Grey matters

The Firedog coffee league

download (1)Having worked at Firedog for over two and a half years, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting clients all across London in different offices, with a variety of drink making apparatus. My meetings are usually interesting and full of project information.

BUT BEWARE: for at least 30 seconds of the meeting I will be judging you on your drink standards and skills.


In summary

This doesn't apply to my mum, but weak tea is the worst.

This doesn’t apply to my mum, but weak tea is the worst.

Hot drinks are close to my heart for two main reasons. Firstly, I’m a big coffee drinker. Coffee is the fuel for my long days; most people know not to even attempt to talk me before I’ve had my morning cup. The second reason why I feel so strongly about this is a bit mean, but very true. For 18 years, I lived with a mother who can’t make a decent cup of tea to save her life.

I seriously can’t understand how she gets it so wrong. When I forget and take her up on the offer of a cup, there’s a wave of sadness that washes over me as soon as I get the first glance of that milky water (sorry mum, but it’s the truth). I have to wait until it goes cold and then make another, claiming that I forgot to drink it. I’m happy to judge my own mother on this topic, so clients are not getting off lightly. Here goes…



The good

Topping the list is the finance sector

A biscuit on the side shows a lot of love

Let’s start with the good. Topping the league tends to sit with one particular sector: Finance and Asset Management. We have an Italian client in this sector – Italians know their coffee! These companies always provide fresh coffee, sometimes with a biscuit and always with a lot of love thrown in. A coffee individually made for me and presented with a bowl of sugar cubes (I don’t take sugar but it’s the thought that counts) is perfect. It’s the cups, the saucers and the love that goes into these coffees that truly makes them special.

Larger organisations also have flasks of fresh coffee and hot water for tea – and a range of tea bags. This is great and totally welcomed by us at Firedog, unless you use the coffee flask from yesterday for tea water today. More on that later. As not all of us drink hot drinks, the clients that offer sparkling water and soft drinks automatically get themselves into this area of the league.




The bad

Then you get onto the middle coffee range. This is the space for those that have instant coffee or use a coffee machine that’s a bit generic. This is fine but you can always tell that the quality of the coffee isn’t top notch. These clients tend to have mugs that don’t match and the sugar is put in for you (if they remember); no sugar bowl here. I’m not too disappointed by these contestants – one client had instant coffee that tasted like gravy and would have ended up in the ugly category, had she not been an epic tea maker. She saved herself there and I drank many cups of strong delicious tea. I’m Northern and even I’m jealous of her tea making skills.

Because sometimes it’s an honest mistake, those that get your order wrong are also in this category. Personally, I feel that this is inexcusable and in the ugly category, but maybe that’s too harsh. If you accidently make me tea instead of coffee – I’ll drink it, if you put milk in rather than making my coffee black – I’ll forgive you, but if you put sugar in either my tea or coffee – I will refuse to drink it. That’s when you move to ugly!

In the middle range are the clients with mismatching, occasionally chipped mugs

Bad mugs fall into the mid-range category

One client owned a coffee emporium, yet white coffee wasn’t possible

Also falling into the bad category are the ‘try-too-hards’. We once went to visit a coffee client – yes, a client who was a coffee company. Sam requested a white coffee, but that wasn’t an option. She gave him evils as if he’s asked for his coffee to be sweetened with the tears of kittens. Coffee and milk was his request and she acted as if she didn’t deserve the coffee. There were so many choices: white coffee was not one of them. Moral of the story? Sometimes you can try too hard.


The ugly

Plastic or paper cups. There’s not much more to be said there. Obviously, there’s the feeling that you are in a hospital (we don’t have any clients in hospitals) but more importantly, there’s the environmental issue. Stop wasting cups and buy some that you can just wash up. Think of the environment.

Then there are the clients who don’t even offer you a coffee. I once worked with a client that had a lovely fresh coffee machine. Delicious! I found this out after four meetings. For the first three meetings we weren’t offered a drink – not even water – and this client liked long meetings. That was eight hours of meeting time before we were offered a drink. In my opinion, this is unacceptable – I could have died of dehydration.

Plastic cups are so bad for the environment - are they really necessary?

Plastic cups remind you of hospitals

Stop wasting cups and think of the environment

Another big issue when it comes to hot drinks: if you have flasks of water, clean them. At one office, sometimes the water from the flask tastes like coffee even though it’s water for tea. Keep them separate or just clean them. Details like this move you right from the good to the ugly in an instant! Also, if you have flasks, please at least pretend to help make us a drink. It’s not IKEA, surely I’m not expected to make my own coffee.

Then there’s the largest media company in the UK. They don’t have any coffee making facilities and you have to go to the Costa coffee in the lobby. At least provide your guests with a drink! This is the most painful of all.



I like coffee and I’m judgemental when it comes to making drinks. Admittedly, at Firedog we’re not the best, but there’s companies out there with 100 times the staff of Firedog who just get it so, so wrong. The smaller companies we can let slide – it’s the large companies that don’t even offer you a drink that really get to me. I’m not perfect at keeping guests happy with hot beverages, but I do check that everyone has a drink. Even if your product is poor, execute it well and there can be no complaints.

If you are reading this and think you can top my coffee league, just give us a call, send us a brief and along with the project set up meeting I’ll rate you.

The league table (per sector)

Even if your product is poor, execute it well and there can be no complaints

Even if your product is poor, execute it well and there can be no complaints

      1. Finance and asset management
      2. Telecoms
      3. Education
      4. Construction and development
      5. Technology
      6. Charities
      7. Media (May only be the BBC given our limited experience in this area)


And one more thing to add – I’ve just given up caffeine so everyone is now being rated on their range of fruit teas and availability of decaf coffee. A new era of the coffee league begins…to be continued.


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