The Case for Non-Differentiated Whites: Should Consumers Accept That?

Let the shop define the experience for you. Don't do the shop's job for them


Quite recently, I was on a terrible local coffee forum. It usually contains some chuckleable content where amateur brewers argue about the intricacies of chain coffees or supermarket coffee beans when i came across a rather upsetting post by one of their members. Said member had posted an image of a white/latte/cap/milk espresso at a reputable specialty coffee shop and attached the following caption


"Apparently it's just a white. They no longer serve flats, latte, cappuccino." that followed with some rather disturbing comments like "How do they call themselves a cafe?" "Does the barista know what they are doing" "It's regression"

Some comments were a little less judgemental, yet still uninformed "I usually order the white. It's good also"


Let me just say how grossly misunderstood the actions of the shop were by this group of misguided vigalante coffee enthuasists.

It's not that we as an industry don't know or are not capable of serving those. We are not regressive and customers certainly have no right to judge how professional we are just because we are not doing the familiar. Let me explain below

The Case For Non-differentiated whites and why we serve them

1. Latte/Caps and Flatties are basically the same thing. Espresso topped with steamed milk.
2. It's not that we don't think that the traditional recipes are not important. They limit the potential for the coffees we serve
3. We want to serve a milk beverage that is representative of the coffee experience

Think of it like a cocktail bar. There's a standard Negroni recipe out there, but not every cocktail bar needs to follow it. They would want to serve their best version of a negroni based on their ingredients. What if the bartender wants the gin to shine through more? Or the vermouth they are using?

In the same way, what if we served coffees that shone through in a standard 5oz white? We wouldn't want a cappacino style beverage that is dry as heck that the foam doesn't contribute and in fact blocks the flavour experience by introducing to thick a mouthfeel for any flavour to pass through into your precious palate. Why wouldn't you prefer a beverage that is balanced, and has a silky pleasant mouthfeel that features the best attributes of a coffee in a milk beverage?

Let the shop define the experience. Don't do the shop's job for them

What really grinds my gears is the fact that most consumers in Singapore, for some reason, feel that the traditional recipes are the only ways that they should be drinking coffee.

It is a symptom for a larger issue out there, that consumers do not respect the opinions of coffee industry workers or see them as hospitality professionals that know how to do their job!

What if a certain coffee being served shone through the best at a moderate amount of silky foam for good mouthfeel, balance of sweetness so that the espresso can adequately balance off the milk beverage?

I believe there should be more trust in the establishment and barista to deliver an experience representative of the value they bring to the marketplace.

Don't take it out on us just because we seem like we are not listening to you as a customer. Hospitality is always a two-way street.

Listen to us and trust that we want to deliver a valuable specialty coffee experience.

Coffee as a unique experience

In one of my previous articles, I had discussed the meaning of specialty coffee

Specialty coffee is a coffee or coffee experience recognized for its distinctive attributes, and because of these attributes, has significant extra value in the marketplace - SCA 2021 White Paper

That means one identifying with and enjoying a coffee based on it’s unique features, whether be it because it has floral notes and sweet tea like flavours in a washed Ethiopia Heirloom or an intense fruit forward experimental natural from Colombia.

It would be a waste if we let the experience run amock by letting the customer do everything they want in their ignorance

I seriously hate having to explain this point over and over again.

Written by Byron Lim