Iced Coffee — Am I Asking Too Much?

Filed Under: Travel

If there are two things I like in summer it’s caffeine and iced beverages. It’s hot and days are long, and I need something to keep me cool and awake. But somehow the world seems to disagree, because there’s some massive bias against it. I swear some hot beverage union is lobbying against iced coffee in the same way that the taxi mafias are lobbying against Uber. In a way their hatred for iced coffee is… chilling. šŸ˜‰

To be clear, I’m not talking about the lovely German version of iced coffee, which consists 90% of ice cream and 10% of coffee, lovely as it may be.



But rather I’m talking about coffee just poured over ice.

I don’t know where the source of this hatred of iced coffee comes from. I don’t know if it’s because people don’t realize that iced coffee is simply chilled coffee poured over ice, or if they view it as an additional revenue opportunity, but I will say it’s tough traveling full time and getting an iced coffee sometimes!

But I’ve lost count of how often I’ve been told I can’t have iced coffee in the past month in a “hospitality” setting.

On an airplane

Me: “Could I have an iced coffee please?”
Flight attendant: “Sorry, we don’t have that, we only have regular coffee.”
Me: “Oh, okay, could I have a coffee and then a cup of ice please?”
Flight attendant: “Of course.”

Austrian Airlines knows how to do iced coffee!

At a hotel

Yay, I got a voucher for a free 12 ounce Starbucks coffee. The irony here is that the “market” had two carafes — one was labeled “coffee” and one was labeled “iced coffee.” So there was no additional work or cost to making an iced coffee.


Me: “Could I use this for iced coffee please?”
Associate: “Hot coffee only, buddy.”
Me: “Okay, then could I have a hot coffee and a cup of ice please.”
Associate: “Ugh, fine, I’ll get you an iced coffee. Gimme that voucher”

From St. Regis butler service

Butler: “If you need anything at all — anything — please let me know. And remember that through butler service you have complimentary coffee and tea 24 hours a day.”
Me: “Perfect, it’s hot as balls outside, could I get an iced coffee please?”
Butler: “Oh… you’d have to call in-room dining for that.”
Me: “Okay… could I have a coffee then… and a cup of ice?”
Butler: “Certainly.”


Bottom line

Is this travel related? Meh, probably not. But the loves of my life are airplanes, travel, coffee, and champagne, so thanks for indulging me.

Am I the only one that deals with these #firstworld coffee problems? Am I being unreasonable? It’s entirely possible that I am, in which case I’d love to know! Or do I need to launch an iced coffee campaign in the same way that Qatar launched a “Reflect Your Respect” campaign?

  1. I think in one of your prior posts you reported having this exchange, which still makes me laugh when I think about it:

    Ben: Do you have iced coffee?
    FA: No, we don’t have that.
    Ben: Do you have coffee?
    FA: Yes
    Ben: Do you have ice?
    FA: Yes
    Ben: OK, bring them both and I am going to blow your mind.

  2. Greece is good for iced coffee or frappe.

    Most airlines won’t serve you iced coffee as it is made with coffee and most airlines serve gravy browning in their hot water.. It is the same with Iced Tea in UK. Have you tried Iced Coffee in Thailand, that is pretty special. It is very sweet but when you have just had a mouthful of delicious Thai food which was not placeable on the scoville scale, it kind of works well.. Not sold on the Frappuccino especially the Strawberries and Cream version in Tokyo…

  3. Iced coffee is a very American thing. People outside North America likely just not understand what you mean when you say “iced coffee”.

  4. The first time I visited Singapore I stayed at a friends’ parents home. Mr Chow took me wherever I wanted, and although I hate coffee, I did start to enjoy iced coffee, for the only reason that it helped cool me down in the Singaporean heat. The iced coffee always seemed to cost an extra 10 or 20 cents more than regular coffee (I guess it was for the ice) but was always worth it. I do enjoy sweetened ice tea, but it seemed that in Singapore rarely was tea offered chilled/with ice. So, the only time I ever drink coffee is the iced coffee on my trips to Singapore when I don’t feel like water or pop, but need something to cool me down. Of course, take me to a Hawker Centre and I’ll have the sugar-cane juice instead!

