Coffee Etiquette and the Ghetto Latte

Monday, December 4, 2006

I admit to a bit of rubbernecking blog reading in my blog tracking list. Ok- I’ve actually hidden the really embarrassing ones from public viewing, but I can chalk this all up to keeping up on pop culture. As the esteemed Maude once said: Well, they’re my species!

Starbucks Gossip Blog has a past entry on the appropriateness of ordering a Ghetto Latte. The kernel of this etiquette issue is the abuse of store provided materials that are considered condiments.

This last year I have been guilty of light infractions of this nature. An iced Americano touched up with condiment half and half and liquid sweetener is a cheaper alternative to most iced coffee drinks. I do this knowingly keeping the expense of iced coffee drinks foremost in my mind.

I don’t consider my style of iced coffee drink to be poaching the condiment bar. (some fear of saturated fat prevents me from drinking just espresso shots in half and half- pass the melted ice cream why don’t cha?!)

I also admit to being prejudiced in that I would be more likely to knowingly poach from a large company coffee house rather than a smaller locally run coffee business.

How about you?


posted December 4th, 2006 at 11:11 am

Oh, I definitely feel better about poaching from the big ugly companies versus the tiny cool shops. Of course, my goal is to avoid the big chains of any sort- I work within sight of a McDonalds, yet I haven’t been in one for well over 5 years. I’ve been in Starbucks a few times over the past few years, but I don’t buy things- just use it to meet people, sit in comfy chairs, etc.

posted December 4th, 2006 at 2:06 pm

As long as they charge an extra 1$+ for the method that the coffee is prepared, I will feel free to use the freely provided condiments. Doctoring coffee is doctoring coffee. I see little difference between adding H’n'H and sugar to a regular coffee to suite my taste, and adding the same to an americano, latte, or basic iced drink. Sometimes I will order a shot of espresso, a glass of ice, and maybe a glass of milk at a restaurant, to make my own iced coffee.

I do wonder who really has a problem with this and why. It seems like the companies that are providing the product are still doing a-ok, and the customers who do it are happy customers. So what exactly is the problem, and who doesn’t like it? Is it the servers who may have to refill more often (and get paid hourly, not by the contents of a drink), or the other more retentive customers that feel it is an injustice to have to request that the H’n'H be refilled?

- tech_sam
posted December 4th, 2006 at 5:35 pm

I only recently had Starbucks coffee for the first time; I was on a long bus trip and thought I’d get myself a treat and buy a mocha. I ended up pitching it and walking across the parking lot to get some plain coffee from the gas station.

I did note the sign warning me there’d be whipped cream and I asked for it without, but… eegh. It was sweet and tasted burnt.

- threemilechild
posted December 5th, 2006 at 6:15 am

We all have better things to do than worry about the profits of enormous corporations and the guilt you feel is an insidious form of marketing, don’t you think? I’ve always defended Starbucks ever since I realized that suddenly it was possible to get a good, really good, cup of coffee anywhere in the world. For the younger generation who doesn’t remember before Starbucks went national and then international, this was a very big deal indeed, from small places like where I live in Virginia to big cities like London, where the coffee was always crap.

But I do resent the enormous mark-up trend Starbucks started! Wholesale coffee and milk just isn’t all that expensive and even the little guys have a nice little profit margin if they can keep people coming through the door instead of going down the street to Starbucks. I want the little coffee shops to succeed too but I just can’t feel guilty about this–3 bucks for coffee is ridiculous.

posted December 5th, 2006 at 8:04 am

I say poach away! I did read that Starbucks is buying fair trade coffee now…if that is true I would not feel bad about paying so much for a beverage there.

posted December 5th, 2006 at 9:59 am

This practice isn’t just limited to Starbucks. At my college, people buy or bring cereal without milk and poach it from the milk used for coffee. This is forbidden apparently and there are signs telling people this. I guess you could call it “ghetto cereal”?
I think though that given how expensive college is these days though, students should be able to do that.

posted December 6th, 2006 at 3:27 am

LOL – I had never heard of either a ghetto latte or the Starbucks gossip blog! On the one hand, I can see why people do it – the markups at Starbucks are just silly and iced drinks are completely exorbitant for what you get as far as I’m concerned. But on the other hand, there is something about it that seems wrong on some level. There is the obvious argument that it creates hassles for the staff who have to refill the dairy cannisters all the time and for customers, who a) have to wait for the cannisters to be filled and b) can’t be served their dirnk by a barista who has to leave the counter to go and fill the cannister. But there’s also the argument that if you did it at a mom & pop store it would be theft, but because it’s Starbucks it’s somehow OK – and that’s just not a rational argument. If you don’t like or agree with Starbucks business principles/prices/whatever… just don’t go there! But going there to “beat the system” and get their coffee at a lower price because you don’t like the success of the company is just loopy. I personally wouldn’t do it because it reminds me of people who go to a buffet and then pack a huge doggie bag of food because they feel they haven’t eaten their money’s worth. Ew.

posted December 6th, 2006 at 6:04 am

Starbucks buy some fairtrade coffee as a nod towards acceptability, but that’s about as far as it goes…

I wouldn’t buy anything from Starbucks to be honest. Even if they were an ethical company, their coffee tastes like it’s got ashtray dregs in it. blerrrrrrgggg. They used to supply my office with coffee in Whistler.. ugh. vileness. I’ve never heard of this ghetto-ising phenomenomenomenom but then I don’t go in the big chains to buy coffee..

- Tiff
posted December 7th, 2006 at 7:44 pm

At my local coffee shop a french soda costs about a dollar more than an italian soda, the only difference of course being a bit of cream. The barista there has advised us to order the italian soda and add our own half and half at the condiment station.

I don’t feel bad at all about doing it, the condiments are there for you to use, and I spend plenty of money there on a regular basis between drinks and food.

- Kate
posted December 12th, 2006 at 3:43 pm

I don’t call it a ghetto latte. I call it, “Dear GOD I hate the taste of your coffee and therefore must add about a quarter cup of sugar and some cream to make it palatable”

Now, having said that, I am heavy-handed with the coffee and cream at any place where I get coffee (at church I’m the person who ensures there’s plenty of creamer and sugar packets for everyone– because I figure I’m back there in the supply cabinet, I’ll get some for everyone). I’m always careful to leave enough for others or alert the baristas if there’s a lack somewhere, and I clean up after myself.

But until the American coffee-making chains get with it and start serving me a good Cubano, I will attack their sugar dispensers and show no mercy!

posted December 12th, 2006 at 10:22 pm

If all you’re trying to do is save money, you’re sure getting a really crappy drink for all the effort. The milk/cream would be cold, no? And it would taste differently, too, since steamed milk tastes different than regular milk. If all you’re trying to do is be a “rebel” and cheat Starbucks or whoever out of your money, you’re actually going to a lot of effort for nothing, since they’re still making money off you until you actually stop going to the shop.

Personally, I don’t see what the baristas are getting so upset about. If people really want to drink two ounces of coffee with ten ounces of cold milk, let them. All they’re getting is crappy coffee. All you’re getting is one less “rebel” asshat to deal with. I know that’s the way I look at it.

- Paulina
posted December 28th, 2006 at 2:00 pm

Excuse me…”Iced quad venti breve latte???” Are we drinkin’ joe here or practicing for our Latin final? Will everyone get real??? It’s coffee dammit!

- danny meyers

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