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Dear PoPville – Why Can’t I Order Espresso Over Ice?

by Prince Of Petworth June 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm 272 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mylar Bono

Dear PoPville,

I was refused service at Chinatown Coffee Co. in DC, a neighborhood establishment that I frequent quite often. Why? I ordered three shots of espresso over ice. What I didn’t realize is that espresso and ice is a huge controversy among coffee critics. Where there is no disagreement, however, is that customers are still king – even in an indie/hipster coffee shop. It was disappointing, to say the least, the barista, refused my business and then insulted me on the way out the door. A similar encounter is offered in this blog post about Murky Coffee in Arlington.

Here is the play-by-play in my Yelp review:

Here’s the play-by-play for anyone who’s interested (including the management):

Him: “Hi. What can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like 3 shots of espresso over a cup of ice to go.”

Him: “I can’t do that. I could make you an americano instead. I has water in it.”

Me: “No thanks. I’d like a cup with ice with 3 shots of espresso poured over it.”

Him: “We don’t do that because it will ruin it. We make the best espresso in the city and putting it over ice will shock it.”

Me: [long pause] “Really?”

Him: “Aww… did I just ruin your day?”

Me: “So you can’t make this drink?”

Him: “No.”

Before I had even said another word, he had already walked away.

Chinatown Coffee responded to the OP:

We take customer concerns about service and quality seriously.

Having said that, we simply do not serve espresso to go or over ice. We do our best to communicate the reasons for this and hope the customers understand that we do so as part of our commitment to serving the highest quality coffee, not to snobbery or to be rude to our customers–that’s not our intent. Sometimes our customers have a different view, and we respect that.

What do you think – is the customer always right or is that trumped by commitment to serving the highest quality coffee?

  • dgf

    i don’t drink coffee, so admittedly, i don’t get it, but everyone knows the customer is always right unless they are harming *someone*. i don’t think espresso has any feelings, unless you call it expresso, then it gets really pissed.

    • Trixie

      Agreed. I worked for the now long gone Sirius Coffee, where we used to roast our own beans – talk about striving to maintain integrity of the coffee. And it was great.

      We used to have a guy come in and weigh his cappuccino on the coffee scale to make sure the milk/espresso ratio was correct. Every day, twice a day. He would tip a quarter. I once made someone a latte using his requested heavy cream (fortunately, he left, so I didn’t have to call the paramedics). A little ice? HARDLY an issue.

      For goodness sake – Chinatown Coffee services *Mochas*.
      And treating your customers like that? This former waitress says unacceptable.

      • Eric

        “the customer is alway right” is a business maxim meant to convey a commitment to costumer service. It doesn’t actually entitle a foolish customer like this one to demand a product the business chooses not to offer. If you’re unhappy with what they offer, take your business elsewhere. Don’t act like your rights have been violated and go piss and moan about it on as many web sites as you can find. Geez, people. Grow up!

        • SB

          But, Eric, what about the insult on the way out the door? That doesn’t sound like the way a customer should be treated. “Awww… did I just ruin your day?” Are you serious? What an ass! I bet you would be ticked off, too.

        • Anonymous

          Grow Up? It’s simply sum duchebag barrista trying to justify that their life isnt pouring liquids into a cup.

          If I order a case of 30 year old scotch from Mccullens to wash my car with do you think they will say NO? Of course not. They will ask if I need another case to wash my bike.

          You know what the purpose of a business is? TO SELL STUFF.

          If you don’t do that above all else you will be out of business soon.

          But of course a Barrista doesn’t have any business sense or they would not be a barrista in the first place

  • LA

    Baked & Wired has a sign that says they will not serve Espresso over Ice…EVER. Which I think is silly. They make every other espresso drink under the sun, but not iced espresso?

    My only thought as to why they would deny you espresso over ice is if you were to make a ‘latte,’ using the free milk/cream on the counter. That is just not cool and would satisfy the ‘we don’t serve espresso over ice’ argument.

    • jaykay

      this is exactly it. if people caught on to how iced lattes were made and started ordering espresso over ice (and adding the milk/cream/etc themselves), all the coffee shops’ revenues would fall dramatically. Starbucks (yay corporations) allows this. cuts the price of an iced latte nearly in half and is the exact same thing. I don’t think it has anything to do with ruining the espresso. If that was the case they wouldn’t be making iced lattes themselves.

      • Anonymous

        Not a good argument. If they serve it in a small glass the customer won’t have room to make an iced latte.

        • David


      • Anonymous

        You said snobbery like its a positive thing.

        If I want to spend 100$ on one shot of espresso and then pour it down the drain then guess what – F*%$ YOU – I PAID for it.

        • Rebecca

          I love you.

        • Mike

          And if I want to throw your $100 in your face and say fuck off, am I any more or less right than you are?

          I don’t really mean that, it just seems that so many of these posts seem to think that one side or the other is entitled to demand something. The truth is neither party really has the “right” to anything in this situation. Its frustrating for all parties but the customer has the “right” to order anything they want, the shop has the “right” to refuse (or not), the customer has the “right” to be pissed and blog, and the shop has the “right” to exist even if they don’t meet all customers’ demands about everything. It creates a frustration but in the end, no one did anything wrong except maybe being a little dickish about it. But, plenty of customers have been dicks to me and I’ve taken it with a smile. Its the profession I’m in and I accept that but sometimes it goes both ways customers.

      • b

        This is distinctly not true… lots of coffee shops refuse to serve this combo, specifically because too many people were using it to make latte’s in the corner. LOTS of people will look for any opportunity to cut corners.

        Sounds to me like this barrista just wasn’t properly trained on how to handle this order.

      • Elle

        It’s not the same thing, actually. Iced coffee should be cold brewed, not (hot) brewed and poured over ice. As the experts have all agreed: it ruins the coffee.

        Maybe you like or don’t mind ruined coffee, fine. But they don’t have to serve it to you.

      • Mike

        I rarely make comments but after reading all the comments from this post I felt the need. have been on the management and preparation side of a coffee shop for a number of years which is why I feel able to speak on this subject.

        First: a good shot of espresso is not $.05 of coffee (looking at you “anonymous”) Even at wholesale prices, good coffee is in the neighborhood of $10 a pound. With each shot being about 20g, the cost of the coffee is closer to $0.50 (please forgive my rounding). Milk is even more expensive, coming in around $4.70 a gallon for the good stuff so if you take your espresso and douse it with another 8oz of milk, thats another $0.50 that someone had to pay for. After that you must take into account that the person pulling the shot has to be paid, the lights have to be kept on, and you have to up charge a little because of the customer, who is of course always right, that believes that he/she can take up an entire table for 7 hours after purchasing a small coffee for $2 at 9am. Having done the books for a coffee shop I can attest to the fact that the profit margins are 4-6% if you’re really lucky so the owners are not rolling in money. That goes for pretty much all food service. Please lose that misconception.

        Secondly, while in essence I agree with the “you paid me so what do I care what you do with your drink” mantra, it must be said that in certain venues, the customer feels much more emboldened to direct the production of their food. I would be willing to bet that this same customer would not walk into Citronelle and direct the server on exactly how his meal was to be prepared. People who are passionate about coffee feel the same way about their craft as any chef and many have chosen to draw this line in the sand and say “no, we won’t do that”. Is it hypocritical considering they will allow you to drown your espresso in chocolate or caramel flavored chemical nonsense? Sure, but thats where the line is.

    • kd

      I find this absolutly rediculous.

      From now on the first time I visit a coffee shop I will order expresso over ice. If they give me attitude I will never go there agian. If they make me what I ask for with the same courtesy they give to others than they will pass my customer service test.

      • Hahaha

        Yes, ask for your eXpresso.

        • copperreddc

          He/she can’t spell ridiculous, don’t expect much with the word espresso.

    • Metevents

      This is completely the reason, they do not want you making yourself an iced Latte using the milk on the counter. I was actually told this by a friend of mine who use to manage a coffee shop in Adams Morgan. Since I recently need to have lactose free milk and hate soy milk I was trying to get a triple expresso over ice and she said they could not do it, but if I brought in my to-go mug with ice and my lactose free milk already in it, then adding the shots it was ok. So that is what I do since I only live a block away it works. But this is completely about money and not the integrity of their expresso.

    • Anonymous

      No. As a coffee junkie (I work for a coffee roastery) pouring hot espresso over ice shocks it and ruins the flavor. Would you ask for red wine poured over ice, most likely no, because it ruins the taste… the same with espresso… good for them.

      • LordManley

        No, I would not order a red wine over ice, but if I did I would be pretty pissed off if the barman refused to serve it.

        Is there not some sort of law about discrimination on the basis of cultural differences?

        • If it shocks the taste then so what. Maybe the customer likes it that way, maybe he already knows what it’s going to taste like and he doesn’t care. He only wants what he ordered. Not everyone has the same taste or taste buds.

        • kseamen

          Sounds like if they refused to make and serve you an Irish Car Bomb at an Irish restaurant you would have a problem with that. Oh, is that different? Not really, they just refuse to make that drink. Their choice.

      • SB

        would you make an exception on a 100 degree day, as it was?

  • Identified

    The customer is not always right.

