This Starbucks used a tap in a toilet

Customers are boiling mad after learning the Hong Kong location brewed coffee with water from a spout in a garage bathroom.

By Jason Notte Jun 3, 2013 9:37AM
A Starbucks Corp., sign is displayed outside a coffee shop in London, U.K. / Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesTo its fans, Starbucks (SBUX) coffee is a sweet, roasty part of their daily routine. For naysayers, Starbucks is burned, overpriced java that makes them long for Sanka.

For folks in Hong Kong, Starbucks might just be a euphemism for "toilet water."

Gaming site Kotaku brought the first reports of these allegations stateside when it ran a series of photos of a tap in a grungy-looking bathroom at Hong Kong's Bank of China Tower labeled with a sign reading "Starbucks Only." The photos, originally published by Chinese tabloid Apple Daily, then showed an employee from Starbucks' Bank of China Tower location drawing water from the tap in the building's parking garage bathroom into a container and pushing it by cart to the Starbucks stand, where it was used to brew coffee.

As Apple Daily discovered, this routine was repeated several times a day and occurred since the Starbucks location opened in 2011. According to Agence France-Presse, Starbucks spokeswoman Wendy Pang confirmed that water used to brew coffee at Starbucks' Bank of China Tower location was taken from a dedicated tap in a restroom and put through a filtration system to meet standards established by local authorities and the World Health Organization. She also says that particular Starbucks location has no water supply but is now using distilled water.

That comes as little relief to the stand's regulars, who have since learned from Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department that Starbucks' use of water was not within regulations. The department has issued the location a warning, though Ben Cowling, an associate professor from the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, told HK Magazine that may not be enough.

Though the tap's filter would catch some of the nastiness, an extra purifier would be necessary to remove the smaller viruses that could linger in the water. That doesn't even address the location of said tap.

"If the staff need to frequently visit the toilet, they may increase the risk of bringing other pathogens from the washroom into their food and drink preparation area," Cowling added.

Starbucks Hong Kong has issued an apology on its Facebook page, but customers are still furious. One Hong Kong resident summed it up to Apple Daily in one sentence:

"People with common sense wouldn't have used the water from toilet pipes."

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Jun 3, 2013 10:19AM
People with common sense wouldn't pay seven dollars a cup for coffee from anywhere!
Jun 3, 2013 11:02AM
At the price Starbucks has for its coffees, the water used should not only be distilled and clear, but blessed and holy, too.
Jun 3, 2013 11:36AM

Thank god that startbucks' coffee already tastes like toilet water, or this would be incredibly damaging.

Jun 3, 2013 11:19AM
The headline to this barely-newsworthy piece is misleading and unworthy.  Has nothing to do with what people would connotate with "toilet" water.
Jun 3, 2013 10:39AM
Jun 3, 2013 10:49AM
I thought that was how starbucks coffee was made all the time. And also they weren't actually using toilet water so who cares? You (should) wash your hands in bathroom sinks and go eat all the time so what's the big deal?
Jun 3, 2013 12:17PM
Hey goofy, they don't take it out of the toilet, it came from the tap in the garage toilet area.  Good grief, where do we start drawing the line between reporting and sensationalism.  It is probably the only tap around, have you ever been to Hong Kong?  I have.  As for all the rest of these crazy replies, Mc D charges almost the same for their coffee, frap, mochas and such and they come prepackaged, so don't give me any guff about which one is better.  The locals, Dutch Brothers, Java etc, all cost the same or more.  It is just so much easier to take on the big guys (who by the way is supporting one hell of a lot of people in these wonderful times of low employment with benefits, and decent pay).  If you want to gripe, how about looking somewhere else, like government. 
Jun 3, 2013 11:11AM

We all know majority of these countries are not clean with the way they handle there foods ....

Jun 3, 2013 12:00PM

How like writers these days with leading banners SUGGESTING, and because it is published in American publications leads one to believe a lie. This belongs in Hong Kong and in no way besmirches Starbucks in America. I am not a fan of Starbucks but I despise the media making assertions against any group.

MSN and others are blatantly guilty of this misleading banner crap.

Jun 3, 2013 11:30AM
Jun 3, 2013 11:10AM
Eating out is no joke. It puts a new meaning to the word fast food. And you wonder why we have diseases spreading through out the world that could possibly kill us all.....
Jun 3, 2013 11:22AM
Those around Houston 1980's -2000, remember "slime in the ice machine"  ala Marvin Zindler, Eyewitness News, ABC Channel 13? RIP, Marvin.
Jun 3, 2013 10:50AM
They should use Brawndo--it's got electrolytes.
Jun 3, 2013 12:22PM
Even at $1.50, Starbucks is still an overpriced burnt bitter coffee. Toilet water might improve it.
Really! Read the article where the ice was dirtier than the toilet water.  You will be happier.
Jun 3, 2013 11:35AM

Burnt coffee made with GREY water?!  So guys, how does that taste ?


Do yourself a favor and brew it yourself. Use Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee- Best in the world !


But if you still want that 'star bucks taste': there is a coffee bean that's crapped out a monkeys butt before its shipped to you. (man-that's disgusting)

Jun 3, 2013 1:08PM
Can't make much of a difference, their coffee tastes like sh*t anyway. Dunkin Donuts has much better coffee and it's cheaper too.
Jun 3, 2013 11:17AM
When it comes to tax avoidance strategies, large corporations employ the best talent that the Ivy Leagues pump out, but when it comes to providing a clean source of water for coffee brewing that meets local health regulations, well, that's just too much to ask for.
Jun 3, 2013 12:18PM
fast food, fast water, fast coffee!  
Jun 3, 2013 2:07PM

Am I the only one that noticed they opened a restaurant location without a water supply source? How do they clean anything? God bless the USA! With all our faults, I'm still so happy I live here. Smh.


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