Alan Preston, age 30, behind the counter at Bar Prestoni. (2 of 7)
Flat White on the Menu

Cafe Mono, Darling Harbour (6 of 7)
300 Seats, went gangbusters when shows were on at Entertainment Centre
Flat White on the Menu

Chamberlain Hotel, Cnr Pitt & Campbell. Centrepoint Tower in background. (5 of 7) 
Flat White on the Menu

Alan Preston, age 29, behind the counter at Moors Espresso Bar, the Home of the Flat White.

Alan Preston's Latest Cafe 2015
Flat White on the Menu

Alan Preston Making a Flat White 2015
Gaggia 2 Group Lever Machine

Alan Preston Making a Flat White 2015
4 Group Nuova Simonelli

We've been asking this question for many years now.

Do you know of any cafe which had Flat White on the menu before 1985?

If so, can you produce an original photo and some sort of historical verification, eye witnesses etc.

We have repeatedly tried to establish proof of the definite appearance of 'Flat White,' fair dinkum, on any Cafe Menu in Melbourne, before 1987. Nothing so far.

The Wikipedia assertion that the Flat White is from New Zealand, not Sydney is entirely unsustainable.

This story is based on hearsay and opinion only and there is no genuine evidence, photographic or otherwise. As Wikipedia is open source, it's first in best dressed.

Michael Symons' book, One Continuous Picnic, is now used as the authoritative basis for the history of the Flat White and Symons is adamant that the Flat White first appears in the 1980's in Sydney. 'One Continuous Picnic' whilst interesting, is based on one man's experiences and travels through the 'Foodscape'.

Espresso.1, if you like, is the original version. Totally Italian in make up and origin. The menus are based on the italian terms, e.g. our 'Long Black' was always just 'Long' or in Italian, 'Lungo' and 'Doppio" our Short Black, or as it was originally, 'Black coffee -Short'

Preston's 7 Sydney Coffee Outlets in the 1980s coincide with the true start of Espresso.2, the non Italian version of Espresso. Preston, not Italian himself, says he was resentful, at the time of the imperiousness of the Italian strangle hold on Espresso and so named his first cafe 'Moors Espresso Bar', linking back to the Moors who were the original Camel Trading Goat Herders. Apocryphally believed to be the discoverers of Coffee. Preston had an expensive and beautiful mural painted on the back wall of Moors, showing the Moors, complete with coffee pots and cups on the backs of the Camels.(see photo) He then seems to have had a change of heart and his second Cafe (1986) reverts to the more accepted Italian format, as he names it Bar Prestoni- for himself and also evoking an Italian theme. 

Symons did not have a Flat White at Moors Espresso Bar or Bar Prestoni, yet in his mind, it is 'The Wellingtonians who perfect the Flat White'. Symons also says Ian Bersten had Flat White on his Belaroma Paper Menu in 1984 but this cannot be true because Bersten says the price was $1.65. In 1984, the absolute most you could get for a standard 5oz Coffee was $1.10 but more likely just $1.00 so $1.65 is 65% over the odds. To put it into perspective, If coffee is $3.80 today then adding 65% puts it at $6.25. Clearly nonsensical if $1.65 becomes $6.25 in today's money. If the 1984 story is true then it was very expensive coffee.

Alan Preston opened Moors Espresso Bar in 1985, in Downtown Sydney, only 1 year later and all he could get was $1.20. Three years later the price is up to $1.40 at The Star Hotel but that was over the odds because of being in a Hotel. Incidentally, why doesn't Bersten have it on the cafe menu? If it's on his paper menu, surely it's on the cafe menu as well. The answer is, it was - by 1990.

Therefore the 1984 menu is really around 1990 when coffee had cracked $1.60. By this time half the cafes in Sydney had Flat White on the menu and it had made it's way to NZ.The prices on the Moors Espresso Bar menu and The Star Espresso Bar menu are further proof of the Sydney story.

THERE IS NO PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF of the Melbourne or NZ stories! The Sydney origin is proveable without doubt. (Eye Witnesses and Dateable Photos)

We wait for someone from Melbourne or New Zealand to set us straight. As of today's date, it is idle talk with no proof.

The proveable lineage is thus - North Queensland, Sydney, then everywhere else, probably Melbourne before New Zealand. We have a reasonable account of Flat White in Lygon St by 1987, but no sooner. Preston had been going along for at least 2 years in Sydney by then.

If you have any knowledge of Flat White on a menu predating Moors which passes muster, then we will acknowledge your claim on this webpage.

The fact remains that it was the combined impetus of Alan Preston's 7 coffee outlets around Sydney’s Chinatown in the '80s which gave The Flat White it’s start.

Of particular significance - The Star Hotel, to the take up rate of Flat White around Sydney. The Star attracted an eclectic clientele and was particularly popular with the music and film world, which was well represented around the Chinatown area.

The many surrounding Chinese Restaurants trading late into the evening, had appeal to customers who were themselves in the hospitality industry. For example,the legendary BBQ King (right next door to Moors and across the road from the Star) had a huge following of Chefs,Restaurateurs & Cafe Owners who would go there for the BBQ Pork,Roast Duck and Soya Chicken. Chefs such as Neil Perry were Chinatown devotees in the 80s. These people routinely drank at The Star and had coffee at Moors and would have seen Flat White on the menus. The owners and staff of BBQ King were daily customers at Moors (which had some of their products on the menu). The Roast Duck Croissant was very popular with the Chinese clientele of Moors.

As part of our research into the origins of The Flat White, we have contacted as many of the original customers as it was possible to locate (19 so far ) and a recurring theme is how good the coffee was.

The following extract from Alan Preston

"There are many very specific reasons for this and enough to say the Espresso Industry has sadly gone off the rails with the prevailing methods.

In particular – Roasting. The original Italian Roasters went well into second crack, until oil was visible in the sight glass.

I still roast at my Cafe in Salisbury and I roast until I see oil on the beans...and then some. The problem with this is the amount of smoke produced and the mess associated.

How typical that the modern approach should reflect the easy way. By roasting light, a lot of time and effort is saved, but at the cost of caramelising the beans.

By roasting dark, the sugars in the beans are released (The Maillard Effect) and the resulting taste is significantly superior. The level of bitterness is dramatically reduced and if everything is done right from there, then the coffee will taste superb. Roasting light however only results in bitterness as the primary taste.

This is true and unfortunately, this is not what the Espresso Industry wants to hear, as the Roasters have gotten into the habit of roasting extremely light.

I am constantly attacked on my Twitter Feed for telling Roasters they are wrong to roast light.

The real reasons the Industry roasts light are - It is significantly quicker, no mess, no smoke & less shrinkage. All very compelling reasons. As many  Roasters are in suburban locations, they are loathe to cause smoke which is the necessary result of roasting properly. To get around this conundrum, a maze of bullshit has emerged which is palpably false. Ask any Roaster about his barely roasted beans and he will swear on his Mother's Grave that his beans are sensational and brimming with 'notes' of this and that but really, they taste like horsepiss if they aren’t caramelised by going well into 2nd crack. Some of the more pretentious and trendy Roasters barely go to first crack.You know who you are"

Alan Preston 2015