    • Yes, especially when you’re going to a specialty purveyor of a product, you have to accept their knowledge over your tastes. It’s not that hard to find another coffee shop if it means that much to you. Clearly CC has thought about it and decided not to sell their product in that manner, although their staff might want to lose the snark when explaining their policy.

      • Kam


        Sounds like common sense to me.

      • Anonymous

        “you have to accept their knowledge over your tastes”

        except you’re forgetting that it’s all bulls***. sorry, but it is.

        • John M


      • pru

        In a restaurant, the customer picks out dishes as proposed by the chef, and the restaurant has some leeway in accepting or denying changes requested by the customer of the dish. A coffee shop, in my opinion, is radically different, because every customer gets to basically create the drink they want the barista to prepare with the ingredients offered. So I think the quality, barista-knows-best argument is bullshit.

        Now, on the other hand, yes, if ghetto iced lattes can seriously damage the bottom line of fragile coffee shops, they’re welcome to find ways to discourage them or make them impossible. No reason to be a douchebag about it or hide behind a snooty bullshit excuse.

    • Anonymous

      yep. +1

  • j

    I love this! What have we become as a society where can’t simply order an espresso over ice.

    Maybe you should have offered to sign a waiver, leaving them not at fault for shocking your espresso. Come on people.

    • jj

      see, i see the more relevant question as – when did we become so fucking entitled that we think a business is required to do everything we want? the coffee shop has a menu. you order from it. if you order off menu, it’s entirely at their discretion as to whether they want to accommodate you. if you want a damn espresso over ice that badly? you are FREE to make it yourself, at home. just like the business is free to refuse you.

      • cris


      • SB

        what is this mysterious “menu” you speak of? it’s a friggin’ coffee shop. stop applauding some barista’s idea of purity. get over it already.

      • frickorfrack

        I like my steak really well done and with a lot of ketchup even though it “supposedly is better rare and with no condiments

        I like my shirts heavily starched even though it might damage them

        I like my hookers to just sit and talk and not have sex….


  • I see where they’re coming from. The last thing they need is someone explicitly requesting espresso over ice, then going around and trashing their espresso for being too watery. Which I could definitely see someone doing.

    • 16th St

      I think a customer is more likely to trash talk about the fact that a coffee shop denied them a perfectly reasonable beverage than “watery” espresso…

    • Anon

      @Chris -except that they’re willing to make an Americano, which is nothing but watery espresso. The shop is just drawing an arbitrary line to make a specious statement about how special they think their coffee is.

      • Anonymous

        The difference is that espresso over ice will shock the espresso. He even told her that and she refused to accept it… if you want some crappy drink like that go to burnt beyond recognition Starbucks.

        • LordManley

          What if she LIKES her espresso shocked?

        • Anonymous2

          And the fact that you can order an iced americano, which is simply water, espresso and ice. And everytime I have EVER ordered an iced americano, the barista pours the espresso over the ice, then adds water. I like the taste of bitter, dark coffee. If a barista ever gave me an attitude like that, I would not frequent their establishment.

          • SB


            Clearly, only the barista understands what tastes good to the customer. Duh.

  • It must be nice to be that successful that you can turn down business.
    It would have been better for the barista simply to have said “I understand that is how you want it but pouring espresso directly over ice will shock it, thus we can’t guarantee the quality. If instead you’d like an americano we can gladly make you one and stand behind the quality?”

    I’m from Seattle, pulled coffee for a long time and even I think this is absurd!

    • tlw


      A response such as not being able to guarantee the quality but still making the drink would be more appropriate. I worked at a independent coffee shop for almost 3 years, and if there was a drink a customer wanted that wasn’t on the menu, I would typically respond something like this. I’ve never been to Chinatown Coffee, and it will likely stay that way after hearing about this.

    • J

      Agreed. Seriously, give me a break. When did we decide it’s fine to tell others what does and does not taste right? If the guy likes his espresso over ice, just serve him what he wants and go make fun of his taste later on. I can’t believe they so successful that they can look down on their customers and turn away business.

      • Peej

        This reminds me of when I worked at Whole Foods. A customer wanted to order a small amount of cheese, cut right from the wheel. Well, she chose some really nice $30/lb cheese, but she wanted so little, the cheese was going to crumble and fall apart. My friend in Specialty explained to the woman what would happen and was reluctant to ruin this very expensive product. But the customer was adamant, so she got what she wanted. We rolled our eyes and let it go, all without rudeness or condescension to this frequent customer.

        • spookiness

          I worked in a similar type of establishment, and 1 customer would order meats (pate, salami etc.) and would always specifiy he didn’t want the “first cut”. In other words, he didn’t want anything that had been previously exposed to air. So you had to cut off product which went directly to waste. Not my business, but there is a point where some customers are so douchey and such a hassle they’re a (literally in this case) a waste of time and money.

          • anon

            but nothing was being wasted in this case. the customer ordered their drink – as all others do – the way they wanted it. no?

      • j

        i don’t know – when did we decide it’s okay to tell other people what to do with their business? we should all go cry and make a big thing about it. how DARE someone be refused their triple espresso over ice that wasn’t even on the menu! how DARE the restaurant not do that for you!

        • Anonymous

          MENU? Please. Its f*&king LIQUID IN A CUP made by a MACHINE.

          It’s not a gourmet meal made by chefs who have 18 years of training.

          They have cups. They have ice. Put the ice in the cup and pour the liquid from the machine. Am I missing something or are they serving frozen god farts at that place?

          • jenster8dc

            Frozen God Farts would make an excellent name for a rock band.

    • Love earth shattering problems.

    • ubermize

      The charm of this place is the rudeness of the staff.

      • Anonymous

        y’all trollin’. anyone posting on this site ever worked in the service industry? ever felt run-down?

        calm down. it’s store policy!

        and as far as diplomacy goes . . . it’s a tough industry. i know it sounds silly – “it’s just coffee” – but we baristas really do care about what we do. we go through a lot of training, and if you ever wanted us to guide us through a full espresso-sipping experience, complete with sparkling water as a palate cleanser, we would be more than happy to do so.

        sometimes we slip up, just like how every once in awhile you’ll get a grouchy waiter in a restaurant. chinatown coffee hires great people who are passionate about what they do. i admire every one of those baristas. bless them for working in that part of town and doing such a good job pulling shots all day, and for the most part, sending everyone on their way, happy and caffeinated!

    • Exactly!! It would have been better to give an explanation of what it might taste like and the offer to make it anyway or as an Americano. But to be so smug and curt as well as making that shitty little statement as he was leaving. That smacks of an establishment that doesn’t want my business or anyone else’s. In this economy, you’re passing up paying customers? Must be nice.

  • Anonymous

    Weird. Peregrine’s pretty serious about their espresso but they offer it over ice.

  • Anonymous

    No coffee for you!

    Quirks like this is what makes the world great.

    • Elza

      Yup. Sometimes it is fun to have businesses with arbitrary rules that don’t really give a sh*t. I’m cool with it.

      • Elza

        (Not sarcasm, by the way! :))

      • Gonzo

        The Saloon on U Street is like that. It’s kindof funny but mostly ridiculous.

  • Agreed, dgf.

    Couldn’t you just order the espresso and request a cup of ice, then do the pouring yourself?

  • Anon X

    Unless I’m asking for something illegal, just f’ing do it.

    Murky Coffee in Arlington had this policy, and all of the associated traits of rudeness, smugness, and superiority, too. They were put out of business.

    • Well, to clarify, they were put out of business not by lack of customers but by a failure to pay taxes. I have no doubt they would still be there (and on Capitol Hill) if Nick Cho was more diligent about his financial obligations. They did a pretty good business, if I recall.

    • So you won’t be surprised to know that Chinatown Coffee is owned by Nick Cho’s (former owner of Murky) girlfriend, if I recall correctly.

  • Anon

    As a fellow espresso-over-ice drinker, I find this ridiculous.

    • Anonymous

      As a person who loves coffee I find what you’re doing to espresso ridiculous… you’re doing it wrong.

      • Anon

        We all love coffee. That’s why there are 200+ posts already in less than 24 hours. And the beauty of coffee is that you can order it 50 different ways, all tailored to fit the tastes of the customer! There is no “wrong” way to make it. Good lord!!!

  • SF

    This post has 100+ comments written all over it.

    • Anonymous

      More like 200+

  • Anonymous

    Why not order three shots of expresso and ask nicely for a cup of ice on the side?

  • mn

    I think they have every right to not serve you something they feel is a poor representation of the quality their product, but the guy shouldn’t be a dick when he refuses to make it. And while they have that right, you have the right to go elsewhere for your shocked iced espresso.

  • dave b

    Que horror

  • Elza

    For reasons I can’t entirely explain, I’m siding with Chinatown Coffee on this. If they want to present their products only in a specific way, knowing they may potentially lose business, whatever, I’m fine with that.

    • +1 iced coffee is truly terrible

      • Correction: cold-brewed iced coffee is delicious. See: Qualia. We now make it like this at home all summer long.

        • Anonymous

          cold brew is gross, oily, and viscous. ask anyone in specialty coffee. what are you talking about?!

          • Huh? Cold brew is delicious, the oils give it flavor (think french press), and you are supposed to dilute the concentrate you create to some degree. But hey, different strokes…

    • SB

      I think you’re missing the bigger point here: did this customer deserve to be treated like a moron? I don’t think so.

