The Best Hotel does not mean the Best Coffee

The good, the bad and the ugly of hotel coffee

The lobby of a five-star hotel is a sensory place. Lavish décor highlighted by rich lighting; a myriad of accents mingled with ambient music; a lush armchair wraps around me while the aroma of coffee and patisserie tempt my taste buds. A dapper waiter carries the coffee I ordered, and with a grand gesture, he places it on the glass table in front of me. It has been a long day, and, as a coffee lover, I have been looking forward to this indulgence. I assume that because I am in a five-star hotel I am going to receive an excellent coffee. Do you think I got what I was expecting?

Unfortunately, I didn't. It was a bitter disappointment, pardon the pun. I sighed and looked at the waiter, standing there oblivious to my plight. I thought; the older I get, the more I realize that I have no desire for drama, I just want to go somewhere, anywhere, and everywhere, and find exceptional coffee. Is that too much to ask?

I was always taught not to judge a book by its cover. I do, however, judge a hotel by its coffee.

Many business meetings, interviews and dates take place in a hotel lobby; the go-to drink is usually coffee. How unacceptable is it, therefore, that hotels do not pay more attention to the type of coffee they serve? People are going to start asking, "How can it be so difficult to find good coffee in a place where everything else is of the highest standard?"


What? Just "coffee"?

There is a mismatch

My mind tells me that in a fine hotel, all things are fine. Unfortunately, there is a mismatch when it comes to coffee. I am willing to pay the price for excellent coffee. I am not willing to spend that much on mediocre coffee just because it is served in expensive porcelain in the lobby of an elegant hotel.

The world has embraced a fourth-wave in premium coffee. Cafés and coffee shops recognize their patron's vested interest in high-grade coffee and its origins and have turned their establishments into a haven for budding coffee connoisseurs. In so doing, an ever-growing community is enjoying more coffee away from their homes. Specialty coffee is growing in popularity, and more people are interested in the craftsmanship that transformed the coffee bean into the superb substance that fills their cup. Hotels, on the other hand, appear to be clinging to the olden days with their outdated choices and overpriced mediocrity.

How many hotels have you visited that have 'Coffee' on their menu? – That's all – no choice between generic or excellent grade or even specialty coffee. I find it most disconcerting, don't you? Every hotel has a wine/champagne list with names such as Krug and Dom Pérignon, and some even have a water list, but a coffee list? – A coffee menu? – That has not made its way into most hotel lobbies even though coffee is the third most popular beverage on the planet.

I think it is only fair to advise hotels to pay attention to their patron's awakening to the world of specialty coffee.


Your Colombian estate coffee is served, madame.

Coffee lovers unite

Life is too short for lousy coffee.

Imagine yourself in the dining room of a lavish, five start hotel. You have enjoyed the most elegant meal; every culinary need is satisfied. You order coffee to round everything off. You are expecting high-grade coffee, after all this is a high-class establishment. Your coffee arrives, and it is unexceptional. Your memorable moment ends on a mediocre note.

What should you do?
Espresso yourself!

Tell the manager that you would appreciate a more extensive selection of coffee next time you visit. Speak kindly and informatively; you are most likely to be listened to if you are nice. If more people requested superior coffee, hotels would start paying attention, and their coffee selection would increase to a point where you have a choice.

The modern coffee drinker doesn't mind paying a little more for their coffee provided they get what they pay for. Top dollar must equate to top quality.

Coffee around the world

As a businessman, I travel extensively. I have visited many countries across the globe and stayed at many hotels. Depending on which part of the world I find myself, the hotel lobby offers a display of the world's finest. Sadly, the same is not true of the coffee they serve.

As examples of this incongruence, I have observed that most of the finest 5-start hotels where I have stayed, served coffee made from Robusta beans, very low-quality Arabica blends or served in a manner that did not exploit the added value potential that fine coffee brings to a special moment. I was shocked to realize that some even used coffee in capsules! (such as that from a very famous global brand). Unfortunately, such was my experience at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, Capella Breidenbacher Hof Düsseldorf and the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.In other words, the customer experience was the very last thing in their mind.

Apparently, most hotels use low-quality capsule coffee because it is easier for them to manage and cost-effective.  While this may work in 3-star hotels, I believe it is unacceptable in a 5-star luxury hotel. I expect the very best.

I also find this fact quite ironic, considering that coffee shops featuring single-cup brewers are trending. Single-cup brewing equipment offers freshness, variety and convenience; factors that keep costs down. Sales continue to rise for specialty coffee drinks as more coffee shops invest in the equipment which offers more profitable options. According to food service resource QSR, over 30 million Americans drink specialty coffee drinks daily.

Any hotelier that is made aware of these statistics will know that it is in their best interest to expand their coffee selection to include more variety and specialty brands.

When I travel, I choose which hotel to stay at based on several factors like location, ratings or reviews, and value for money. I have come to a place where I will begin to choose the hotel based on their coffee selection. If I feel this way, how many others do?

“I judge a restaurant by the bread and by the coffee.”
- Burt Lancaster (American actor and producer)