as coffee mega-giant Starbucks went all Game of Thrones and announced that its US stores would be axing the famous cappuccino from the menu indefinitely. Now you might think this is due to an anti-Italian backlash. After all, it’s not the first time our American cousins have declared cultural warfare on a European nation. Remember ‘freedom fries’? If not, that was the US attempt to rebrand the already misnamed French fries (they are and always will be: chips) all because France refused to commit its entire military to subjugating the Middle East. That’s not what’s happening here. Americans (most Americans) still like Italians (most Italians — we think), but they’ve had enough of Italian coffee, or rather, cappuccinos.
The cappuccino is being dropped for multiple reasons. One is that it is (apparently) too hard to make. That seems odd considering that if you’ve ever been to Italy, the locals make the popular breakfast drink with ease. In fact, if you are an Italian and don’t know how to make a cappuccino, or don’t own a pair of sunglasses, you’re not allowed to vote. Nevertheless, in the humble US, baristas are complaining that it is a difficult thing to get right. All those nozzles and dials and steam arms and things that go brrrrr don’t help whatsoever. Even if you have a degree in baristology from the University of Mocha, it’s just too bloody hard.
Also, it isn’t selling anymore. Whereas once ordering a cappuccino showed how classy and refined you are, now it just makes you look like a pleb (because being in Starbucks in the first place doesn’t at all in any way). Nowadays, cappuccinos are often little other than bland milky disappointment, and frequently a way to mask cheap or over-brewed coffee. They are also, unfortunately, one of those things that can be done very poorly, like that time your mother said she could make a chili con carne, and then you spent the next three days tenderly probing your nether regions with iced toilet paper.
As a result, the coffee-drinking public are turning to other things. Chief amongst these new contenders is the flat white, a velvety blend of steamed milk and espresso that goes down a treat. Surprisingly this treat comes out of Australia, a place previously renowned for nothing more than Mel Gibson, deadly animals, and Anglophobia. Amongst the coffee elite — or at least those of the coffee elite who are lost and find themselves in Starbucks — the flat white is seen as more of a refined drink, it’s simpler to make, and it doesn’t have a name that people will insist on saying in a faux Italian accent. However, if we told you that there is a debate going on about whether it was created in Australia or New Zealand, we bet you’d try out your best Wellingtonian cadence.
Go on, you know you want to. Have yourself a flutt whyte and see what all the fuss is about.