  • RFA

    I just don’t get why he had to openly mock the customer? Plus walking away from the customer before he’s had a chance to satisfy an alternative is just poor customer service.

  • Anonymous

    I have had espresso over ice, and it was delicious.

  • BWS

    Espresso over ice, or espresso in an over-sized paper cup just doesn’t taste right. Quality espresso bars should not have to be forced to serve an inferior product. Good tasting espresso is NOT easy to make, so why ruin it?

    • BWS

      Replying to my own post….the barista had no right to act like a jerk or offend you. There are dignified ways to deny service. CCC does not understand that. Peregrine won’t serve espresso over ice either, but they will be real nice about it. I’ve always had good experiences at their two shops.

      • Anonymous

        “Peregrine won’t serve espresso over ice either, but they will be real nice about it.”

        Are you sure about that? I’ve gotten it at the Capitol Hill location. Usually during the summer one of their specialty drinks is an espresso over ice with a shot of something.

        • BWS

          I swear I recently saw a sign in the 14th street location stating that they do not serve espresso over ice. Maybe I’m wrong, or they changed their policy recently. Oh well.

  • Anonymous

    “The customer is always an asshole.” – Shannon Hamilton, Mallrats.

    They are free to serve you what they want, and you are free to either accept that or take your business elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    So is this more acceptable or less acceptable than Taylor Gourmet’s refusal to put mayo on their hoagies?

    • Well, I would say that those situations aren’t comparable. Taylor’s menu doesn’t include mayo, so they probably don’t have it. Their line isn’t set up to operate on it. I doubt they ‘refuse’ to serve it, so much as they just don’t have it.

      All the barrista had to do was pour espresso (which they regularly make) over ice (which they regularly pour drinks over). I don’t think the situations are comparable.

      • Anonymous

        How about Al Tiramisu refusing to subtitute alfredo sauce for marinara on the pasta that accompanied my partner’s lobster (it was on the menu elsewhere)? I actually agreed with this but felt they shouldn’t have been snobby about it.

        • Reminds me of a well-respected pizza place in Atlanta where, when I asked if I could onions to one specific pizza, the waitress told me, “I’ll try to get it added on, but I can’t promise you I’ll be able to. The owner/chef doesn’t allow patrons to change menu items, and if we [meaning, the serving staff] try to do it and he finds out, he’ll yell at us.”

          She got an extra-large tip for her very apologetic explanation. And then I never went back.

    • Anonymous

      Since I hate mayo, this sounds like the best idea ever! If I were president, I would legalize drugs and ourlaw mayo.

      • Anonymous

        i would vote for you

    • Anon X

      It would be directly analogous if this coffee shop didnt have any ice. I assume they do have ice, so its not really the same.

  • Anon

    Unacceptable. I’m an avid coffee drinker, including espresso over ice (side note 1. why water it down when the ice melts into the water you need??, side note 2. i have ordered and been served this drink at chinatown coffee).

    Issue here to me is not the policy on espresso but the rude delivery and follow up, “Aww, did I ruin your day?” And clearly the owner doesn’t seem to care about customer loyalty.

    This establishment has lost my respect and business.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry… but if you drink espresso over ice you aren’t an avid coffee drinker… you don’t know how to drink espresso. Pouring it over ice completely ruins the espresso.. It is a companies right to refuse to make something. I don’t go into McDonalds and ask for a frozen patty.

      • dboe

        sorry, but i don’t think you get to decide if a stranger on a listserv is an avid coffee drinker or not. you may not approve of this person drinks their coffee or espresso but if it’s how he or she likes it, then it’s really none of your business.

        that being said, it’s nice when businesses are willing to go off menu to accommodate customers but it’s their choice. it’s fine for them to refuse to serve the requested drink but it’s pretty unacceptable to be rude.

        • anon

          Take a look at the menu and tell me where you see iced beverages: http://chinatowncoffee.com/menu/

          That’s right, it’s not on there, but yet they make them all the time and in a variety of different ways.

  • RLM

    Was this drink on the menu and you ordered it and they denied you of it?

    Restaurants/Bars/Coffee Shops take time to create a menu so that they can serve products to you that they stand behind. You asked them to make something that they believe won’t be a quality deliverable and they told you they wouldn’t. That seems reasonable to me.

    *I’m addressing what I see as the greater question here, I was not there and cannot speak on how this was articulated by the coffee shop employee

  • TG

    I think this is a great trend. I have long thought fine steakhouses should prohibit people from ordering their steak well done.

  • JS
    • David

      This is awesome.

    • KenyonDweller

      That was really funny.

  • Anon X

    Yes, businesses are free to be complete assholes to their customers. But, offended customers are free to write bad reviews on the Internet.

    In general, a business that wants to survive should try to minimize the number of pissed off customers.

    Its no surprise to me that this place is owned by the same d-bag that owned Murky.

    • Anon

      Exactly. And people who have never been to that shop are free to file away the little mental reminder “Never go there in the future.”
      When I worked for a different coffee house, in customer service training the old adage that a ‘happy customer tells one person, but an unhappy customer tells four’ was drummed into us. (Though I can’t remember if those are the actual numbers cited.)
      Now, this one unhappy customer has told hundreds and hundreds of people (or thousands? I have no idea how many read PoP) and that cannot be a good business decision for this shop.

    • Anonymous

      I think it has more to do with too many asshole customers trying to cheat the system by making ghetto lattes. The cream at many of the high quality coffee shops around town are from really good, locally sourced dairies, and is not cheap. I agree that the barista could have done without the snobbery, but I feel like more often than not when people go crying to the internet about poor service there is more to the story than what they post…

      • Anon X

        The ghetto latte just cant be that big of a detraction.

        If they care that much about a couple of free loaders, perhaps they could institute a “we’ll dispense the milk to you” policy.

        I think it would ruffle a few feathers but it wouldnt bring the ire of the internet the way refusing to serve ice does.

  • zrc

    Just to play devils advocate, from what I understand the issue is that when espresso is cooled too quickly, it causes the flavor to become somewhat disgusting due to some weird chemical reaction that makes it acidic (or something like that).

    I assume that they refuse to serve their espresso that way because they fear it will make their specialty gourmet product taste bad. I seriously doubt a high end sommelier would agree to serve you a bottle of their finest white wine over ice (even though some people like their whites that way). Snobbery is definitely in play here, but only because it is an issue of controlling tastes and nuances of flavor that is their business as a top shelf coffee place.

    • perfect analogy

      • David

        It’s a comparable analogy, but I don’t think a well-trained sommelier would ever do that, for fear of the type of backlash and bad publicity that is occurring right here.

        Anyone that has ever worked in the hospitality industry knows that your #1 job is to ensure that your customer/guest has a great experience. Whether I order a $30 or a $300 bottle of wine should not be of consequence to the waitstaff of a restaurant. If the sommelier wants to tell me about why putting ice into really good wine might not be the best way to enjoy the wine, that would be fine. But ultimately it would not result in a restaurant refusing to serve someone, and if it did, there would be an uproar.

        I agree that the only legitimate reason Chinatown won’t serve the espresso over ice is the ghetto latte situation. But as another commenter pointed out, serving it in a very small cup would solve this.

        I have frequented Chinatown Coffee since it opened, but won’t be going back based on this posting and their response, despite the fact that there aren’t other decent espresso options in the area, it’s right across from my office, and it’s a local business, which I make an extra effort to support.

        • Anonymous

          It’s a comparable analogy, but I don’t think a well-trained sommelier would ever do that, for fear of the type of backlash and bad publicity that is occurring right here.

          Anyone that has ever worked in the hospitality industry knows that your #1 job is to ensure that your customer/guest has a great experience. Whether I order a $30 or a $300 bottle of wine should not be of consequence to the waitstaff of a restaurant. If the sommelier wants to tell me about why putting ice into really good wine might not be the best way to enjoy the wine, that would be fine. But ultimately it would not result in a restaurant refusing to serve someone, and if it did, there would be an uproar.

          The problem here is the lack of knowledge/education/respect that people have regarding truly high quality coffee. Most people, not all, have some idea of what it takes to produce a quality wine- years, decades, generations of training and experience along with all of the variables of the terroir and weather conditions affecting that vintage, on top of the physical labor of planting, caring for and harvesting the vines. If a certified sommelier who has gone through years of training and tests to understand these things puts together a wine list that includes $300 bottles of wine and someone asks for that wine to be poured from the bottle onto ice and completely ruin all of the hard work and dedication the winemaker(s) has put his/her/their whole life(s) into creating I think that should generate even more respect for the establishment. It’s an obvious commitment to quality that tells everyone that they can expect the very best any time they drink wine there.
          This should be the same reaction at a top-quality coffee shop. The people who grow, harvest and roast these beans dedicate their entire lives doing so with the highest regard to quality. Dedicated baristas spend countless hours training, learning, researching, pouring milk art, going to camps, going to cuppings, going to competitions, getting out the perfectly calibrated scales and measures to make sure they are offering the absolute best product they can. Because they care about and respect the talent and hard work that goes into producing something of surpassing quality.

