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What does Starbucks call a cortado?

costa vs starbucks

For the UK coffee aficionado, a cortado might evoke visions of a balanced blend of espresso and milk, served in a petite glass. However, if you’ve tried to order one at Starbucks, you may have discovered it goes by another name: the Flat White. This article explores what a cortado is, how it compares to the Starbucks Flat White, and how this beverage is perceived in another popular chain, Costa Coffee.

What is a Cortado?

Originating from Spain, a cortado is a small coffee drink that consists of an equal ratio of espresso to steamed milk. The aim is to reduce the acidity and create a beverage that is balanced but still robust. It is typically served in a 150-200ml glass.

The Basics

A cortado is essentially all about balance. It contains:

  • One or two shots of espresso
  • Equal amount of steamed milk
  • Little to no foam

The Name ‘Cortado’

The term ‘cortado’ comes from the Spanish word ‘cortar’, meaning to cut. The idea is that the milk “cuts” through the espresso, softening its robustness and bitterness. This delivers a well-rounded flavour.

“Cortado is all about achieving the perfect equilibrium between espresso and milk.”

What is a cortado in Costa?

In Costa Coffee, a cortado is much the same as it is in traditional definitions. It maintains the 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, making it ideal for those who prefer a stronger coffee flavour than a latte but a smoother taste than an espresso. It is served in a small glass, adhering to its roots.

Comparing the Costa Cortado with Traditional Definitions

CriteriaTraditional CortadoCosta Cortado
Espresso to Milk Ratio1:11:1

As we can see, the Costa Cortado aligns closely with the traditional definition, making it a go-to option for purists.

Starbucks’ Take: The Flat White

At Starbucks, you won’t find a cortado on the menu. Instead, you’ll see a beverage called the Flat White. Though this drink originated in Australia and New Zealand, it has similarities to a cortado. The main difference lies in the foam and volume.

Flat White vs Cortado: What’s the Difference?

CriteriaCortadoStarbucks Flat White
Volume150-200ml240ml (8oz) and up
Espresso to Milk Ratio1:1Not fixed, but usually less milk

In summary, while the Flat White is Starbucks’ answer to the cortado, there are distinct differences that set the two apart, particularly in volume and foam.

“The Flat White is Starbucks’ interpretation of a cortado but with its own signature twist.”


For the UK consumer looking for a cortado, you’ll find something very close at Costa Coffee. Starbucks, on the other hand, offers the Flat White as its alternative. While it may not be a cortado by the book, it offers its own unique blend of espresso and milk that many find enjoyable.