Starbucks Busted for Brewing with ‘Toilet’ Water in Hong Kong

Starbucks coffee, brewed with tap water from a bathroom, anyone?

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REUTERS / Joel Boh

A Starbucks coffee cup in Hong Kong

Okay, this is kind of gross. A Starbucks’ coffee shop in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district was recently discovered to be brewing coffee with water from a parking garage bathroom faucet ever since it opened in October 2011. The unsavory revelation has sparked outrage and drawn criticism from clientele and other locals.

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AFP reports that local newspaper Apple Daily uncovered photos of the faucet just a few feet away from a urinal in a “dingy washroom” marked for Starbucks use. The shop itself is located in the heart of the city’s bustling financial Central district in the landmark Bank of China building.

The store has acknowledged it is using the faucet to brew coffee. “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. She added that the shop has now switched to distilled water.

“The initial decision by Starbucks to use water from toilet is a clear sign of your company’s vision and the level of (dis)respect your company has for the health and mind of your customers,” a Facebook user wrote on the Starbucks’ Hong Kong Facebook wall, reports the AFP.

Though tap water in Hong Kong is said to be filtered and conforms to World Health Organization standards, many local residents continue to distrust the water’s sanitation system, citing old buildings and poorly-maintained water-storage tanks as a common concern.

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But that’s not the real issue, others claim. “The issue that is more worrying is … the potential risk of transferring pathogens from the restroom environment into the Starbucks food preparation area,” Hong Kong University School of Public Health associate professor Benjamin Cowling told the AFP. “I wouldn’t go to the restaurant in the first place if I knew they were having potentially risky hygiene practices.”