A Conversation with A Customer

Hi, welcome to Starbucks, how can I help you?

I am outraged. I informed you all that I had a dire allergy to citric acid and your manager assured me that there would be no citric acid anywhere near my coffee.

I’m sorry Sir/Ma’am, what exactly is citric acid? I’m just a barista…

Here, look at this infographic from an article I read:


If you really want the condensed version, citric acid is an organic compound with a formula of C6H8O7. It’s found in fruits and berries and creates the tangy, citrus-y flavor that people tend to associate with fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and pineapple. I want an explanation why, after drinking my coffee, I had to be immediately rushed to the nearby CVS to get an EpiPen shot.

Excuse me, sir/ma’am, but what drink did you order?

I ordered the same thing I always order, a double venti triple mocha americana with four extra shots of expresso…

It’s pronounced espresso

…With non-fat milk and low-calorie whipped cream (because I’m watching my figure).

Well, there shouldn’t be any fruit in that monstrosity, Sir/Ma’am. Have you ever had an allergic reaction outside of this particular coffee?

Well, yes! In fact, every time I order coffee I get this reaction. And it’s entirely your fault! If I don’t have an explanation soon, I’m going to leave and never buy coffee here again!

While I think that is in your best interest, I will do my best to get an explanation for you, Sir/Ma’am.


Excuse me, Mr./Ms./Mrs. Manager, but we have a customer out front complaining that the barista put citric acid in his/her coffee. How should I handle this situation?

Citric acid, you say? Seems like a difficult thing to be allergic to, considering how important Vitamin C is to body function.

Well, sir/ma’am, Vitamin C is also found in broccoli and other vegetables.

Don’t be a smartass. Let’s get this figured out.

(Back at the bar)

Hello Sir/Ma’am, I’m the general manager of this store, and I understand that you have an issue with the coffee you were served?

Finally, someone with some brains. Yes, I was served coffee with Citric Acid, which I am allergic to. Here, look at this graph:

Ah, yes, Citric Acid. What are these other two big acids? Malic and Tartaric?

This isn’t even relevant. Malic acid is also found in fruits like watermelon or apple. It’s also found in wines.

And Tartaric Acid?

Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I know it’s in grapes and avocados.

Sir/Ma’am, did you actually read the article that you got this infographic from? It says right here in the third paragraph that citric acid is found in nearly all organisms. Perhaps you’re allergic to dairy?

Impossible! I ordered just an expresso

It’s espresso

From the coffee shot down the street and it had milk in it and I had no allergic reaction whatsoever!


Mr./Ms./Mrs. Manager, does espresso have dairy in it??

No, employee, espresso doesn’t have any dairy. Clearly this customer is mistaken. Hang on, I know exactly how to resolve this.

(back to Bar)

Excuse me, sir/ma’am, do you have a dishwasher at home?

Of course I do, I’m not a barbarian. I wash my dishes in it all the time. And my dish soap is my favorite scent, tropical breeze! What kind of a question is that? What has that got to do with me not sueing you?

I’m glad you asked. Please, take a look at this chart:


Limescale? Is this what you’ve done to my coffee?? You do realize limes have citric acid in them, don’t you? I knew I was poisoned! I’m calling the police immediately!

Before you do anything rash, can I explain a few things to you first?

You have my attention.

Limescale is a natural buildup of minerals in water on our utensils and dishes. Most often these are calcium, magnesium, sulfate, and bicarbonate ions. We use our utensils with a high frequency and there is probably a large build-up of limescale in our water, which is why we have to clean our work stations so often. While our limescale cleaner is a very strong acid that kills all kinds of bacteria to prevent transmission of pathogens from one coffee cup to another, your dishwasher at home probably uses citric acid to soften the water. Using something called an ion-exchange column, which exchanges the mineral substances that cause limescale with harmless ions, often sodium. This means that every time you’ve used your dishwasher and eaten off a plate, you’ve exposed your body to any residual citric acid left over from your dishwasher.

Oh really, Mr./Ms./Mrs. Smarty-pants manager, then what AM I allergic to?

Well, sir/ma’am, where did you attend undergraduate school?

I went to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.

AH! That explains it.

What? I don’t get it…

You’re allergic to intelligence!



The Chemistry of Limescale

A Guide to Common Fruit Acids

There is No Ignorance, There is Knowledge

All Jedi who have been through the appropriate training know the code:

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

There is no death, there is the Force.”


Today, we will be discussing the second tenet of the Jedi Code: “There is No Ignorance, There is Knowledge.” During one’s travels throughout the galaxy, deception lurks in every corner and one must be on guard at all times. One such example of deception is the tendency of merchants to lie to better sell their product. As Jedi, regardless of species, we each have our own basic needs to sustain our bodies. If, on a mission, you need to resupply, be cautious of lying farmers and merchants spewing deceptive phrases to make their product appear superior to any other product. We will identify and critique one such crop in this lesson.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 9.06.30 PM.png

This merchant appears to be selling “Chemical-Free” Chia Seeds, a light-weight, healthy snack alternative that is perfect for the on-the-go Jedi. This merchant knows that there is a strong aversion to otherwise harmless chemicals found in regular chia seeds, and hopes to sell more of his product for a more expensive price because they are “chemical free”, and, therefore, healthier.

I must caution you, Jedi, that nothing is “chemical-free”. Just as the force flows through all living beings, so too “chemicals” are basic objects of all matter. All matter consists of atoms, and atoms form together to create molecules, which, in turn, creates things like Chia seeds. It is the culmination of atoms and molecules bonding together that creates any given chemical. As if to prove my point, the manufacturer has included in the description, “Packed with antioxidants and essential vitamins… [including] Omega-3 content…” While the antioxidants and vitamins aren’t listed, Omega-3 is, and, one could ask, what exactly is Omega-3?

Well, dear student, Omega-3 is a collection of chemicals known as “fatty acids”. These fatty acids are long strings of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are bonded in such a way that are absorbed by the human body for necessary functions.

Considering our knowledge of what atomic structure and compounds, one should recognize that everything is comprised of atoms. Similarly, all chemicals are comprised of atoms. Specifically, chemicals are comprised of a mixture of many kinds of atoms, but specifically carbon and oxygen are prevalent in nearly all things.

Just as all living things reside within the living force, all things, animate or inanimate, are composed of these atoms, which make up chemicals. Thus we must conclude that everything, whether listed as “chemical free” or not, is in fact, comprised of chemicals.