My introduction to a Flat White came unexpectedly when I missed a connecting flight from Auckland to Wellington. The Air New Zealand flight from L.A. to Auckland was packed. Qantas was on strike, and Air New Zealand was accommodating passengers booked on Qantas, filling every seat on the aircraft.
Much to my chagrin, I had ended up in an aisle seat of the aircraft’s very last row, where the seats seemed not to recline all the way back. Nonetheless, I have to admit that Air New Zealand’s seats, even in economy, provided ample room. As I was part of a Society of American Travel Writers’ group flying to Auckland for the association’s annual convention, part way through the flight, an Air New Zealand inflight concierge–Mary Jo van Hoppe– introduced herself and offered me an onboard amenities kit.
Mary Jo was a delight, and little did I know that she would prove my first introduction to a Flat White. On landing, the trans-Pacific flight was so packed that, being in the last row, it was very late by the time I disembarked and made it through customs and immigration. Retrieving my suitcase, I was told that I should wheel it from the international terminal at Auckland Airport to the domestic terminal, a fast walk of several minutes.
By the time I arrived at the domestic terminal, it was too late to board my flight. As I was rescheduling, tired and harried, who appeared, but Mary Jo. I was scheduled on a flight departing about 1 ½ hours later. Hearing my plight, Mary Jo invited me up to Air New Zealand’s First Class lounge to relax.
That’s when she suggested I try a Flat White – somewhere between a cappuccino and a latte, with lots of froth on the top. From then on, I was hooked. My fortune turned, and I had the good luck of staying at the Wellington InterContinental, where each day began with a complimentary Flat White. And, they were excellent. In fact, I later learned that New Zealand is very proud of its coffee culture, and justly so.
Since then, I’ve heard that Flat Whites do exist in select coffee houses in Brooklyn and perhaps San Francisco. I haven’t found one yet, but I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.