          A proper analogy would be to imagine yourself in your job where you spend every day trying your hardest to do your job the very best you can. You’ve worked hard through school and applied yourself because you really care about the work that you and all of your teammates are doing. Then some ignorant ass walks in and wants to contract you to do a shitty, half-assed version of the job you do. If you’re a lawyer, would you write them a contract full of holes? Would you put up a weak defense in court? If you’re a writer would you write them a story that you’d be embarrassed to read aloud? If you’re a builder would you build them a house you knew wasn’t up to code? If your passion is music would you write a song you’d be embarrassed for them to sing? Would you sacrifice what you’re passionate about because the customer is always right?

          That being said, the reaction of the barista in this instance is unacceptable. I firmly believe that knowledge is power and that with power comes responsibility. In this case to politely and fully explain to the customer why the passionate people behind your espresso don’t want to serve it over ice. You’re only hurting yourself and everyone else involved in the process if you don’t do so.

  • A trip down junkpunch memory lane!

  • I often find that a solid junkpunch just ruins my day.

    • Anonymous

      Me too, unless I’m dining at Junkpunchers.

      • Early Times

        Is that anything like Fuddruckers?

    • anon

      I generally find that after a solid junkpunch, a nice triple iced espresso just makes my day.

    • Just don’t pour my junk punch over ice, or it will shock it.

  • It makes me happy that the wikipedia entry for “ghetto latte” includes the following (referencing the last time this subject arose in DC, which almost ended with a junkpunch): “Many baristas who work at smaller coffee shops that support local roasteries and brew single-origin coffees consider the ghetto latte to be unfair and inconsiderate, and argue that ‘When you pour [espresso] over ice, it creates a certain acidic reaction that makes the drink sour.'”

    • Anon

      Then why would this shop make an Americano?

      • Anonymous

        (You pour it into the water first and then add the ice. It doesn’t shock the espresso.)

  • margaret

    I would have asked for the espresso and a cup of ice on the side and then poured the coffee over the ice very slowly while looking that dweeb in the eye.


  • Anonymous

    I’m glad I don’t drink coffee. Fewer options when selecting a Diet Coke.

    • dgf


    • Anon

      Except – have you seen the new high-tech coputerized soda dsipensers? FIve Guys has them and I don’t know who else. Dozens of different soda flavors, in cluding about 10 different flavors of Diet Coke. It’s all touch screen and very futuristic. (Sorry, a little off topic.)

  • Ano

    For those who maintain that this establishment has a right to its own quality control, we’re talking about coffee here not fine art, purity and perfection aside. A chef may recommend that a steak be served medium rare, but if a patron asks that he scorch it, then sizzle goes the gristle. Hell, even high-priced fancy sports cars come with customizable options. If I want to purchase a Renoir and hang it upside down in my house because I prefer Luncheon of the Boating party from that perspective then it’s my perogative to do so. Getting any form of a ubiquitous beverage that generally costs between $1 and $5 served in any way that I so choose seems like a reasonable request. All this aside, I’d just stop going there in the future and drop the argument. Fighting with the ridiculous is the pasttime of a fool.

  • iced coffee in Italy = espresso, add some sugar, stir, then add ice and shake. absolutely delicious.

    it’s got to be about money, preventing customers from making DIY iced lattes.

  • AK

    Here is what I think: The Bartender/Bar owner as Just lazy and they really don’t know it. Go anywhere in Italy (I lived there for 4 years) and ask for Ice coffee and here is how they make it for you step by step:
    1) two shots espresso (can be 3 or more if you desire)
    2) Add sugar to it to taste and dissolve it while the coffee is hot (why? because sugar won’t dissolve well in cold coffee and if you try to mix sugar vigorously as they do in a tight container with coffee it will blow up in your face..don’t ask me how I know that:)
    3) They add a scope or so of ice cube, in a Margarita mixer, pour the sweet coffee (if sugar was desired) and close, mix well, pour first the coffee-water mix then finish it by adding the top of foamy coffee layer with the rest of ice and Enjoy. It is very refreshing and delicious.

    I did order Ice coffee on a couple of occasions from Starbucks and they wanted to pour for me the drip coffee over ice, I told them how I wanted it and they did it (the way I described it above)

    In my opinion the Bar owner/bartender who refused to give you your Iced coffee drink and prepare it in the right way (the way that those who invented espresso make it) is just a total ignorance from them, lack of knowledge on how to make it. I did say it several times, if anyone wants to open an Italian style coffee shop (and I am mentioning coffee shop only as I am a vein coffee drinker and very selective) they should go and spend sometime in Italy first and see how it is made.

    • PG

      I make it at home brewing a cup in my stovetop moka pot, pouring it over ice (usually in a pint glass) and topping it with milk. Sometimes I used sweetened, condensed milk, and I mix that with the coffee before pouring it over ice. It’s similar to the Vietnamese iced coffee I enjoy with my pho.

    • Oh man, I am jonesing for iced coffee now. Honey, you need to make me one of these when we get home. :)

      Stovetop mokas are the best. I never thought of condensed milk in cold coffee. Sounds good!

    • freshee

      I do not mean to offend you, AK, as it appears you have a fond connection to Italy, but my understanding and experience is Italians are not known so much for their quality of coffee as for their love of the drink. Most of the espresso consumed in Italy is focused on the end product (the communal drinking experience) rather than the initial ingredient: the bean.

      Fine coffee houses in the US (a category CCC alleges to be a part of) are incredibly selective when it comes to the beans they use. Premium beans require an immense amount of effort to produce (growing, harvesting, de-pulping, washing, fermenting, drying, distribution, roasting). A legitimately premium coffee house simply will not transform all that hard work and expense into a sub-par product. Yes, coffee is not art. But fine coffee is, in many ways, rarer than fine wine.

      My point, if you knowingly want an average product—even if that product is delicious and precisely what you crabe—don’t go to high-end shop.

      • Anon X

        10 bucks say its Counter Culture Coffee…so if being “incredibly selective” is serving what a bunch of other coffee shops serve, then yes, they are. But then, how can they have the “best espresso” in the city? Its the best because they dont let an ice cube come within 50 feet of their establishment.

        • Freshee

          I’m not standing up for Chinatown Coffee Co. I think there are higher quality shops in DC.

          But, their **endeavor** to serve a fine product is what counts here.

          And, simply talking labels is not legitimate argument. Bean freshness, equipment quality, cleanliness and brewing all come into play. Coffee is a complex thing. For the most part it’s a mediocre product that is consumed by a huge amount of people. But their is a small slice of people who believe that coffee can be an incredible product. That slice of people have immense respect for the effort required to produce amazing ingredients and they will not disrespect that effort by producing a less than amazing product.

          • milton

            So please tell me where I can get a good espresso, cause I can’t seem to find it.

        • SB

          CounterCultureCoffee ‏(@counter_culture) says… @loudboos: Espresso/ice is a long-standing debate … regardless, we don’t understand refusal of service to any customer + passed this along.

      • Are you kidding? Clearly you’ve not spent much time in Italy.

        • Freshee

          I’m happy to be convinced otherwise, but I have spent time in Italy and my experiences are what they are. I have enjoyed many delicious cups of coffee during my travels through the country and I certainly came across amazing owners/baristas who truly cared about coffee. But, just like in other coffee-obsessed countries (Turkey, Ethiopa, etc), quality was not as important as the social aspect.

          Do you have examples in contrast to my experiences?

          • I lived in Turkey for years. They are obsessed with tea. Coffee is not drunk nearly as much, usually just after dinner. (I’m talking about Turkish coffee here.)

      • AK

        Freshee, I am not offended, Everyone has the right to say what they think is right, and that is what just said. But I will add to what have been said before, YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE NEVER PUT A FOOT IN ITALY, with KNOWLEDGE OF THE ITALIAN CULTURE (which means Lack of experience with the Italian culture). If there is anything Italian’s are proud of it is 1) Coffee 2) Wine 3) Food 4) women 5) History. The best quality coffee I ever had was in Italy (and I am not talking about the southern part of Italy, where they have even higher standards for their coffee, even the temperature of the cup it should be served in). What you drink here and you think it is good coffee, In Italy it is called “Aqua Sporca , i.e. Dirty water) So all the good thing you said about the coffee will not make the cut in Italian Standards (at least the one you drink).
        No offense my friend, but you need to live & speak the language of a culture to understand it.

        • Freshee

          AK, I certainly did not intend to demean the cultural significance of coffee in Italy. I have had many great cups of espresso during my travels. Italy is clearly coffee-obsessed.

          At the same time, I contend that Italians are obsessed with the act and ritual of drinking coffee. It’s truly elevated to an art form. Italians care more about coffee than many other areas, but it is honest to God commonly accepted by most coffee aficionados that Italy is not the top dog in coffee. It’s about the beans! And the beans are not of utmost concern in Italy.

          • gmg

            God, I loathe American coffee snobs. The Italians INVENTED espresso, dude. Show some flipping respect (and not that patronizing “Oh, I know they love coffee, but they don’t really know what GOOD coffee is” crap). Italians were drinking civilized cups back when most people over here in the US thought Sanka was coffee … and drinking good locally produced wine and sending us the Riunite, and eating parmigiano reggiano while we thought the shit in the green Kraft can was cheese, and should I go on? Stop congratulating yourself on being such a rarefied consumer of caffeinated beverage. It makes you look kinda silly.