  5. Ben,

    Have you ever seen the movie Office Space?

    Because you seem to be shocked that people aren’t thinking for themselves while working in a system that is designed from the ground up to remove as much independent thought from the equation as possible.

  6. Paul W,

    Love it. To take it a step further, add some music like “Final Count Down” when you do it (Arrested Development reference).

  7. What you think of as “iced coffee” is an American thing. I’d never seen it in any other country till I moved to New York – and when I do find it abroad, it’s still in establishments catering to tourists. I’ve always interpreted its popularity in the States as a corollary of Americans’ acceptance of terrible coffee across-the-board. It’s easy to serve brown gloop either hot, or cold. But in coffee-loving cultures where espressos, machhiatos and cortados come standard, servers assume that an “iced coffee” refers to something more finessed than a cheap cup of joe splashed over ice.

  8. IMHO, there is rarely a reason in the US that you shouldn’t be able to easily get an iced coffee. Who wants to drink hot coffee in the summer (or anytime in the south). Yes, I know there are people who would disagree. But I view having a virtually limitless supply of ice as one of the benefits of being an American. šŸ™‚ And lack of ice in the rest of the world is one of the few things I miss when I’m not in the US.

  9. While I don’t think you’re being unreasonable, Iced Coffee, prepared properly, is actually a different product than hot coffee poured over ice. The pushback you get is probably from someone who knows this and does not want to serve you hot coffee poured over ice. I can’t blame them. Properly made Iced coffee can be good, but hot coffee poured over ice is awful – weak and watery. If I ordered an iced coffee, and saw a barista take hot coffee and merely pour it over ice I would probably tell them no thanks.

  10. Most places that actually serve iced coffee brew it much stronger than standard coffee, knowing that the ice will melt and dilute it quite a bit. So it’s possible that when you’re told ‘no’, it’s because these folks actually know that it’s better to have the ‘real’ extra-strong brew, which they don’t have access to.

    Of course, they could actually just tell you that and offer you the ice + standard coffee solution as an alternative, but that would be too much effort…

  11. Ben, you need to move to Japan.
    The Japanese know how to do iced coffee!
    You can get a legit one from a lounge at the hotels or even in the sideewalks from the vending machines.

  12. Adding on to what others have written re real iced coffee being brewed stronger than regular hot coffee…. it’s almost certainly going to be chilled before serving as well….. pouring hot coffee over a cup of ice will probably result in a cup of luke-warm, watery cofee.

  13. Correct way to make ice coffee is using double espresso over ice. So next time just order double espresso and a glass of ice.

  14. What about coffee in general in say…Europe, England for this example.

    “May I have a large coffee?”
    “I’m sorry, mate, a wot?”
    “A cup of coffee. Brewed coffee”.
    “We avn’t got that or summat… only an AMER-I-CANO for you yanks”.
    “Oh… ok, I’ll have an A-MERI-I-CANO”

    Why do they not just brew pots of coffee? It was the same in Ireland until we had breakfast at The Boxty House in Dublin….I was VERY VERY VERY happy to finally have a nice cup of brewed coffee…and it was TASTY too!

  15. I wish they had iced coffee too! I’m one of those people who will get an iced coffee even in the middle of a blizzard. However, I think that the brewing process might be a bit different for iced coffee vs hot?

  16. I work in a restaurant where we don’t make proper iced coffee but sometimes are asked for it. I always say, well, we have coffee and we have ice but we don’t have real iced coffee. I offer to make this ghetto iced coffee if they insist but almost universally, customers turn it down. Real iced coffee requires a stronger brewing method than regular coffee and ideally, specific roasts and coffee varieties that lend themselves well to being served iced.

    I agree that I love a good iced coffee on a hot summer’s day but it has to be legitimately iced coffee. Pouring regular hot coffee over ice does not do the trick.

  17. My wife has this same problem a lot with iced tea. The solution as you mention is to ask for hot tea + cup of ice.

  18. Ben,

    Most sane people outside of the US and Australia just don’t like it!!
    Remember that a vast amount of people worldwide don’t like coffee at all.
    Whilst I enjoy an occasional high quality coffee just do not drink it regularly….

