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In Hong Kong, Starbucks patrons are upset and for good reason: the coffee chain's Central Hong Kong branch has used "toilet water" to brew coffee since it opened two years ago.

According to Apple Daily, a staffer would push a cart into a men's restroom in a nearby parking garage, fill it will water, and then push the cart back to Starbucks, where the "toilet water" would be then filtered. This would happen up to seventy times a day. The bathroom faucet was used because there was no nearby water source.


The faucet that Starbucks used was only a few feet away from a urinal. There were concerns about hygiene, and Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department told Apple Daily that this Starbucks' use of water was not within regulations. Since this discovery, the department has apparently issued a warning to the coffee chain's Central Hong Kong restaurant.

Ben Cowling, associate professor from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, told HK Magazine that filtering the water should remove harmful bacteria. However, a purifier would be necessary to remove the smaller-sized viruses that could be present in the water.


But that wasn't his only concern, HK Magazine pointed out. "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," Cowling added.

Patrons are understandably upset. One woman told Apple Daily that it was Starbucks' responsiblity to have a clean water supply, no matter the cost. "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.


While it might be debatable whether what we all are drinking is technically "toilet water", the thing that many patrons seem to find most offensive is where the water was taken from—literally, a faucet next to a urinal.

"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 Hong Kong resident 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!"


On Facebook, Starbucks Hong Kong issued this reply: "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."


The Starbucks began using distilled bottled water this past weekend.

Starbucks Hong Kong [Facebook]

中環STARBUCKS公廁攞水沖咖啡 [Apple Daily]

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

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