What could a customer and a coffee shop be scuffling over that would lead the owner to publicly announce that if the customer comes back in, he’ll “punch him in the dick?” And the customer saying the only way he’ll come back in is with “matches and a can of kerosene?” The right to pour espresso over ice, obviously. The blogstorm began as follows…
I just ordered my usual summertime pick-me-up: a triple shot of espresso dumped over ice. And the guy at the counter looked me in the eye with a straight face and said “I’m sorry, we can’t serve iced espresso here. It’s against our policy.”
The whole world turned brown and chunky for a second. Flecks of corn floated past my pupils, and it took me a second to blink it all away.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll have a triple espresso and a cup of ice, please.” He rolled his eyes and rang it up, took my money, gave me change. I stood there and waited. Then the barista called me over to the bar. I reached for it, and he leaned over and locked his eyes with mine, saying “Hey man. What you’re about to do … that’s really, really Not Okay.”
Blah blah blah, then Jeff ordered a second cup of coffee and left a dollar tip in the tip jar scrawled with the phrase, “Fuck you and your precious coffee policy.”
The net blowup prompted the store owner to blog the following:
Okay, we don’t do espresso over ice. Why? Number one, because we don’t do it. Number two, because we don’t do it. Mostly for quality reasons. Also, because more than half the time, it’s abused (Google “ghetto latte”).
To Mr. Simmermon, you overplayed your hand with your vulgar tip-schtick. While I certainly won’t bemoan you your right to free-speech, I have to respond to you in your own dialect: Fuck you, Jeff Simmermon. Considering your public threat of arson, you’ll understand when I say that if you ever show your face at my shop, I’ll punch you in your dick.
Owner, murky coffee
Nick also posted some answers to the most frequently asked questions people were leaving on the blog:
We’ve got quite a few comments in the moderation-queue, and in a departure from normal procedures, I won’t be approving and posting them all. Why? If you want to spew garbage on the internet, get your own blog.
I will, however, respond here to a few legitimate questions that some folks asked.
Q. What’s wrong with “espresso over ice?”
Answer: Espresso is a fairly volatile thing, and when it hits ice, it seems to go through a chemical change that we can’t fully explain (and I haven’t seen a good explanation within our industry quite yet). It does appear to have something to do with ascorbic acid, but when we make our iced americanos (espresso + water + ice), we pour the shots into room-temperature water before adding the ice. Believe it or not, it does make a difference. Pouring espresso over ice creates unpleasantly acrid flavors.
Somewhat similarly, when we make our iced coffee, we go through the trouble of brewing it double-strength directly onto ice. If you brew coffee normally and then pour the hot coffee over ice, it results in unpleasant flavors. Making iced-coffee the way that we do seems to preserve a lot of the unique flavors from the coffees we’re brewing (unlike the popular “Toddy” method of cold-brewing for iced coffee), and yields a great drink overall. Again, not entirely sure why the different technique yields such different results, but it does. If we put the coffee through two slits, it’d probably act all confusingly then too.
The second and more mundane reason has to do with the infamous “ghetto latte.” More than half of the customers who we gave “iced espresso” to (back before our now infamous policy) would take that cup to the condiment bar and pour 8-14 ounces of milk out of the dairy pitcher, effectively taking advantage of a perceived loophole in the “system.” Just as buying a cup of coffee doesn’t entitle you to take a pound’s worth of sugar packets home with you to put into your jar at home, this “ghetto latte” practice was pretty disheartening and distracting to the baristas. Call it our “infield fly rule,” but “no espresso over ice” became our policy in 2006.
Q. Why do you allow “iced americanos,” but not iced espresso?
Answer: See answer above.
Q. But why would David, the barista in question, “Hey, what you’re about to do-that’s really, really not okay?”
Because we have our policy, and David was trying to support it, even though the other barista who rang this customer up gave in and gave him “a double espresso and a cup of ice,” which, to be frank, the baristas aren’t supposed to do.
Q. Why did you threaten the guy with violence? That’s not cool!
Maybe you’re right. But if someone posts on the internet “the only way I’m ever coming back to Murky Coffee in Arlington is if I’m carrying matches and a can of kerosene” as this dude did, I will, without remorse, post publicly that I will defend our property, even with violence. Yeah, what I wrote was ridiculous. A ridiculous response to a ridiculous statement… at least I hope so. If not, I hope his dick is at least big enough to punch.
Q. The customer is always right
Yeah, that’s true. Actually, nevermind. It’s bullshit.
Every customer is a welcome guest. But even welcome guests can overstep their bounds, and demanding that we give you something that we say that we can’t or won’t is overstepping your bounds for sure. I can pretty much guarantee that we spend more time and energy on making our espresso as great as can be, than anyone else in the DC area. That said, not everyone’s gonna love it. Such is life. We have our standards. You’re more than welcome to partake in it, and you’re completely free not to. We’ll keep doing our best (and that includes giving good customer service).
This all leads to a whole thing about consumerism that I’ve been ranting about for years, but this is neither the time nor place for that.
I will add that it is our internal policy that I support my employees, even when they make mistakes. In this case, David wasn’t perfect, but he tried to do the right thing. For the Simmermon-dude to write that crap on that dollar bill waived his rights to any civility. Dish it out, then take it. Mr. Simmermon is a big boy. He doesn’t need the blogosphere coming to his defense.
Q. Get over it. It’s just coffee.
You’re absolutely right. Everyone go home and call your mother and tell her you love her. Afterwards, understand that it is “just coffee” after all. However, coffee is our job. That’s all. No more, no less.
Thanks for all the comments and emails (for the record, about 40% supportive, 20% critical, and about 40% ignorant and ridiculous… but that’s the nature of the sandbox that we blog in, no?).
-Nick Cho, owner
Unless the shop makes the customers sign an EULA, they can’t control what people decide to do with their products after they’re sold. After that, you just have 3 dicks in a dick-measuring contest. Congrats, you’re all winners.
(Photo: Guy Noir)
(Thanks to Jason and Ben!)