It has been the quintessential Kiwi coffee for decades, and now the flat white is taking over the Big Apple as aficionados discover coffee as Godzone intended it.

But there is one grinding problem - New Yorkers seem to think the drink was wholly invented in Australia.

The New York magazine reports that Australians have popularised the drink over there, influencing tastes in a city that almost fuels itself on a hot cup of Joe.

"Although available in New York's few Australian restaurants and meat-pie shops for at least a decade, it has grown in prominence with the rise of our coffee culture," the article said.


But Kiwis say they should at least have some recognition for their input into the invention.

New Zealand Coffee Roasters Association vice-president Matt Lamason says it is grudgingly accepted that flat whites first appeared in Australia - but Kiwis perfected the brew and made it world famous in New Zealand and beyond. Besides, no one makes them better than us.

"When I think of a New Zealand flat white they are a creamy expression of well made espresso and beautiful stretched milk," he said.

"Kiwis are well known for giving it a very good reputation, whereas I don't know if an Australian flat white has a great reputation as a strong, over-extracted and watery coffee.

"New Zealand had a huge impact on making it so well known. In many cases it is New Zealanders who have gone to Australia to work in [better-paid cafes] and then gone out overseas.

"Here in New Zealand we are very picky about what we do and really care about quality, and I just seem to think we have some stake in the way the best flat white is being made in New York."

Mojo Coffee training officer Jay Chapman said the flat white debate was similar to other transtasman tiffs.

"Cheeky buggers," he said. "It's a contentious one, it's kind of up there with the Pavlova or Split Enz and Crowded House. We claim that it was invented in Auckland and Australians claim that it was already happening in Sydney about the same time."


Karajoz Coffee founder Derek Townsend claims to have made the first Kiwi flat white in 1986 at the Auckland cafe, DKD.

However, he admits he copied the name from Melbourne cafes serving espresso with cold milk.

"We stole their name, they stole our coffee," he said. "We introduced the flat white, I was making an espresso-based coffee with creamy hot milk - I'm a New Zealander, I love milk."

A recently penned Australian Financial Review article by Australian food historian Michael Symons handed the rights back to his countrymen.

"Kiwi baristas have perfected the Australian flat white," he wrote. "The explanation is that New Zealanders only really took to espresso in the 1990s so, with fewer bad habits, open minds and learning from Australia, they have done well."

He writes that coffee and tea historian Ian Bersten has a menu from about 1984 from Belaroma Cafe in the Sydney suburb of Lindfield carrying the description: "Flat white. Long espresso with milk, $1.65."