  • It might be beyond the point, but did you get the americano? The amount of water added should not dilute the espresso too much and save it from the shock of the ice.

  • Col. Forbin

    Shocking is a myth. I just had an iced espresso on Saturday and it was delicious (also not the first time).

    The customer is certainly wrong in some cases, but not here. It is disappointing that CC tolerates this type of behavior from their employees. Maybe this barista should lay off the java and start doing yoga.

  • Anonymous

    order an espresso. order a cup full of ice. give your middle finger to the owner. done and done.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe they ran out of ice and lost the recipe.

  • Anonymous

    You should take a cue from Jack Nicholson in the classic, Five Easy Pieces.

  • Anonymous

    What I didn’t get then and don’t get now — why couldn’t Murky Coffee (RIP), Chinatown Coffee, or any other high quality espresso purveyor simply provide the espresso and the ice separately and let the customer ruin his own espresso? They could provide the caveat that they will not stand behind espresso served this way, but the customer is welcome to tailor it to his own tastes, whether that means adding a ridiculous amount of sugar, milk, cinamon, or just dumping the whole thing on ice.

    On the one hand I get standing behind your product and understand why they wouldn’t want to waste espresso if it wasn’t to the consumer’s liking, but once it leaves your hands the rest is up to the buyer. I’m willing to bet sommeliers get peeved when wine drinkers guzzle a fine wine, but once it leaves and their hands their job is largely done unless something is wrong with it.

  • Kam

    What the hell is wrong with you people? If they don’t make it, they don’t make it. Go somewhere else that does make it, plain and simple.

    Now I could see if they were to pick and choose who they make it for but it is THEIR policy. End of story.

    But with most comments in PoPville, there is a sense of entitlement going on. How dare they not make it the way you want it even though it is their policy that they do not make it that way.

    Really, if you want it that bad, bring your own damn ice or get some nearby and then do whatever you want to you expresso or whatever. Problem solved.

    • Anon X

      We’re not talking about making duck confit here… this is simply providing a cup of ice to customers. I assume the individual who wrote in would be perfectly happy to have done all of the hardwork by pouring the espresso into the cup of ice…

    • Anonymous

      Kam – You are one of the few people that believe CCC is in the clear with this. Get off your high horse. Your opinion is ridiculous and down right wrong. “bring your own damn ice” – WHO SAYS THAT? Would you bring your own ice to a juice bar or restaurant. No! CCC obviously has ice, that isn’t the problem here. They are just a pretentious hipster coffee house that obviously believes they are superior to their customers and their customers opinions.

    • Anonymous

      Dude. You always just need to relax. Just. Relax.

  • 17th St

    If one considers the “Annoyance to Importance” quotient of this issue, it really must be the most irritating thing ever. It’s extremely annoying and yet really unimportant. And it isn’t even a matter of the customer always being right – it’s a matter of it not being the shop’s busness what I do; I am allowed to be wrong if I choose. What the F— does it matter to the shop what I do with the espresso? Why must they care at all? It’s all going into my stomach full of acids and digestive juices – won’t that ‘shock’ the coffee too? And really – -they’ll water an espresso down to make an Americano, but they won’t water it down with a piece of ice? Will they make an Americano with the water on the side? Will they allow me to put milk in my espresso? Will they allow me to drink the espresso without washing my hands first? What a bunch of (explitives deleted). But of course because it’s not really important, I can go to many other shops and get and excellent espresso and do whatever I like to it no matter how wrong it is, or isn’t.

  • RV

    Criticism against the “ghetto latte” to me implies tacit consent that prices are gouged for cream and sugar that is ordinarily available for free.

    • Anonymous

      simple solution — charge a premium for serving it either on ice or with a cup of ice on the side and make the cost comensurate with the extra self served milk required.

      the better response to “did I ruin your day?” would be — “My stick up his ass boss doesn’t let us do this for anyone [start] internal monologue of agreement with boss while maintaining straight face with customer[end]. Sorry”

    • Anonymous

      Don’t mistake the cream and sugar provided at the condiment bar as “for free”. The business pays for that and offers it as a courtesy, intended for people to use a small amount to customize the drink to their taste. Making a 20 oz. latte with 17 oz of milk from the condiment stand is an abuse of that courtesy. Milk is the most expensive ingredient in specialty espresso drinks and the pricing of espresso drinks is structured in a way to allow the shop to make a profit, which it needs to do in order to stay in business. If the “ghetto latte” abuse caught on, we would see the courtesy condiment stands disappear or the shops go out of business. All of this, of course, as well as the QC argument, is a separate issue from whether or not the employee or management of a particular establishment was an unjustified ass towards the customer.

  • Snobbery. period.

    • Freshee

      Absolutely! But snobbery is the point. High-end clients purchase from high-end shops because of hard-line attention to detail. That attention to detail is at the same time awesome and snobbish to different groups of people.

      Coffee is not just coffee. There are different levels of quality. The effort and resources required to create the highest tier of coffee is enormously greater than what’s required for the next step down. Diluting that quality throws away all that effort.

      My point of view is the customer is always right, but she is not always in the right store.

      • Taste is subjective. Businesses question their customers’ tastes at their own risk. Not to mention that the proffered justification is specious at best.

        If a person orders something not on the menu and then complains, I understand giving some attitude.

        However, there is a distinction between taking pride in your craft and sneering at people who want to drink something prepared differently.

  • Kate

    Java Shack in Arlington will do this for you, no questions asked. Yeah, they know you’re probably going to be making a “ghetto latte”, but they seem to care more about making customers feel at home than they do about “espresso integrity.”
    That said, I don’t understand why it’s such a burden to pay full-price for an iced latte, especially at a locally owned business.

  • d

    i wonder if the folks who were bent out of shape for denying service to the laptop-users a couple weeks ago are the same folks bent out of shape about this?

  • qst

    My one experience at CCC was when they swapped out the wine I asked for with another of the same color but very different grape, then tried to tell me it would be “practically the same.” I realize they’re a coffeeshop and not a wine bar, but if they are going to hold this position on iced espresso they have no business trying to pass off a chardonnay as a riesling.

  • The idea that the customer is always right is laughable. A company decides upon an assortment of services that it will provide. The customer can choose from among those services. If the customer demands a service that is not in that assortment, the customer is wrong.

    At this point, it is up to the company to decide whether to do something beyond what they have defined their operation as providing, or not. It is completely their right–regardless of whether the customer agrees with the reasoning behind their decision.

    The customer is then free to leave and complain about taking their business elsewhere. Or they can suck it up, and accept that they don’t get everything they want every time. And you know what reasonable people do? They’ll ask for an explanation, and maybe understand what another human being thinks, instead of thinking that the world revolves around their own petty desires. They may still leave the place dissatisfied, but at least they’ll retain some of their humanity.

    • David

      Your analysis is way off. It was taken apart piece-by-piece somewhere in this thread in the discussion about Taylor not putting mayo on its sandwiches. There is clearly no issue with CCC having the actual capability to serve espresso over ice. It is also not a hassle for them (like it is for some restaurants–the Jack Nicholson clip– to make substitutions. They have cups, they have ice, they have espresso, they have other products that they pour over ice. It is about arrogance.

      Several good options have been offered here:

      1. Explain why they don’t offer it in a polite manner, and then let them know that if they really want it, it’s not going to be of the same quality as their other products. Still serve it though. Note that the OP really feels that she was treated with arrogance and in a demeaning way. It doesn’t even come close to what you are talking about.

      2. Serve it in a tiny cup to avert ghetto lattes.

      • Wrong. It is not a matter of ability; it is a matter of choice. The company gets to do business the way it wants to do business. It is not beholden to the customer’s every whim, except to the extent that it will affect their ability to stay in business. If you had read my comment, you would have noticed that I allowed for the business to accommodate the customer’s request. That’s the “everyone’s happy” result. But the business doesn’t have to do that, and the customer–if they want to interact with people as humans–ought to at least try to respect that decision, and simply take their business elsewhere if they don’t want to listen.

      • And to be clear, I am not even addressing the rudeness in this particular case–that is obviously uncalled for, period. No argument needed.

        But the principle of the matter remains. If a business doesn’t want to accommodate you, tough luck. That is there prerogative, and you are not in the right for demanding that they change.

    • SB

      And then the business can go out of business when people stop coming. I agree with the sentiment that the customer isn’t always right, but how could he ask for an explanation when the barista walked away? As a business you can refuse to do something, but if you’re employees don’t have good customer service skills, you’re not going to be in business for long.

  • Idaho Ave

    I just want to point out your “customer is still king” line really strikes a nerve. Not only is that from a very antiquated time when businesses were much different but it shows too much pretense. I deal with customers in NOVA, DC, MD of all walks of life daily. There is nothing that screens pompous and entitlement like customers who insist they can tell me what I can and can’t do just because they want it. It’s annoying, it’s immature, and no one has to listen to that.

    • Anonymous

      Are your really the Chinatown Coffee employee mentioned above??

      • Idaho Ave

        Not I. I actually work in a different industry but we still deal with whiney, entitled, know it alls.

        • 15th St. NW Resident

          And does the OP come across as a know-it-all?? I would hardly describe him/her as that.