  19. Iced coffee is very popular in Vietnam, too. In fact, that is the only place that can actually make drinkable iced coffee in my opinion.

  20. @Christian yes! i hate coffee and habitually drink iced tea. always a pleasure to find it available on the road. never thought of trying the hot tea + cup of ice method. won’t it just melt all the ice?

  21. and yes, iced coffee is a very NY-centric beverage. the rest of the globe is slowly catching on.

  22. @Mike Plenty of other countries enjoy coffee, many moreso than the US. Maybe they don’t drink ICED coffee as frequently, but a lot of European countries consume significantly more coffee than the U.S. per capita.

  23. Next time you’re in Italy order a caffe shakerato. It’s amazing – chilled sweetened espresso mixed with ice in a cocktail shaker then presented in a nice glass. Was in France recently and ordered espresso over ice and all the french people laughed at us. Oh well.

  24. Thailand, Lao and Vietnam knows how to make the best iced coffee, even at restaurant in the states.

    Starbucks Via instant iced coffee is the best instant iced coffee, even better the the fresh made one. 1 Via iced coffee packet, 1/2 water, mix, then add 1/4 milk, 1/4 iced, flavor cream,extra sweetener, enjoy. Skip the caramel flavor iced coffee, not a good flavor.

  25. The trouble, of course, with pouring regular brewed coffee over ice is that the coffee is diluted and becomes too weak. I too am an iced coffee lover and now, when not near a coffee shop, make it at home using Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate (100% Arabica beans) using one part to 1-2 parts of half & half. Since the coffee is cold brewed, even at its strongest, it’s not bitter. I have not found this product anywhere but at Trader Joe’s.

  26. In italy, if you ask for iced coffee most waiters will interpret it as “caffe shakerato”, a drink that requires a ton more work (and in certain places involves coffee based liquors), but is absolutely excellent.

  27. I would also say Vietnam. They do a kickass iced coffee, although quite different to the “normal” iced coffee you are refering to.
    They use this thick sweetened condensed milk that makes it “Vietnamese iced coffee”.

  28. When I lived in California (many moons ago), I used to love to go to Peet’s. They actually had different types of coffee in pitchers in the chiller that they would then pour over ice. No watered down iced coffee. I don’t know whether they still do this, but it was lovely when it was over 110F for weeks on end in Davis.

  29. As others have mentioned the trouble is that iced coffee is really just such an American thing. In Australia for example you can’t readily get what we would call iced coffee (except maybe at Starbucks) — most places ordering an “iced coffee” would get you something more similar to a Starbucks Frappuccino.

    I have found that at the Virgin Atlantic lounges in London you can get what you are looking for by asking for a “milky iced coffee.” Not sure if that would work anywhere else though.

  30. try ordering iced tea without sugar in Thailand see how far you get.

    even in the airport it was like asking them to mix the secret formula for rocket fuel.

  31. I have to jump on the Vietnamese band wagon as well. After a month in Vietnam my friends and I were obsessed with their regular and iced coffee and their huge coffee culture. There are many coffee houses in every city and they all make great coffee. I stopped ordering iced coffee because I drank it way too fast compared to regular coffee. Something about rich dark coffee and sweetened condensed milk over ice…

    Starbucks has nothing on real Vietnamese coffee.

  32. This reminds me, I need to make myself a pot of cold-brewed coffee. It’s so smooth it’s almost chocolatey.

  33. My pet peeve is places which want to try to charge me for a latte when I want a double espresso on ice with a tablespoon of half-and-half (or an ounce of whole milk in a pinch). No, I don’t want the calories latte, and I certainly don’t want to pay that much either.

