The flat white is a Kiwi favourite. But the classic espresso coffee's price can be as variable as Auckland's weather.

The Herald carried out an unscientific survey across central Auckland yesterday to gauge cafe prices for a large flat white. Prices ranged from $3.70 to $6.

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The most expensive, at $6, came from St Heliers restaurant Annabelles, whose manager said it reflected the large size of the cup and the extra amount of coffee it held.

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"It's double the size of a normal coffee, a normal coffee is $4, $4.50."

Fariborz Rangi, general manager of Kahve on St Heliers Bay Rd, said he made about 80 cents profit on each cup of coffee, selling a large flat white for $4.50 - the joint cheapest barista-made coffee of our survey. "We've got a lot of competition in this area. We don't want to be too greedy."

Parnell cafes The Strawberry Alarmclock and Biskit also charged $4.50. Biskit owner Nick Bashoda said $4.50 was the average price of a large flat white in Parnell.

Misters on Wyndham St in the CBD was slightly more expensive at $4.90.

Owner Alex Brayne said Misters' beans were specially roasted by a small boutique roaster and the cafe used fully compostable cups and top-of-the-line Italian machine and grinders.

"We set our prices reflecting that and we think our customers are happy to pay a little extra for quality."

Overall, the cheapest coffee came from McDonald's, at $3.70, but it was from an automated machine and not barista-made.

McDonald's spokeswoman Kim Bartlett said the low price reflected the scale of the business.

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" The sheer volume of supplies that we purchase means we can keep the prices down where possible."

At McDonald's McCafe, a large, double shot, barista made flat white would cost $5.40, and a standard sized (355ml) double shot flat white is $4.40.

Coffee expert Tom Handiside, a manager at Italian espresso machine manufacturer La Marzocco, said bigger was not necessarily better. A good flat white shouldn't be more than 200ml, he said.

"The best flat whites come in smaller cups and that's because the coffee and milk blends nicely in a smaller serve."

Mr Handiside said that even if four cafes were supplied with the same coffee at the same price, the cost of a flat white could vary significantly, based on a number of factors.

Extra-large flat whites wouldn't be available at all cafes, and the price of a coffee shouldn't be based on the portion size, he said.

"The price we pay for a flat white in a cafe should be reflective of the quality of the green [unroasted] coffee beans and of the skill and craftsmanship in delivering that cup to you.

"Coffee can range from a few different price points and people will vote with their feet."

Visiting Parnell, Lucy Barr said she paid between $3 and $3.50 for a flat white at home in Raglan.

Yesterday she'd paid $3.80 for a single shot, regular-sized flat white, which she thought was pretty good.

"I'd pay up to $5 for a large, but $6 is excessive."

In St Heliers, students Giverny Forbes and Alex Gardner said they wouldn't pay more than $5 for a coffee or hot chocolate.

"Anything over that is too pricey," Ms Forbes said.

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Posted by Herald Life on Monday, June 15, 2015