The toilet water coffee scandal that Hong Kong’s Starbucks is facing has prompted Starbucks Hong Kong to apologize on Facebook. On May 30, 2013, Starbucks Hong Kong wrote in regard to the toilet water coffee scandal that “the water used at Starbucks Bank of China Tower store was drinking water and certified as safe for human consumption. We would like to clarify any misperceptions, as quality and safety have always been our top priority. Please kindly accept our apologies for the concerns raised by the coverage on the water source at that store. We are now using distilled water to serve that store while we work with all parties on acceptable options.“
Unfortunately, the video published on May 29, 2013, showing how a Hong Kong Starbucks employee pushes a cart into a men’s restroom in a nearby parking garage, filling the water bottles with water from the “toilet” room back to Starbucks, and then using it for coffee doesn’t quite meet Starbuck’s customers expectations of what they were paying for.
While it is a bit challenging to listen to the video since it has English and Chinese reporters speaking at the same time, turning the sound off and just watching the video might be more insightful.
Watching the Starbucks employee get the water source for Starbucks coffee from a bathroom becomes even less appealing since the water source is only about three feet (one meter) away from a urinal.
“In Hong Kong, Starbucks patrons are upset and for good reason: the coffee chain’s Central Hong Kong branch has used ‘toilet water’ to brew coffee since it opened two years ago.”
While Hong Kong Starbucks says in its Facebook apology that the “water used at Starbucks Bank of China Tower store was drinking water and certified as safe for human consumption,” Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department disagree.
According to a May 30, 2013, Kotaku report , “there were concerns about hygiene, and Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department told Apple Daily that this Starbucks’ use of water was not within regulations. Since this discovery, the department has apparently issued a warning to the coffee chain’s Central Hong Kong restaurant.”
In addition to Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Ben Cowling, who is an associate professor from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, pointed out that only a water purifier would be able to remove smaller-sized viruses that are most likely present in the water taken from a “toilet” source.
With Starbucks employees visiting frequently a bathroom environment to obtain “toilet water” for Starbucks coffee, up to 70 times a day, the risk of bringing a whole gamut of pathogens, bacteria, and viruses from the bathroom into Starbucks food and drink preparation area is quite high.
In response to Hong Kong Starbuck’s apology, some customers are expressing their outrage while others are approaching the toilet water coffee scandal with humor.
“Red bean, green tea, toilet water – perfect mix.”