  • Anonymous

    The best way to handle this is to obviously have everyone on PoP visit CCC and order an espresso over ice.

    • Or bring your own cup of ice. Get the espresso, whip out you cuppa ice, and pour the brew over the ice in front of the baristas. At’ll show’em.

  • sphinx

    Their reasoning is a lie. They just assume people will pour milk in it and try to get an iced latte for the price of straight espresso.

    Go to Gallery Cafe a block away. They’ll do it. And they won’t be jackasses, which Chinatown Coffee pretty much always is.

  • mighty

    Who does this? Ice and coffee/espresso? disgusting

  • James

    I find it ridiculous.

    Sometimes I want espresso, and sometimes I want it cold, and sometimes I want cold espresso to go.

    If the coffee shop is so committed to “serving the highest quality coffee,” I’ll bring a Starbucks plastic cup for them to put it in so that nobody knows it was them. (Or, more likely, I’ll just go to Starbucks, because they don’t get snooty about my order.)

  • Lm

    I stopped going to Chinatown Coffee. Their coffee is good, but the baristas are so pretentious and have talked down to me multiple times. I’ll take the lower quality of Starbucks over the superiority complex at Chinatown Coffee anyday.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, same. The hipster attitudes are way too grating.

  • DeanGold

    So I guess when I get caffe shakerato in Italy, the Italians don’t know what the freak they are doing?

    • Freshee

      Despite your sarcasm, your statement is in fact true. Italians are known for their fondness of consuming espresso, not making it. When “Italy” and “coffee” are put together, it’s mostly marketing. The US sucks at a lot of things, but it’s at the forefront of coffee world.

  • Josh

    Con hielo (Sp. “with ice”): Espresso immediately poured over two ice cubes, it is preferred in Madrid during summer.

    • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    jesus. coffee is not something can be raised to the ridiculous level people are trying to attain in DC. it’s freaking coffee, a**hole. I’m sorry if it makes you feel better about the fact that when it comes down to it, all you do is pour coffee for a living, but your drinks are not special. and even though you do tastings and a lot of research about coffee, that doesn’t mean that 99% can actually discern the difference between what you do and what my coffeemaker makes at home. I had heard good things about this coffee shop, but now I certainly won’t be visiting. what is with all the coffee joints in dc having such attitude? get real.

    • Freshee

      Cool. Let’s just give up on trying to make other food products like beer, wine and steaks any better. Budweiser, Yellowtail and Safeway cuts for all!

      • Anonymous

        where in this post was beer, wine, or steaks mentioned?

        • Freshee

          They are examples of food products which most people commonly accept have variances in quality. The point being made is in response to the assertion by Anonymous that, “coffee is not something can be raised to the ridiculous level people are trying to attain in DC. it’s freaking coffee, a**hole.”

          I argue that coffee can be raised to a very high level of quality.

  • SB

    This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this about Chinatown Coffee and it’s the reason why I’ve never gone there. I love my iced coffees and I’m not a coffee snob so I have no idea if they’re going to serve me what I want. Shame cause it’s just a couple of minutes from my office.

    Staying out of the “he should have just served it” argument, at the very least he could have been polite and offered an alternative.

  • Had a similar experience at the vegan bakery in Columbia Hts. Politely told barista I did not like soy milk and could I please have regular milk for my coffee. Got a “big” lecture. Never returned. The service at Chinatown Coffee is likewise prejudiced. I do not frequent it anymore. As my father says, self-proclaimed open minded folks are usually only open-minded about what they want to be open-minded about.

    • Anonymous

      this is a joke right?

      • No, I am serious. “We know what’s best” attitudes like you get at Chinatown Coffee mean someone else is making a decision for you, as if you don’t know what you want and need. If you think espresso on ice is a bad idea, that’s fine “for you.” Let the person ordering have what they want. They have their own reasons and it’s not for you to decide. That is what it means to be open-minded.

        • Anonymous

          It’s a vegan restaurant, why would they have milk from an animal?

  • The best part of this is that neither the barista nor the official statement did their “best to communicate the reasons for this.” Unless it was stated elsewhere, the barista only said it ruined the espresso shots with no further explanation; the official statement, nothing (except doing their best to communicate).

    If you refuse to serve a drink based on technical reasons not known to casual customers, you should, you know, explain it in a respectful way. Not that difficult.

  • Freshee

    The barista sounds like a jerk. I’ve found CCC to be lacking in both service and product the few times I’ve visited. So, while I can not stick up for CCC I can stick up for coffee houses who strive for a top-tier product.

    Coffee is an amazing thing. Millions (billions?) of people consume it each day. In contrast to it’s ubiquity, coffee is a incredibly finicky to grow, thrives in mostly economically challenged areas and requires a harvesting/preparation process that is still not fully understood by the majority of producers. The potential differences in quality are very similar to wine, but very few people think the pricing should reflect that.

    All these factors make it insanely difficult for a retail shop to consistently produce coffee at a high-level (an $8 glass of wine is commonplace, but the majority of commentators here would cry in horror at the thought of an $8 coffee). This is why I stick up for coffee shops that strive to be better. Without them there is a lot of untapped potential for a product that I love.

  • Gabe

    This is not hard. The shop should first educate and then take their money. You don’t have to give up one for the other.

  • crumbum

    This is related to previous posts about no wi-fi at Filter in Foggy Bottom and the jukebox vetoes at Kangaroo Boxing Club. I’m totally with the businesses. If you have a vision for your restaurant/cafe/bar then I say stick to your guns. You don’t go into a nice restaurant and play mix and match with their menu, do you? It’s not a bad business practice – these owners decided what they wanted their place to be, they jumped through the hoops and put down the money to open a place and now you swing in and ask them to change all that. They already have a loyal clientele – who are you? Quit acting like their breaking some law. There’s a Starbucks down the street, I bet they’ll make you an espresso snow cone if you ask nicely.

    • Not quite the same. The use of laptops affects the experience of other customers. What you take in your espresso does not.

    • Dang! Espresso snow cone sounds really good!

      • Italiana

        It’s called a granita and it’s delicious!

  • Someone

    First world problems.

    • Freshee

      In an admittedly oblique way, also third world problems. Many people believe coffee can be as economically successful as wine and most of the prime coffee growing areas are in developing countries. One of the many keys to unlocking this potential is convincing people that quality is worthwhile.

  • Anonymous

    Not all businesses sell all products. This business does not sell espresso over ice, just like they don’t sell you the paper towels they have in the back. You can’t expect to buy an item not offered. And why the hell do you want such a drink?

    • Anon

      But they DO sell espresso over ice – it’s called an Americano.
      Granted, there’s some water in there, but I garantee you – drop three shots of hot espresso on ice, and some of that ice is gonna melt real quick.
      That is what makes CC’s self-righteous attitude so annoying to me – if espresso is so sacred, why Americanos? Why not sell the OP an Americano with no water in it?
      I’ve worked a lot in service industry jobs and I’m the first one to agree that the customer is not always right. But the customer is allowed to be wrong if s/he insists.
      Dumb dumb dumb.

      • You are confused. An Americano is espresso and hot water. Nothing more. There’s no ice involved.

  • Shaw Guy

    So, I know nobody reads all the way to the bottom of the comments so nobody will see this, but what I really want to see is a Shakespearean Acting Troupe go into CCC at the busiest time of the day, order a triple espresso, whip out a cup full of ice, and do their absolute best Shakespearean death scene (“Oh! I am *wounded*!!) to mock the shit out of these “it’ll shock the coffee” bullshit. I would personally make it my quest in this world to get that youtube video to a million views.

    CCC serves nasty sludge anyway. I’d honestly rather take burned Pike Place Blend at Starbucks than the sewer slop they call coffee. And the employees are kinda douchey too.

    I think everyone who goes there should pee in the cup the coffee came in when they’re done, walk back in, and ask to do a return… That’ll “shock” the espresso alright!

    • Anonymous


    • Anonymous

      YES YES YES!! This is a brilliant idea! Please make this happen!

    • ceeps


  • Walt French

    They probably don’t serve T-bone steaks or brown rice with eggplant, either, despite many people thinking those dishes are excellent. In fact, every place HAS to decide where to draw a line, so if you really want espresso over ice, just go somewhere that thinks they know how to do it right for you.

    • That is not a legitimate argument. The place sells espresso. The place sells ice. It’s a god damned coffee shop, they sell coffee. It’s a coffee shop that doesn’t sell coffee because they don’t like the taste. It’s the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the world.

  • Casalolo23

    Serve what you want to serve but don’t be an a-hole to your customers.

    • +1.

      The “Aww, did I just ruin your day?” response from the barista was snarky and totally unnecessary.

      I think it’s Chinatown Coffee’s prerogative to serve what they want, but there’s no reason to be rude about it.

  • Jeff

    I used to go to Chinatown Coffee when I worked downtown and this makes me want to puke. I still make my own espresso at the house when I am not being too lazy in the morning and this makes me cringe. I still make my way into the city on Saturday and Sunday for coffee and the paper while riding the bike and I will make it a point to ride right the hell by this place. Get off your high horse and give the paying customer what they want. I spent 7 years behind a bar during college and before I went 9-5 and I would never have thought to do this. I would have thought a whole lot of terrible things but I still acquiesced. Yes, Chinatown is the owner/operator and they can do what they please, but the consumer (such as myself) can opt to NEVER go back. Poor judgement on their part. I kind of feel awful that I “used to” refer people there now.

