Flat white or cappuccino? Baristas fired up over tricky hospitality exam question

coffee exam quetsion
The question seemed simple but left experts stumped. Photo credit: The Daily Telegraph/ Getty.

Whether you sip an Americano or a flat white, if you're a passionate coffee fan you're probably very particular about the way your coffee is served. 

But the old 'froth or no froth' debate has reared its head following a deceptively simple question in a barista exam over in Australia. 

The now-widely shared question on the 2020 Hospitality Food and Beverage exam shows two different types of coffees, with exam takers asked to identify each type using the espresso, water and milk ratios shown. 

The question that stumped participants in the hospitality exam.
The question that stumped participants in the hospitality exam. Photo credit: The Daily Telegraph.

While experts seem to unanimously agree the one on the left is a long black with its distinctive combination of espresso, hot water and crema (the layer of dark-coloured foam that sits on top of some coffees), the one on the right has people stumped. 

The ratios of espresso, crema, steamed milk and foam have some baristas believing it's a flat white, while others are arguing it's a cappuccino. 

Even the professionals couldn't agree. 

The head of training at a UK coffee school Adam Carter told The Daily Telegraph the coffee was a flat white because it had less foam. 

Cappuccinos traditionally have more foam than the beverage depicted in the diagram, he said. 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Australian Barista Guild argued it was in fact a cappuccino.

"I'd say C. As I wouldn't expect a true flat white to have foam, only steamed milk," he said. 

Australian Specialty Coffee Association president Kieran Westlake said it was a "tricky question" as coffee education varies widely.

"As a trained barista it’s definitely not a cappuccino - caps have more milk foam, the foam is not thin enough for a latte. So it’s a flat white."

In comments on the publication's Facebook page, the public was also split, with about half the comments arguing for each - and a few people even raising the point that it could be a latte.