Every so often, somebody finds out I write about coffee in the Northwest, and sees it as their chance to finally have an article published about that one thing that has been driving them crazy in the coffee industry for years. Frequently, these things have little to do with coffee itself, and so the conversation goes something akin to one I had over Christmas when my uncle cornered me and launched into an embittered monologue on the inconsiderate habits of drive thru coffee goers.
A scenic perch in South Lake Union.
Having pondered this speech for a couple of months now, and not typically being a drive thru coffee kind of girl, I decided to strike out and do a little research this past week. Not wishing to drive through most of the drive thru stands around town, I ended up at Urban City Coffee in South Lake Union, where available parking and indoor seating actually enticed me indoors instead. But, from the indoor vantage point, I was able to watch the drive thru and chat with the barista about what drives her crazy about her customers.
The concept of Urban City Coffee, which took over the old Tin Cup location last summer, is impressively tailored to its neighborhood. It advertises drive thru to the busy corner of 9th and Broad, but also offers walk in and sit down options for those who work and live in its sadly under-caffeinated part of town. The coffee itself is less impressive than the concept and reclaimed design of the location, but not being familiar with the roaster by much more than name, and making note that the portafilters needed a good cleaning, I am left without too much to say about the brand. The solo espresso I ordered in order to wake up enough to order something else was served at a surprisingly large volume, harsh, and contained a significant number of grounds at the end.
A good swirl brings grounds to the top of this solo espresso.
It was quiet when I went in, and the barista was both friendly and attentive. I ordered my coffee and began to chat, asking her what some of the most annoying habits of drive thru coffee drinkers were. Her list and my uncle's list, while differing in perspective, largely lined up. So here you go, Seattle: a list of the Top 3 Things Not to Do When Ordering Coffee In a Drive Thru.
1.) Forgetful Foodie. Forgetting you wanted a bagel or breakfast sandwich until your coffee has been made is a cardinal sin. Those things take a while to toast, and -- ideally -- can be timed to the making of your beverage so as not to hold up the line. Order your food first. Then get your drink and pay. Do not order your drink, receive it, then order food. (And certainly do not order your drink, receive it, pay for it, and order food then.)
2.) The List. Drive thru coffee, I have been informed, is for people who are in a hurry. If you are in a hurry, but are also picking up coffee for your entire staff, you should be aware that as far as everybody behind you in line is concerned, the latter heavily outweighs the former. All those times you felt like the people behind you in line hated you and the barista was annoyed while you placed your 10-drink order? You were correct. Spare yourself the angry glaring of a multi-car pile-up, and spare them the road rage: take your office-wide order indoors.
3.) Phone a Friend. Really, this goes for all baristas at all coffee shops, under all circumstances, at all times: end your conversation before you start ordering coffee. At a minimum, put it on hold! Doubly, if you're wearing a hands free headset. Not only do you look and sound crazy, but you barista may lose his or her mind trying to figure out whether you're talking to yourself or to them. In a drive thru, with distance between you, conversing with your invisible friend makes the situation even more confusing than it is in the average coffee shop. You've heard the expression "hang up and drive"? Well, it turns out, baristas need window decals declaring "Hang up and order!"
Urban City Coffee is located at 900 Broad St. and is open weekdays 5am - 6pm, Saturdays 7am - 6pm, and Sundays 8am - 3pm.