  • scotty

    yeah, i always get infuriated when restaurants won’t serve me stuff just because it’s not on the menu.

    • SB

      What menu are you talking about? It’s a F’ing coffee shop.

  • Cal Barnes

    Ordered five shots of espresso over ice last weekend at Starbucks. No problem. Chinatown Coffee Co. can choose not to serve this the same as a restaurant can choose to have “No Substitutions” on a menu. It’s their choice. The only problem here was the surly server which, alone, is a/the reason to not patronize an establishment. Notice their response has no apology for the treatment? The server must have been an owner or manager. For that, shame on Chinatown Coffee Co. I’ve never been there and now I know to avoid it.

    • What kind of business model allows you to lose a sale over something as easy as giving someone their drink on ice? She didn’t ask for a lobster claw in her coffee. I say to the extent it does not affect other customers’ experience, give the customer what they want. Good for your bottom line and good for the customer.

  • Anonymous

    Ordering espresso over ice?? Should be punishable by law. It’s just wrong.

    • SB


  • Anonymous

    Chinatown Coffee Co doesn’t know what toddy is, so they should just get over themselves already about iced espressos.

    -former Seattle shot puller, left disappointed.

  • Anon



    If CC doesn’t want to serve you espresso over ice, and Taylor Gourmet won’t put mayo on your sandwiches…go somewhere else. Big deal.

    Being rude is unacceptable, but not wanting to serve you espresso over ice, as trying to stay loyal to business standards, is not rude, as many may perceive.

    Not sure why people get SO infuriated by petty situations such as the above to actually go home, plop on the internet and write about it.

    • Kam


      Finally someone with some COTDAMN common sense! If they don’t do it, they don’t do it. I am sure McD’s willl do it for you with no problem.

    • anon

      CC serves all sorts of iced beverages, including espresso over ice. how do I know this? I’ve ordered it there before and made myself a massive cheapskate latte. buahahahahahaha.

  • Anonymous

    Someone should start a post “Why Can’t I Order A Well-Done Steak?”

  • huskerdont

    It’s their shop so they can do what they want. That’s part of what’s great about being an independent shop. The customer can always go somewhere else–I’m sure Starbucks will serve him espresso over ice.

  • Uglybetty

    I’m gonna go there and just f with them and order a quad shot espresso over ice. Oh no, it will “shock” the espresso. Will it make it “shocked and appalled?” I think there should be a flash mob that goes to this nutty place and eveyone orders iced espresso :)

    • Anonymous

      Haha, good idea!

  • Customer is right. I will not patronize this business.

  • jen

    This is a only an issue in U.S. coffee bars. Here in Spain, espresso with ice is quite common in summertime. The espresso is served in the standard espresso cup with a separate glass containing 2 cubes of ice. The customer mixes it themselves. Problem solved. As for the attitude, they are lucky they don’t have Europeans for customers; Americans are generally far more polite when faced with rudeness.

  • Florista

    170+comments on this, coffee?! Seriously, people.

    • Simee

      LOL..well, dang, you actually counted. lol

      • You do know that it tells you at the top of the page how many comments there are, right?

        About 230 comments now, FYI. :)

  • biff

    That’s snobbery on a douchebag level. Good job, coffee shop. But then, when someone has so little in their life that they need to dictate what you are allowed to consume, there’s really no winning

  • Espresso drinker

    Espresso to go? Can’t spare the 5 minutes?

    • Italiana

      That’s the part I have a problem with. You’re going to sacrifice a paper cup for that? Just down it in 10 seconds while standing at the counter.

  • Mdd

    Let’s be honest the major problem here is the employee. Chinatown Coffee can be snobby in their espresso, but their employees more than suck at customer service and are rude. I’m glad to have thrown my black card in the trash.

  • Anon X

    All of these “the business can do what they want” responses are totally missing the mark.

    Any unreasonable requests are perfectly acceptable to refuse.

    A cup of ice with nothing else in it is not unreasonable. If they want to charge a buck for it, go ahead. But to outright refuse to offer ice in a beverage shop is laughable because its so absurd. It would be the same as if they offered no cream or sugar because the proprietor didnt like the way coffee tasted with those additions. Sure, he can do it all he wants, but its absurd and deserves ridicule.

    No one is suggesting that the government step in and coerce compliance, people are just suggesting the owner is absurd, foolish, and unreasonable.

    I think they’re totally correct.

  • Anonymous

    customer always right

    • Anonymous

      1. It’s likely the customer is lying about what the barista said so that he/she can anonymously (like my comment here) post a complaint.

      2. It’s as likely that the barista did say what she/he purportedly said, however – is what he/she said so bad? If the guest was offended, she/he could have/should have told the barista to *uck off, asked for the manager, called the owner on the spot – not go the comment/yelp route.

      Regardless, the cliche that the customer is always right only applies to those businesses which seek to satisfy the dull masses with dull products.

      There are many examples of chefs refusing to cook steaks well-done and who will not provide salt/pepper at tables for guests to alter what has been sent.

      At the same time, I can appreciate that this is just coffee – i.e., they’re only charging you a couple bucks or so for a shot or two – that said I understand the trending comments of the “come-on/give me a break” variety.

  • El Mel

    For all those just not that into Chinatown Coffee Co, try the newly opened Tel’veh on 4th and Mass. It’s much cheaper, decent coffee (although I’ll admit I’m not an expert) and you’ll probably be served very sweet woman without an ounce of pretension!

  • newhce

    So let me get this straight…pretentious coffee drinkers paying through the nose for what they could get a lot cheaper at Dunkys are bitching over the pretentious attitude of the “barista”?

    YOU have bought into this whole market positioning. You have no right to complain.

    BTW-“Barista” is spanish for “art history major”

    • saf

      Assuming “Dunky’s” = Dunkin Donuts?

      If so, it is not comparable. Dunkin Donuts does not make good coffee.

  • Anonymous

    You know, when it’s 90+ degrees out I think it’s perfectly reasonable that someone would prefer cool refreshment over a slight (and debatable) degradation in flavor.

  • totally idiotic. 9th street espresso does this in NY also, and i’ve seen a few others. save yourself the hassle and go to a place that actually gives you what you — the paying customer — want.

  • G Mears

    I had the same problem with those pretentious Chinatown Coffee folks. The eventual compromise was an iced americano with just the tiniest splash of water. That, of course, exposed how arbitrary their policy is, and how they’re willing to appease the policy with nonsensical endruns around them. Anyone who has ever HAD an iced espresso knows that it doesn’t ruin the espresso. That’s why they order it. It’s freakin delicious.

    Chinatown’s policy is snobbery for snobbery’s sake. They claim it makes the coffee bitter. Not drinking an espresso immediately also makes the coffee bitter. The Chinatown folks should create another policy of force-feeding the espresso to customers not quick enough on the intake. That would be roughly as respectful of the customer.

    If the true concern is that ice shocks the espresso, there are ways around this. I take cream with my iced espresso. Cream stabilizes the espresso. Add the cream to the espresso, then pour over ice.

    This “debate” annoys me to no end. Somewhere along the line baristas get told this drink is bad. Reasonable ones withhold judgment til they taste for themselves whether it’s bad, or at least apologize profusely for having to abide by their coffee shop’s complete BS policy and deny customers what the customer knows she/he wants. Pretentious baristas, on the other hand, baristas who delight in claiming superior coffee sensibilities, eagerly await the unsuspecting customer with violative tastes. Gotcha! NO!

  • I’ve witnessed a very similar situation regarding an iced cappuccino order which was apparently offensive to a young lady working at Flying Fish in Mt. Pleasant. Again, it was the extreme rudeness of the barista that was shocking rather than the inconvenience of them refusing to make it. If it’s ordered, you make it. You are not only being a snob, but extremely annoying.

    Lastly, after living in Spain and Italy for many years, there is no café (triple solo con hielo o espresso ghiaccio) that cannot be made and enjoyed.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously, just ordered the espresso and a cup of ice….

    • anon

      At Chinatown Coffee Co.?

  • tummler

    Am I alone in thinking that the customer should vote with their wallet and get a coffee elsewhere?

    Chinatown Coffee Co. is a private business, they can’t treat people however they please and serve, or not serve, anything they choose.

  • Simee

    LOL ok, folks, its coffee! Everyone has thier taste. If a customer wishes to have a triple shot over ice, advise them not to because of the type of coffee that is being served, however, if a customer, is paying for it and wants it over ice, let them, just don’t put it on the menu as something your company does. This way, everyone is happy.

  • Lisa

    Ugh. Everything that needs to be said already has been on this topic, but as someone who also enjoys iced espresso I feel like I need to chime in as well. SO frustrating when some snot-nosed barista wont make the drink. Yes, I get it, you don’t want people to make DIY lattes. In that case, charge me extra! It’s ok, I don’t mind. Just give me the drink I ask for.

  • Anonymous

    People are shocked and apparently really upset about not serving espresso over ice, enough to boycott a business…bored and/or entitled, aren’t we?

