Patrons at a Starbucks franchise in Hong Kong are rightfully upset after it was revealed that the chain was using "toilet water" to brew coffee ever since it opened up.
The franchise, which opened up two years ago, had a staff member go to the men's restroom in a nearby parking garage, fill a cart with water, and push it back to the Central Hong Kong Starbuck's branch. The water would then be filtered. This cycle would reportedly be repeated up to seventy times a day.
The toilet water coffee fiasco, according to Apple Daily, took place because there was no water source close to the Starbucks. The main problem with using the water from the parking garage was that the water source was located a mere few feet from a urinal.
"There is no direct water supply to that particular store, that's why we need to obtain the drinking water from the nearest source in the building," Starbucks spokeswoman Wendy Pang said, according to TIME, in response to the toilet water coffee scandal.
Naturally, the toilet water coffee incident raised concerns about hygiene. Fortunately, the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department that has issued a warning to the chain after saying their actions were not in line with their regulations.
Wondering if the toilet water coffee is safe? Ben Cowling, an associate professor from the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, told HK Magazine that by filtering the water, the harmful bacteria would be removed. That said, he added that a purifier would be required to guarantee that the smaller viruses could be removed.
"If the staff need to frequently visit the toilet, they may increase the risk of bringing other pathogens from the washroom into their food and drink preparation area," warned Cowling.
But nothing can fully filter or purify the stigma of consuming toilet water coffee. One patron shared with Apple Daily that she felt that it is the franchise's responsibility to find a clean water supply at any cost.
"Making huge profits globally but chose [SIC] to use toilet water for making coffee in that store rather than spending a few cents to use distilled water," wrote Kevin L on the Starbucks Facebook page. "We pay a few dollars to buy a cup of coffee (and you know your profit margin) and we get this kind of disrespect for our mind and health!"
And while it can be argued that patrons are not truly drinking toilet water coffee, it doesn't make patrons any less upset that the water came from a source next to a urinal.
In response to the toilet water coffee debacle, Starbucks Hong Kong has stated the following on their Facebook page:
"Please kindly accept our apologies for the concerns raised by the coverage on the water source at the Bank of China Tower store. While the water used at that store was drinking water and certified as safe, we would like to clarify any misperceptions, as quality and safety have always been our top priority. We are now using distilled water to serve that store while we work with all parties on acceptable options."