A branch of Starbucks in Hong Kong's financial district has been brewing its coffee using water from a tap in a nearby toilet, according to the Telegraph. Customers of the worldwide coffee chain were horrified to discover their beverages have been made from water taken five times a day from a tap in a toilet near the branch.
Starbucks told the Telegraph that the tap water went through a filtration system within the coffee shop, and that it would pass local and World Health Organisation standards for clean water. "There is no direct water supply to that particular store, that's why we need to obtain the drinking water from the nearest source in the building," Starbucks spokeswoman Wendy Pang told the news agency.
But Benjamin Cowling, associate professor at the Hong Kong University School of Public Health said: "The issue that is more worrying is ... the potential risk of transferring pathogens from the restroom environment into the Starbucks food preparation area." According to Starbucks, the cafe is now using distilled water to make its drinks instead of making trips to the lavatory to top up the water supply.
Starbucks has had more than its share of headlines recently. The organisation said last year it would pay £20m in UK tax over two years after causing widespread anger and faced boycotts when its tax planning allowed it to avoid paying corporation tax in the UK.
Its decision to make its customer service more personal by writing people's names on their coffee cups has raised many eyebrows, not least because staff frequently get them wrong. A dedicated site, thatsnotmynamestarbucks.tumblr.com, was even set up to allow people to display their 'new' Starbucks names.
And in an impressive faux pas, it managed to offend countless Irish customers last year when its Irish Twitter account asked followers what it was that made them proud to be British. A follow up tweet explained that the message had been sent from the wrong account, and that the question was meant for British followers instead.