    But also to be surprised to get “rude” service? In D.C?


  • Anonymous

    So what’s to stop someone from ordering an espresso and a separate cup of ice and then pouring it themselves? Or better yet, bringing in ice and then pouring the espresso over it while looking directly into the eyes of the barista?

    I think people shouldn’t eat/drink stupid shit like ketchup on eggs, but you can’t tell a paying customer how to drink their coffee (whether or not they have bad taste and whether or not they are coffee fanatics) and expect them not to trash your establishment.

    And yes, if you serve Americanos and don’t serve iced espresso, you’re just electing to embarrass customers for the sake of snobbery.

  • jpp5279

    I think “the customer’s always right” motto has been taken too far. If you go into a chef driven restaurant, order the chicken, the proceed to take off elements of the dish and add elements of another dish to it, this is considered an INSULT to the chef. If you want it your way, you can go to Burger King. If you want a high quality product, you can take your food or beverage the way an establishment wants to present it to you.

    • OP

      “customer is always right” simply means that you don’t treat them like a moron and then insult them on the way out the door – franky, i think it’s ridiculous that they won’t serve an iced espresso, but that’s only a minor part of the issue here

      • jpp5279

        It just seems to me that there is probably something missing from this interaction. We love to view scenarios that upset us from our own perspective. But if nothing else, the number one thing none of the commenters here can perceive is the tone being spoken by both parties. I’m not saying it is probable but it IS possible that the customer may have had a sharp tone in the way they spoke. If that’s the case, then I might would speak sarcastically back to that person as well had they have spoken to me. When I go to places that deal with customer service, I know for a fact that they get some real a-holes in there from time to time, so I make sure that I am SUPER nice when I speak to them to make sure that I can get what I need and proceed with life. This includes: coffee shops, Target, and helping to get your student loan payments lowered. :) Just a friendly note and/or suggestion.

  • Anonymous

    I’m guessing that this thread has only improved the amount of business Chinatown Coffee is already enjoying.

    Ha ha ha.

  • Anonymous

    Does the OP also go to fancy restaurants, ignore the menus, and demand that the chef prepare him whatever he wants?

    • OP

      The answer is no, I have full respect for food/drink/customer service/etc. But, really, what menu are you talking about? It’s a fuk*ing coffee shop filled with purist baristas. Coffee can be ordered any number of ways… but this way is wrong. Really? And I can assure you that the waiter at a nice restaurant wouldn’t be a complete ass in telling you that it can’t be done.

      • kseamen

        OP – all that cussing and anger does not sound like respect. They also won’t sell you a lottery ticket, sell you stamps, or an individual cigarette, or put a blinking neon “OPEN” light from Costco in the Window. But they do have pride in their coffee making. Maybe they are like those chefs who refuse to cook a steak well done because it ruins the meat (Ray’s the Steaks?). I love those Chefs.

  • kseamen

    Why can’t I order a meatball sandwhich or meatloaf at McDonald’s? They have all the ingredients to make it and it isn’t hard. I guess they just don’t want to.

    I’m all for local business having a choice to serve the menu of their choosing. Stop whining and take your business a couple blocks to Starbuck’s or Duncan Donuts or whoever it is that makes your drink.

  • kseamen

    I went in to an Irish Bar one time, and I ordered an Irish Car Bomb. They refused to make it. I didn’t mean to offend them, but they talked to me like they could care less about my business. What kind of BS is that?

  • It’s weird how entitled people can get. No person or business “has to” do anything that they don’t want to , at least beyond meeting basic legal requirements.

    The presence of customers who orders something terrible could easily be considered a blight on the business’s image. No one gets mad at fancy steak houses for making people meet dress code requirements… there’s no idiots writing “Deer local blog: The 5 star restraunt woodn’t take my monies or lets me in! They says I dress bad. I not even wear dress! They bad business. Plz help.”

    Maybe the owner doesn’t want to serve crappy drinks, even if people will pay for them. Maybe the owner wants his place to be known as a retreat for people with better taste. Maybe he thinks anyone dumb enough to go to a high-end coffee shop and DEMAND that they be served something terrible isn’t the kind of person he wants in his store. Maybe he thinks people like that mess up the atmosphere. There’s plenty of valid reasons to deny service, but if you do get denied, you probably shouldn’t go blog about it. It makes you look dumb.

    • or in short, maybe the owner opened his store because he saw a niche that wasn’t being filled well: People who want good coffee. He fills that niche very well. Without him, there’s a void in Chinatown. However, there are plenty of coffee places that will serve whatever you want, no matter how bad an idea that may be. There’s a Starbucks 3 blocks away. Go there. Stop trying to watering down a quality brand identity. Go drink the overpriced crap that you’re specifically demanding from the business that exists specifically to serve you: Starbucks. or maybe McDonald’s. …and stop whining.

  • Anon

    I believe Chinatown Coffee Co. was started by former members of the Murky crew, as were a few other snob stops around town. As Mr. Cho of Murky said a few years ago, the iced espresso rule has nothing to do with the quality of the coffee — they just don’t want people making ‘ghetto latte’s…

    Most of these shops are making plenty of money, which is why there are so damned many of them, and yet Cho used to charge people sales tax and then keep it for himself. Everytime I saw him, he looked and acted hung over, but I never asked him if he was. Pretty lame. Don’t go telling me you are an artist and you are proud of what you do when you come into your own shop like that.

  • Anonymous

    I had the same experience last summer with the bald guy with the arm sleeve tattoos. I told him to do a long pour over ice and he flatly refused, even when i told him Italians do it regularly and call it caffe freddo.

    The place is basically a joke- I like to blare R kelly at 8 am cuz I’m so ironic!!! If I wasn’t so fat I would wear more American Apparel to work! I was the most artistic in my dorm at VCU/ George Mason but never made it to NYC so now I’m snide to people about coffee!!

    • mike

      But making assumptions about a person based on their dress and employment is objectivity, not snobbery…..

  • Anonymous

    How dare that customer ask the coffee chef to make that. No, there is no sarcasm here. I am a self taught chef. I understand that certain food and drink has been perfected over time and no more tweeking is necessary thank you. It is perfect because it is in many ways, a science. Do not ask me to ruin food or beverage for your stupidity.

  • The Old Wolf

    All you have to do is read ‘Not Always Right’ to get a sense of how difficult it is to work in retail. The more population grows, statistically the number of ignorant people increases proportionately. That said, this situation is not cut and dried.

    A store has the right to serve what it serves – you wouldn’t walk into Tim Horton’s (from whence I happen to be writing this) and demand fried chicken – well, you could, but you’d be a douchebag. On the other hand, my wife’s first job was working in McDonald’s in 1972; when a customer asked for iced coffee, which at the time was not on the menu, the sagacious manager said “Hey, if we can make it for them, that’s money in our till. Pour a couple of coffees over ice and charge him for two cups.”

    In E.B. White’s Stuart Little, the eponymous hero needs about three drops of gasoline for his car, and the station owner says he can’t do that. Stuart replies something to the effect that “I need the gas and you need the money – why can’t we work something out?”

    Although the coffee shop in question did their best to deny a policy of snobbery, their explanation rings hollow, especially given the snarky parting shot of the barista, which was inexcusable.

    In the end, there’s nothing wrong with being snooty if you’re willing to be up front about it. If I were to dine at Per Se in New York and ask for a bottle of ketchup to slather on my Cowgirl Creamery’s “Red Hawk,” I would deserve whatever horrified execration I might get. It’s all about reading your environment.

    I come away from reading about this encounter with the feeling that the establishment in question shot itself in the foot in terms of public image. On the other hand, the customer could have just as easily asked for a double espresso, and two minutes later for a cup of ice: mission accomplished.

  • Anonymous

    In some cases, roasters have strict guidelines as to the methods and practices used by the merchants who are selling their coffee. Different business models work for different reasons – for Intelligentsia, (the roaster who provides the espresso at Chinatown Coffee Co.) its important that the people serving their coffee are perceived to be both knowledgeable about the product and concerned with its quality. Intelligentsia cultivates a brand identity differently than Starbucks does… they are willing to upset a few people in order to maintain an image of purism and passion for the product. It works because its different. Take this analogy: if you want a steak, you can go to Charlie Brown’s or Outback and get a good steak however you want it; well done, with ketchup, whatever. These places do very well, because they please the customer no matter what. You could also go to Smith and Wollinsky’s and get a VERY good steak. However, if you try to order that bad boy well done, you are at the very least going to get a sour look from the waiter. In all likelihood, they won’t do it, because the meat they get is among the top 1% of beef available anywhere in the country. A very different business model, but one that also works very well. Now I know coffee isn’t steak, but the business philosophy is the same.

    Bottom line… at Chinatown Coffee Co, the baristas AREN’T ALLOWED to serve the espresso certain ways, because of an agreement with the people who roast their coffee. So… when you ask someone who works there to make you something a particular way you are a) asking them to risk hurting their relationship with the roaster and b) asking them to risk getting in trouble or losing their job. That’s a lot to ask of someone just to get one little thing exactly the way you want it. Go down the street if you’re that particular. Or bring it up with management. But getting mad at the server is pointless.

  • tiffpennic

    Your experience was specifically mentioned on Kathy and Hoda today.


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