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Espresso, Extra Bitter

Murky Coffee owner Nicholas Cho, left, defended barista David Flynn in a letter on the store's Web site after a customer blasted Flynn, in person and in a blog, for balking at an order for a triple espresso on ice. The request violated company policy.
Murky Coffee owner Nicholas Cho, left, defended barista David Flynn in a letter on the store's Web site after a customer blasted Flynn, in person and in a blog, for balking at an order for a triple espresso on ice. The request violated company policy. (By Joe Heim -- The Washington Post)

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By Joe Heim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who knew a cup of coffee could create such a tempest in a teapot?

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Not Jeff Simmermon, whose request for a triple shot of espresso over ice at Murky Coffee in Arlington County turned into a heated Internet squabble, sparked debate about whether the customer is always right and provided a reminder about the intended and unintended consequences of blogging.

The drink request Sunday, said Simmermon, who was visiting from Brooklyn, was denied by a barista who told him that Murky doesn't do espresso over ice. Irked, Simmermon said he asked for a triple espresso and a cup of ice, which he said the barista provided, grudgingly.

Service. No smile.

Then -- and this is Simmermon's account -- the barista scolded him, saying that what he was doing to his espresso was "not okay" and that the store's policy was to preserve the integrity of the drink. The employee said that allowing customers to dilute espresso was not in keeping with said policy.

Coffee-rage moment in 3, 2, 1 . . .

Simmermon, 32, said that he interrupted the barista with an angry blast about how he would have his coffee any way he pleased, thank you very much, and that he told the barista he had his own policy about doing what he wants with the products he pays for. He mixed in a couple of expletives, but that was the essence of it.

That might have been the end of the saga, but Simmermon did what comes naturally to literate victims of perceived everyday injustices in the 21st century.

He blogged about it.

In a post on his Web site, And I Am Not Lying For Real ( http://andiamnotlying.com), Simmermon detailed the encounter, his anger and, somewhat befuddlingly, his order at Murky an hour later for the "strongest iced beverage your policy will allow." He accepted the barista's recommendation for an Americano with four shots "and light on the water." (He said he enjoyed it.)

He also posted a picture of the dollar bill he left as a tip, on which he wrote "[naughty word deleted] you and your precious coffee policy."

Since coffee shops are little more than way stations and IV drips for many bloggers, it's not surprising that Simmermon's post quickly made the rounds in cyberspace. Murky's owner, Nicholas Cho, was alerted to the dispute and responded with an open letter on the cafe's Web site ( http://murkycoffee.com). He defended his berated barista, David Flynn, and ticked off a litany of store policies that would have made Seinfeld's Soup Nazi duck for cover:


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