Toilet Water Coffee at Starbucks in Hong Kong Now Down the Drain

Image: Toilet Water Coffee at Starbucks in Hong Kong Now Down the Drain A Starbucks cafe in Hong Kong's famous Bank of China Tower, center, used water from a tap near a urinal to brew coffee, prompting angry customer reactions, May 30, 2013.

Friday, 31 May 2013 07:34 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A Starbucks in Honk Kong is making changes after reports surfaced that the pricey cups of coffee in the establishment were being made from what some called "toilet water" from a nearby public restroom.

The culprit is the Starbucks outlet on the first floor of the Bank of China Tower, according to HK magazine. For the past two years, the Starbucks employees slipped into the building's car park restroom to nab the water. It was first reported by the Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily, complete with video evidence.

The newspaper said an employee from Starbucks would push a cart with a big bucket to collect water. A reporter observed that a plastic hose was used to connect water from a sink next to an urinal. After filling the bucket, the employee would wheel the cart back to the coffee shop.

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The local food and environmental hygiene department told Apple Daily the Starbucks’ use of tap water from the restroom is not in line with their regulations and issued the shop a warning with a threat of further actions.

Ben Cowling, associate professor from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health told HK Magazine via email that a water filtering system should be good enough to remove harmful bacteria, but a purifier would be needed to remove viruses, which are smaller in size.

Starbucks spokesperson Grace Lai said the shop does not have a direct water source, so employees used the nearest water supply. She added that Starbucks takes careful steps to ensure the water is clean and safe to use. Lai said the coffee shop will switch to using distilled water to ease public worries.

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“We want to assure our customers that laboratory tests, conducted in 2011 to 2013, by an independent testing and certification services company, confirmed that water supplied to this store adheres strictly to both local regulatory standards and those stipulated by the World Health Organization,” she said.

Patrons are understandably upset. "People with common sense wouldn't have used the water from toilet pipes," said a male Hong Kong resident. Many Starbucks patrons expressed uneasiness about the whole situation.

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