I recently acquired this nifty little cup from Gourmet Getaways. It’s called a Karma Kup and it’s designed to be the best friend of regular coffee drinkers who would prefer not to contribute takeaway cups to the global landfill mountains. Australia produces (and chucks out) approximately 400 million takeaway coffee cups a year*. Imagine the global figures! If you are someone who likes a takeaway coffee, it makes a lot of sense to bring your own cup and do your bit to help the planet. There are other benefits too – like having a cup that’s more comfortable to hold and less likely to remove a layer of skin than some of the flimsier disposables. Your favourite purveyors of fine cappuccino can also benefit by saving a few dollars on how many cups they need to provide. BUT not every business will let you BYO. I conducted a little science experiment this week to see what kind of public support there is for reusable coffee cups.
I knew some places would probably say no; it used to be flatly refused in the onsite café at my last employer, for example. I knew others would be happy to offer refills, but only for patrons using their own brand of reusable cup. I wondered whether the small independents would be more amenable than the big chain suppliers. In the end, the results were mixed and, in some cases, surprising.
The mega chain fast food café – McDonalds
I know people who are serious about coffee don’t think anything with a ‘Mc’ in front of it should ‘count’ as coffee. But, in McDonalds’ defence, if you get the right barista, their offerings don’t actually taste too bad. Plus they offer Rainforest Alliance coffee blends and (yes, yes) it may all be a token effort, but it’s better than nothing. I doubted, however, that they’d be onboard with the reusable cup concept. I was wrong.
“No worries love,” was the quick and polite response I got to my request to slip my Karma Kup under the McCafe jets. What’s more, the chatty barista (and a few of the other waiting customers) had a lively discussion about how refillable cups save the organisation money – so why say no? Turns out this particular barista also runs a coffee van that she takes to local fetes and sports events on the weekends. “Saves me a few cups and there’s less rubbish left lying around if people bring their own” she said. Good for her, and good for Macca’s. It was a very positive start!
Small step up from megachain foodcourt café – Donut King
Please bear in mind that I did this in the name of science. My backside and Donut King have long been sworn enemies, but I do make the occasional brief stopover there when behaviour bribery is required in a shopping centre. Again, their coffee is quite drinkable, though there’s no pretence towards ethical alliances. Buoyed by the positive response at the Golden Arches I stepped up with my shiny red cup.
But…you know when people say “She looked at me as if I had two heads”? I now know exactly what that look looks like. The young lady pushing the coffee dispenser buttons simply glared, shook her head and regarded me with great caution throughout the rest of our interactions. When I asked why not, she said “We’re not allowed”. No doubt that was all she knew about the issue. Coffee machine says no. Nul points, Donut King.
Small step up from foodcourt aspirational chain café – Gloria Jean’s
In short, no problem. They sell their own reusable coffee cups, but are more than happy to accept interlopers too. The only minor disclaimer I discovered here is that they have to charge you their standard rates – ie. they will charge you for a regular coffee even if your cup comes up slightly short of regular, if you know what I mean. No doubt that applies everywhere else too, I just forgot to ask. Taking my scientific method one step further, we got into the nitty gritty of my cup being around a 10 oz rather than the usual 12 oz cup which constitutes a ‘regular’ coffee in most places. Don’t take my word on those figures, by the way, but the point is that if you’re concerned about your dollar per oz coffee ratios, it might be something to look into.
Shopping centre independent café – Coffee Guru (Strathpine, Qld)
Well, it was a yes, kind of. This café will allow you to buy one of their refillable cups and use it again in future. It is $19.95, which includes your first ‘grande’ size coffee (I presume you can refill it with any size of coffee purchase after that). I asked why they prefer this system and was told that if they don’t standardise the process by offering their own cup people would just bring in “any old thing”. I suppose I can understand why, in a busy café, it might be cumbersome to juggle a range of different sized cups – or that some people’s cups may be cleaner than others. But if Macca’s can do it….
Independent with funky décor nowhere near a foodcourt local café – Generations (Sandgate, Qld)
I should confess up front that this is one café where I do usually prefer to drink-in. It is kid friendly, and in fact just generally friendly, and I love their mismatched vintage crockery and comfy chairs. But, if I did want to get a takeaway, they would be happy to put it in my Karma Kup. When asked the question about whether they let punters BYO, they replied “We sure do! We encourage it … We’ll even wash it for you if you don’t mind waiting the extra minute or two!”
So, my highly scientific week of coffee experimentation revealed that most places are willing to let you bring your own reusable cup and knock a few edges off that mountain of annual waste creation. There are benefits for the environment and the café itself, so hopefully even more of them will come on board if the coffee drinking public keeps reminding them of the issue.
Karma Kups are light, easy to slip in your handbag and comfortable to hold –but there are 101 other companies producing similar things. Go out and investigate reusable coffee cup options some time – it’s a great excuse to drink more coffee! *
*Highly scientific figure found via Dr Google on a couple of difference recycling sites.
*No wonder I haven’t been sleeping so well lately.
This is not a sponsored post but I did win a Karma Kup by promising (in 25 words or less) that I’d conduct this experiment.