Is there an optimum takeaway cup size for flat whites?

Jane Merchant
March 4, 2022
flat white takeaway cups

Over the last few years, the flat white has taken the coffee sector by storm.

Despite its disputed origins, it has become a menu staple for many specialty coffee shops thanks to its creamy texture and intense flavours.

Indeed, the flat white accounts for over 10% of coffee beverages ordered in UK coffee shops. However, developing its characteristic creamy microfoam takes skill, so the average consumer may not be able to make one at home. Instead, they will turn to their local café. 

If you serve flat whites for takeaway, you’ll know there is no set serving size. Also, depending on consumer preference, it may contain latte-style art. This means your takeaway cups for flat whites must preserve its characteristics and microfoam, while being recyclable and comfortable to hold. 

Read on to find out how to select the best takeaway cups for flat whites.

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flat whites

What is a flat white?

A flat white is traditionally made with two shots of espresso, or a double ristretto. It is then topped with steamed and aerated milk, combining the strength and intensity of espresso with the rich mouthfeel of velvety milk.

The act of steaming milk separates it into three layers: a bottom layer of steamed milk, topped by foam with tiny air bubbles, with an airy foam or froth that sits at the very top. 

For a flat white, the foam and froth are consistently mixed back into the steamed milk to create a mixture that resembles glossy paint. This is then poured and served immediately to prevent the milk from separating or combining with the espresso crema. 

The name flat white likely stems from its appearance, as it has a neat layer of microfoam instead of thick peaks usually found on the cappuccino.

Notably, the flat white is a relative newcomer compared to other milk-based coffee drinks. While there is some debate about whether it originated in Australia or New Zealand, it has been available since the 1980s.

In 2005, an Australian and two New Zealanders set up a café in the UK that was solely dedicated to the flat white. By 2009, the café was making about 700 flat whites a day.

takeaway cups for flat whites

Selecting the right size takeaway cups for your flat white

While many have their preferences, there is no “standard” flat white size.

Former CEO at Common Man Coffee Roasters, Matt McLauchlan, says there is no original recipe for a flat white.

“It started as a trend, and does not fit perfectly into any box,” Matt says in a blog post on Common Man’s website. “However, there are some realistic expectations for consumers when ordering a flat white. These are based on current trends and what cafés are now serving, which can help consumers define the drink.”

Some in the specialty coffee industry feel the flat white should be between 150ml (5oz) and 160ml (5.4oz), while US coffee giant Starbucks allows customers to supersize it to 350ml (11.8oz). However, others say it should be between 177ml (5.9oz) and 238ml (8oz) and no larger.

Interestingly, many customers see the flat white as a health conscious drink when it is 177ml (6oz) or smaller, as it does not contain sugar and uses very little milk.

As its proportions affect its characteristics, cafés that want to develop their own serving size for a flat white can start by combining 60ml (2oz) of espresso and 180ml (6oz) of steamed milk. 

However, this volume can change based on customer feedback and sales data.

takeaway cup for flat white

What to consider when selecting takeaway cups for flat whites

The size of takeaway cups is only one factor to consider when serving flat white coffees to go.

The temperature of the coffee is particularly important. This is because flat whites are typically served immediately after preparation to preserve the layers of milk foam.

To prevent scalding, it is a good idea to invest in double walled cups or offer single wall cups with a sleeve.

Additionally, if you decide to add latte art to your flat white, you will need space for it to sit on top. Therefore, your choice of takeaway lid should not touch the coffee’s surface, or your cup size should be slightly larger.

Takeaway offerings mean customers have limited time to interact with your business. For example, they could visit every morning for months yet spend less than three minutes inside your café in total.

Branding your takeaway cups can help familiarise them with your business, and ensure you remain top of mind whenever they consider ordering a flat white.

Furthermore, choosing compostable or recyclable cups can help prevent them from ending up in a landfill. There are many suitable options available and most have degradable linings, so you won’t have to worry about compromising on cup quality.

If your neighbourhood does not have easy access to a recycling plant, you can encourage repeat sales by asking customers to return their used cups to your store.

This further highlights your commitment to sustainability and will give customers peace of mind about the environmental impact of their daily coffee consumption.

Choosing the right-sized disposable cups for your business can feel like a daunting task. They should be not only sustainable, but also affordable and eye-catching.

However, working with a full-service coffee packaging expert can make the process easier.

At MTPak Coffee, we have years of expertise in creating bespoke takeaway coffee cups for specialty coffee shops and roasters. We offer 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz cups depending on your flat white serving preference. 

Our range is made from either kraft paper or PET with PLA lining. Strong, waterproof, lightweight, and compostable, they can be customised to your preferences using low VOC water-based inks.

This affordable option will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also showcase your commitment to sustainability, putting you ahead of less eco-friendly competitors.

For more information on our recyclable takeaway coffee cups, contact the team

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