Quirky tale of coffee and passion

A few weeks ago, I came across a story about the Murky Coffee shop on Capitol Hill that had many Americans in a maelstrom of passion and opinions when one of the baristas at Murky Coffee refused to serve a guy (who just happened to be a journalist for The Washington Post) a triple espresso on ice.

“It’s against company policy,” he explained. It was a boiling hot day and the journalist’s temper was also at boiling point. He ended up ordering a triple espresso and some ice cubes on the side. That was not against company policy. Then – of course – he ended up pouring his coffee over the ice cubes in order to make his own iced espresso.

The journalist was so incensed that he wrote an article about his experience in the paper – and the rest, as they say, is history. The owner of Murky Coffee replied, explaining that the coffee shop had several policies: no sleeping (for the customers), no espresso to go, and no espresso over ice.

Why? Because they take great pride in their coffee and in keeping the highest possible quality for their customers. Coffee is so much more than we think it is.

Yes – I could appreciate this reasoning. Pride in work. Great coffee. Unbeatable drinking coffee experience for me, the customer.

That is – until today! After lunch, and before returning to work (which has the worst coffee in the world, I might add), I desperately needed a cappuccino. So, I went down to the local bakery where I have been buying cappuccinos to go for years. Years, I tell you!

This is an Austrian bakery famous for its pastries (NOT its coffee) and run by a very strict Austrian matriarch. “A cappuccino to go, please!” I say sweetly.

“No. We only serve cappuccino in cups.”

“Since when?” I gasp. “Since last week?”

“Cappuccino in cups. You can have a latte to go.”

“I don’t like latte,” I reply.

“Cappuccino in cups.” (It was getting a bit repetitive.) OK – time to get creative, I thought to myself!

“OK. Can you make me a latte but with half the milk?” I suggest.

“No.”

“What about if I promise not to drink the coffee until I get back to work and then pour it into a proper cup?” I say in my desperate I-need-caffeine voice.

“No. No cappuccino to go. No espresso to go.”

“No.” I declare. “You have now lost a faithful customer. And anyway, you’re not a coffee shop. You’re a bakery!”

I go up a flight of steps and get a really good cappuccino to go in another store.

It’s one thing for a coffee shop who does nothing all day but serve coffee to refuse to serve an iced espresso … maybe. But it’s quite another thing for a bakery to refuse me, Lady Fi, a cappuccino to go.

Doesn’t the customer have any rights left? Can we not decide how we want to drink our coffee? Do we not have freedom of choice?

My dad refuses to drink his tea in anything but a china cup. So, I’m sure he would appreciate all this coffee refusal. But not me – I’m still quivering with righteous indignation.

Oh yes – and one more thing! Remember that the only right way to drink tea from a china cup is to hold the handle delicately with your fingers and thumb – but with your little finger sticking out at an angle!

23 thoughts on “Quirky tale of coffee and passion

  1. You can only be talking about Slussenbageriet, and I guess they just lost another customer today too, namely me! I wouldn’t want to encourage such appalling lack of service towards their customers!

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  2. Come visit me and I’ll take you to Sosta bar on Sveavägen. Excellent coffee and excellent service! Or…come up to my place – I’ll make you a cup of coffee for free AND in a mug too *S*.

    Sounds like you met Hyacinth “Bouquet”….

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  3. Bekah: She wouldn’t let me take cappuccino to go because it would spoil the taste! (Maybe she also read about Murky Coffee in Arlington and decided to take a leaf out of their book.) The weird thing is that they don’t have a very good machine, nor do they make very good coffee… Still it’s better than the water – oops! coffee – at work.

    Sir Pe: Yes, I am talking about the one and only Slussenbageriet, where hundreds of Stockholmers have quivered before her fearful Teutonic gaze. I tell you – I felt like telling her where to put that appfel strudel!

    Karriärmamman: I love the Sosta bar on Sveavägen. Now we’re talking real coffee (and you can also have it to go)… Mind you, the coffee at your place is pretty good, too.

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  4. Oh Good Lord! What is the world comming to???
    I reasd your post though with an ever increasing smile spreding across my face….The maddness of it all!
    I am a bit of a purist with coffee but at the end of the day I’d drink it out of a vase if required!!!
    As long as what’s in it tastes good.
    We suffered this same kind of “drinking vessel” etiquette when I worked at a tasting room at a Winery.
    If I am the one paying i want it how i want it!

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  5. Thanks for your comment Lacey. Yes – I know that coffee tastes better out of a proper porcelain cup just as food tastes better when eaten with proper cutlery and off a plate etc… But sometimes, with work and deadlines and so on, you just need a coffee to go. And if I am the one paying, then I should be the one to decide how to drink my coffee.

    After all, I am nearly an adult! 😉

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  6. my young son always reminds us it’s posh and proper to drink with our baby finger pointing out, so I smiled at your final comment!

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  7. I remember one fateful day when I was a lowly waitress. A man sat down at my table and ordered a Rolling Rock beer. With a glass of ice. He promptly poured said beer over said ice. And left me a nice tip when he was done. Often times, the customer is wrong. But they are always right.

    What’s the chance that the average customer at Murky can tell the difference between a just-pulled espresso and a pulled-twenty-minutes-ago espresso?

    While I’m on a roll…if they are so uppity about quality, why are they called Murky? For me, murky has a very negative image. Like a gross, mosquito infested pond. Just sayin’.

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  8. That’s just some kinda weird snobbery. It’s a cup of coffee, for cryin’ out loud….get over it people!! And yeah, so uppity about quality and their name is Murky!! Ha!

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  9. If people are willing to pay money for something, surely it makes sense to give it to them? I would say to both businesses, “Watch out, there’s a recession about!”

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  10. How ridiculous can it get? All other things being equal, I would obviously like to sit down and drink my coffee (latte or cappuccino) out of a porcelain mug, but given constraints, I would rather have a cappuccino out of a paper cup than not have it at all.
    Poor customer service doesn’t even start to describe it.

    digression/ tomorrow marks one caffeine free month for me – have been told to avoid my poison for medical reasons 😦

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  11. Sounds like coffee snobbery. Even Seattle’s coffee scene isn’t this strict, as far as I know. I’m glad I’m not addicted to the stuff. However, if chocolate makers and sellers come up with this form of food Nazism, I’m in trouble…

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  12. This is so bizarre to me!! I just cannot imagine a store IN AMERICA not giving a customer what they want. I’m from Australia & service I guess is pretty much the same but I always thought in America you go “all out” for the customer. I always thought you lived by ‘the customer is always right’ because of your tipping & base pay system. Please forgive me if I’m sounding ignorant (God, hope not!) but that’s the strong impression I had of you guys over there. I can’t imagine not serving capuccino in a take-away cup – mercy me!!!! (& you’re right, just a bakery…) BIZARRRRRRRRE.

    As for the journo, it’s great he got to write about it AND his editor okayed it going “out”. Unbelievable, not serving him how he’d like. UNbelievable!!!

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