“Everyone comes in and says, ‘oh, Australian coffee, it must be good,'” Sid Chitnis, co-owner of Saltwater Coffee in NYC’s East Village neighborhood explains. The bright cafe, complete with a smattering of white furniture and large glass windows, has been around a little over a year—and they’ve been producing delicious drinks all the while. “We have this connotation as premium,” Chitnis continues. “It also means people feel compelled to like it. With that expectation of quality, we have to deliver.”
Australian coffee is no secret. It’s been a topic of discussion for at least half-a-decade. But Chitnis does offer insight. “In Australia, no one drinks filter coffee or cold brew,” he says. Chitnis and his wife and business partner both grew up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. “Everyone drinks straight espresso or milk-based espresso drinks,” he adds. And it’s there that the flat white rose to prominence. “For it, you run a shorter shot—and the milk, you steam it, it silkier, like a micro-foam, as opposed to the latte you normally see, which is frothy,” he adds.
For all the coffee knowledge out there, the team at Saltwater found that there are still so many who do not know about flat whites—and this was a motivating factor in their new flat white flight. Here, one traditional flat white is sandwiched between a maple mini-flat white and a milo-mini flat white on a serving board. They’re served with Australian Tim Tams. (Here’s how to do a Tim Tam Slam.)
Anyone afraid of getting over-jazzed, there’s a reduction on espresso here that makes it all manageable. “For the central flat white, we’re running a double shot—a ristretto—short, but sweeter,” Chitnis says. “A split shot is divided between the maple and milo, which is served in four-to-five ounce cortado glasses.” One begins with the traditional drink, moves along to the milo concoction and concludes with the maple. It’s riding the course of sweetness. Milo, a traditional malted chocolate powder, integrates very well with the espresso. There’s something rich and welcoming to it all, not to mention, nostalgic. The organic maple syrup, it’s perkier. There’s something truly celebratory about it—and seasonal.
“Traditionally, we just want to be a shop where anyone can buy very good roasted coffee,” Chitnis makes clear. “We do want to introduce these specials, though, to keep it interesting for the folks who do not always want a coffee. Already we’ve seen the turmeric latte lovers and the matcha lovers. That’s why we have variety. Every season we will come up with something. The staff is incentivized to come up with ideas. We launched a charcoal vanilla latte, two months after we started and that put us on the map.”
Location does matter—and Saltwater is tucked into a highly residential area. “My wife and I wanted our place to embody that neighborhood charm, not something with the high foot traffic of a business district,” he concludes. This, most certainly, was a success. And with a close friendship with his roaster—and a local roasting partnership in development, the quality of the espresso at the heart of it all remains superb.
Saltwater Coffee, at 345 E 12th Street, will be selling the Flat White Flight for $7—initially only on National Coffee Day, 29 September.
Images courtesy of Saltwater Coffee