Yesterday morning it was announced that Starbucks Corporation is being sued by a Manhattan customer who alleges she suffered physical pain and mental anguish after being served tea that was too hot. Being a big-city dweller, I’d like to think this was not her first go-round with Starbucks. Or hot tea.
Say what you will about the big beverage chains but they are nice enough to put that polite, handy warning on their cups stating, “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot.” Not kind of hot or pretty stinkin’ hot. Their precise words are extremely hot. I can understand if you want to ignore the word describing the temperature of the contents of the cup as extreme. But, I’d like to think that HOT still means something.
What I find particularly fascinating about this lawsuit is that the plaintiff claims her tea was “unreasonably hot.” I suppose one man’s reasonable is another man’s tepid and as a tea drinker who makes tea every single day… I can tell you it calls for boiling hot water. Not kind of hot. Extremely bloody-boiling hot. [I’d also like to take this moment to admit that I have used the words unreasonable and extremely interchangeably while talking about emotionally unstable people. Just sayin’.]
In the early 1990’s McDonald’s was sued after a patron received third degree burns while attempting to put cream and sugar into a hot paper cup of coffee (purchased at a drive-thru window) while holding it between their legs. I’ve seen some extreme Cirque du Soleil in my time and even professionals wouldn’t attempt such a unreasonable stunt, even at $80 a head for ticket sales. As a result of that lawsuit, we grownups have spent the last 20 years drinking all of our hot beverages out of sippy cups with big ol’ warning labels and insulated coffee sleeves that act as cardboard hot mitts to protect us. From ourselves.
Yet still, we have issues.
Visual experts say “warnings are a last resort to promote safety if the hazard is not obvious” – sort of like your mom telling you not to touch the oven because, well… for obvious reasons that your average two year old is not yet cognizant of. As for me, I learned at the tender age of 4 that drinking hot cocoa too quickly after it is served, no matter how deceptively cool and soothing the whipped cream looks, is dangerous. Seriously. It will mess. You. Up. Warnings didn’t help, but experience sure did and I learned my hot beverage lesson. There was no fooling me twice (until that unfortunate incident with hotel room coffee, but that was a combination of fatigue and impatience that we’ve promised to never speak of again).
According to the National Coffee Association of USA, coffee should be brewed at a temperature of 195-205 degrees and served at 180-185 degrees. The folks over a at teavana.com suggest that white and green teas be brewed at 175 degrees, black and oolong teas at 195 degrees and herbal teas at 208 degrees. Even if you don’t have a thermometer handy – suffice to say, it’s hot. For me, personally it’s all wicked-wait-a-minute-to-drink hot.
For those of you unable to exercise patience while consuming or carrying hot beverages, don’t despair. I’m here to let you in on a little secret – National Iced Tea Day is coming: June 10th. Enjoy!