The Terrible Etiquette Mistake Everyone Makes With Hot Cafe Drinks

While our direct interactions with a barista may end after we've ordered and received our coffee at the café, the barista's work is not yet done. They still may have to wipe down tables, clean up any coffee items left behind, and take out the trash. And, as it turns out, the trash could be the worst task of all, especially if there's a lot of liquid inside.

Many people do it — when deciding we're finished with the cup of coffee, we toss the cup (along with whatever liquid is left) into the trash. This very simple action, however, can wreak absolute havoc for baristas when they take out the garbage bag, as leftover coffee could melt holes in the bag. Even if the discarded liquid isn't hot enough to melt through the bag, all it takes is one straw tearing through the liner for coffee to leak everywhere.

There is a better way: Instead of tossing the remainder of our coffee in the trash, the best course of action is to take the cup back to the barista so they can pour it out in a sink, avoiding messy leaks and more cleanup.

Another tip: Don't ask baristas to reheat café drinks

In addition to the leftover coffee tip, there are some other simple means of etiquette when interacting with staff at a café. While it may not seem like a big deal to ask a barista to reheat our coffee after we've been catching up with friends for an hour and the drink has gone cold, this request is yet another issue that poses several challenges. For one, many cafés don't even have a microwave, and if they do, it may only be large enough to heat pastries.

Secondly, most coffee cups are not microwave-safe. Starbucks cups, for instance, are made of paper with a plastic liner. If heated in a microwave, the paper could catch on fire, or the plastic could melt and cause burns when handled. Even a microwave-safe plastic could potentially leach dangerous chemicals into your drink.

Rather than ask the barista to reheat a cup of coffee and risk burning themselves, explain that the drink has gotten cold. The barista can then choose to prepare a fresh cup, which is far better than microwaved coffee, anyway. In all cases don't forget to leave a tip for their extra help!

The pickup counter is not the place to wait or add condiments

Another commonly breached rule of café etiquette concerns the pickup counter. After placing an order, many people intuitively stand by this area to wait for the drink. However, doing so can quickly lead to a crowd, with customers having to push their way through to get their coffee when theirs is ready. Not only can this be frustrating, but it can prove dangerous if someone is jostled to the point of spilling hot coffee on themselves or others.

Similarly, it may seem easiest to add creamer to a coffee at the counter, but this seemingly harmless habit can again cause a backup of customers. Worse, if someone bumps into another patron while the coffee is lidless, that hot beverage could spill everywhere.

To avoid spills or crowds, consider waiting a bit further back from the counter, allowing room for others to pick up their drinks. Grab any creamer or sugar while at the counter, and, when your drink is ready, take it to a table or another clear space before adding it to the coffee and enjoying it to the fullest.