Saturday, July 19, 2008

Coffee Schmoffee

A couple of weeks ago David and I were out and about in Arlington and decided to get an iced coffee. Although I am not a big Starbucks fan I do enjoy a decaf iced tripio in a venti cup. One of the reasons I’m not a big Starbucks fan is precisely because the drinks are made up names that sound Italian but have nothing to do with the coffee or size of the coffee you get in Italy – where even the instant decaf is great. Anyway, David suggested we try this place he likes called Murky Coffee. Just as an introduction, and so I present an accurate and unbiased picture, the definition of murky is 1. Dark and gloomy 2. Unclear and difficult to understand and 3. Involving dishonesty or illegal activities.

I had only been to Murky once, and I didn’t like the “coffee scene” in the place. It seemed to me, there were too many entitled computer geeks. Every little coffee place in Arlington seems to have a particular clientele (like the Starbucks in Chesterbrook is a daycamp for bored housewives with children while the Starbucks at Bailey’s Crossroads in a hangout for Chain smoking displaced Iranian discontents.) However, since David really likes it—he is a computer geek but certainly not entitled – I agreed to give it another try. Did I mention I adore three shots of decaf espresso over ice with cream and a Splenda. If I didn’t, I do.

I looked around and I saw a small sign that said something that included, “we don’t do iced espresso drinks”. “Surely they must be kidding”, I said to David. And when I ordered my iced espresso they way I like it, the barista (what a laugh), explained that “it was the store's policy to preserve the integrity of the coffee." And they wouldn’t make it for me. “But that’s what I want” I said, thinking that if you liked a coffee in a particular way, they would respect the customer’s desires, and make it for me. I was absolutely wrong and he refused to put any ice in my espresso. I guess I could have ordered a cup of ice and espresso on the side, but it was so totally ridiculous and pretentious that I refused to support this asinine “policy” and I insisted we leave.

Apparently, the subject of iced espresso at Murky Coffee (remember the definition), has become an issue beyond the Burnetts. In fact, there was a Washington Post story about another recent confrontation. A guy named Simmermon blogged (, about the Murky refusal to make him an iced espresso and he did order a cup of ice and espresso. When he poured the coffee over the ice the barista (again a bad joke) told him, "Hey man, What you're about to do ... that's really, really not okay” and reminded him it was the store's policy to "preserve the integrity of the coffee.” What a bunch of crap. I can think of a great many things about which we want to preserve the integrity, (the vote, the constitution, maybe hair products) but coffee—it is right up there on the list of beyond idiotic pretentions. However, it is Arlington, Va,-- one of the nation’s capital of pretentions, so it is foolish but not unexpected.

But wait, that is not the end and as if the preparation of an iced coffee was not stupid enough, the Murky proprietor has other pretentions like, "No modifications to the Classic Cappuccino. No questions will be answered about the $5 Hot Chocolate (during the months we offer it). No espresso in a to-go cup. No espresso over ice. These are our policies. We have our reasons, and we're happy to share them."

Who cares what their policies are. It is a service business, It is a “facockta” (Yiddish and it is what it sounds like), coffee business. It is not in Seattle and it is not in Rome. Cleanliness should be important. Enough tables should be important. No baby carriages in the aisles should be critical. But ice in an espresso – “facockta” doesn’t begin...

And in conclusion with regard to preserving integrity—these people need to get a life. They need to get a real job in a real world where there are real policies and real issues. They need to go out of business and preserve the integrity of good sense. We’re just sayin…Iris


Anonymous said...

So we're pretentious, but we don't, according to you, have "real jobs?" Who's the pretentious one?

-the baristas at murky

seanoryan said...

Good for you baristas at Murky, well put, keep the integrity of the coffee and let those who want to chemically alter their coffee with Splenda stick with Starbucks, where their are no baristas to enlighten them.

Lina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It would seem to me the whole idea of the Murky Coffee against the idea of a customer pouring coffee over a seperate cup of ice pretty much confirms they chose the proper name for this establishment.


Anonymous said...

The folks at Murky need to travel out of the country. Or at least read a book or two on the history of the product.

What coffee drinkers "do" to their coffee culturally would give them a much needed lesson in preparation and service.

I back you on the "real job" issue, I think you have real jobs.

Seems to me though, what you are lacking is "real insight".


Iris&David said...

as always-- you said it better.

Anonymous said...

We have some things in our world that we think we can count on. One of these is “the customer is always right” or put another way, “I will try to make my customers happy because they support me.”. I think the reason this interaction between barista and customer was so upsetting is that it gives us yet another frisson of “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD??” It threatens our sense of how things should be.
Yes, there are bigger issues, like “Mr. Cheney, torture is really NOT OK!!” and GW Bush took us into a war on false pretenses and should be imprisoned, etc, etc… but on a daily basis we want and need decency, politeness and a certain order to things. The coffee shop should smile nicely and give the customer what she wants, for goodness sake.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a world-traveled coffee slut (any kind, any time), the baristas artistas Chez Murky should simply express themselves their way and let you express yourself your way. Integrity of the coffee? Hey, grind this pal! Bean there, done that!