  34. You can have whatever the hell you want as long as you don’t hold up the line at Starbucks before 10AM

  35. I’m rather surprised to hear people say that mixing ice with coffee is something only Americans understand. Maybe that was the case in the past but I’ve seen iced coffee offered all over the world. Hotels and restaurants often put iced coffee into a different cost bucket which is often excluded from “free” coffee offers. I honestly believe that’s where this request is being hung up. I think it’s a combination of factors that involves a lack of critical thinking combined with a very ridged accounting structure that doesn’t allow for even obvious alterations. When it comes time for the server to mark down what was given away for free into the computer there’s no option for giving away free iced coffee, even though there may be an option for giving away free hot coffee and free ice it doesn’t seem to be donning on the front line folks.

  36. Drinking anything with ice is kind of an American thing. The most common thing here, ice water, is actually hard to come by when I travel abroad. You’re lucky to find chilled water. To find water with ice is kind of a treat. Same thing with soda. I often have to plead with servers for a cup of ice for my soft drink. Even then, it’s a glass with two or three pieces of ice.

    I think in many parts of the world, ice in drinks is just a big no-no. I’ve even had waiters tell me I should not eat my hot food with cold drinks.

  37. @George Japan is a great Country for being given iced water with meals in cafes & restaurants. As someone else has already mentioned, iced coffee, normally served with small jugs of sugar syrup & cream, is also common in Japan.

  38. Iced Coffee is quite common across Asia. Heck in Hong Kong/Singapore you can get pretty much ANY hot drink in iced form for a standard upcharge of the equivalent of a few cents.

    My favourite is Yeunyeung, half strong hong kong milk tea, half coffee. Anyone in Hong Kong should try it ,actually does CX F serve it? They technically have all the ingrediants to do so and I’m if they are HK based they will know what it is.

  39. Interesting… Like others have mentioned, perhaps sometimes FAs/butlers/waiters probably think you are talking about a specific iced coffee which is a special cold-brewed drink.

    Pouring hot coffee over ice will just dilute it and turn it into an Americano. In a pinch, I brew a cup of strong hot coffee, put it in a freezer and then, once it’s cold, pour it over ice which doesn’t make it super-watered down.

  40. I’d like to call out a technicality…iced coffee is SO SO SO much more than just hot coffee over ice — that’s what I’d call watered down lukewarm coffee. Iced coffee is supposed to be cold brewed, stored cold, and then served over ice because that way it’s not watered down and retains the “strength” of real coffee but is actually cold. Look at how Starbucks does it.

    My pet peeve is when exactly what you describe happens — I ask for an iced coffee and I get a cup of hot coffee with ice in it

  41. Iced coffee is HUGE in the state of South Australia. In fact you can find various sized cartons of it in nearly every store, even McDonald’s, KFC & Hungry Jack’s(Burger King) sell it. Farmer’s Union branded iced coffee is also one of the few beverages worldwide that outsells coca cola in its specific market(which is still hugely popular).

    Granted what we call iced coffee doesn’t usually have ice in it, it’s merely stored cold though I frequently store it in the freezer for a couple hours to the point that’s it’s mostly ice but not completely frozen. I also do that with home made iced coffees (which unless you have a perfect blend, I’d recommend using a little cream and very little water).

  42. In Australia iced coffee usually consists of coffee, milk, ice and icecream and sometines whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top…i was very didappointed when i was in the USA recently (in the South) when i ordered iced coffee and was given a glass of ice with a hot jug of black coffee to pour over it….ummm..what?

  43. Your post is so tasty, unlike regular coffee, cold brew is never exposed to heat. Cold brew has time on its side, using it to extract the coffeeā€™s sugars, oils, and caffeine.

  44. I much prefer the version of iced coffee that you’re disappointed that was more prominent in your 2014 travels. I’ve noticed this same concern popping up in more than a few travel blogs over the years, the ‘you make iced coffee wrong!’ thing I mean, haha.

    Not to say I’m not partial to your version or cold brew but they’re down the list compared to what I feel is the one true iced coffee(or Iced Mocha is lovely as well, Iced Caramel to!).

    I don’t consider stuff the farmers union iced coffee mentioned above to be real iced coffee, I tend to refer to that as coffee milk. It’s actually even better than iced coffee. In that you can add stuff to it and indeed freeze it but you can also just pick it up and drink it out of the carton or bottle.

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