The Weird, Secret Starbucks For The CIA Only
Unlike most coffee shops where conversation is the culture, this Starbucks is not conducive to lengthy exchanges about where you're from and what your day's plans might be. In fact, if you're the barista serving the customer, you're better just f**king all the way off, but in a polite way. At the CIA Starbucks, dedicated to secret agents' caffeination needs, all the baristas know about their customers is that they're affiliated with the CIA. No questions asked.
Located at the CIA headquarters of Langley, Virginia, the shop is nestled somewhere so secretive that it won't appear on a GPS. As few agents ever leave the premises to get coffee, it's essential that a place exists for them to sip on their favorites -- the vanilla latte and lemon pound cake being their most popular orders, but you didn't hear that from me. It's the busiest Starbucks in the US, serving the world's bulk of above-average geographers, cartographers, agents, analysts, engineers, and economists whose mission depends on "gathering intelligence and launching covert operations." Future conspiracy fodder depends on whether or not they are doing their job correctly, and for that reason, brewed bean water is essential, particularly for those working nights due to different time zones around the world.
Heightened security being a priority, this place of high coffee consumption operates under the alias Store Number 1. According to Business Insider, even the names of customers are not written on drinking cups as traditionally done by the chain. Pseudonyms feel too risky for the agents. Because something like "Princess Paws" or "Sweet Tooth" who orders frappuccinos every morning isn't absurd enough to ward off suspicion that such a person may be in the CIA.
As for the baristas, they're taken through a rigorous background check and do not find out that they've applied to work for the CIA until they are hired. Rather, the job is advertised as "food service in Langley." How relatable, like when you get the job at the local neighborhood restaurant but realize you're now involved in the mafia. Not to mention the security risks that are a part of the job that the shops' nine baristas must frequently undergo. If a barista has reason to suspect that a customer feels off, such as asking too many questions, first they're obviously a spy trying to steal the white chocolate mocha recipe, and second, they must report it to the manager. The baristas are escorted by agency "minders" when on CIA grounds. They must never reveal where they work but are allowed to disclose the words "federal building."
Why not just have coffee available in the CIA's offices and call it a day? Besides many agents' voracious need to stay alert around the clock, there was an intention in setting up a Starbucks within their reach. As reported by the Washington Post, the CIA Starbucks is an attempt "to help humanize the environment for employees, who work under high pressure often in windowless offices and can't fiddle with their smartphones during downtime," as agents must leave phones in their car to ensure safety. In addition to making them feel less isolated, the location has been described as the Starbucks as we know it, "with blond wooden chairs and tables, blueberry and raspberry scones lining the bakery cases, and progressive folk-rock floating from the speakers."
“Planning a coup with a frappuccino and Joan Baez just hits different, y'know?”
Posters of coffee beans line the walls, and armchairs are available to relax in. Many CIA members do not realize that they're working amongst old high school friends, as advertising their workplace isn't an option, and they'll run into each other while grabbing coffee.
For more of Oona’s sarcasm and attempted wit, visit her website oonaoffthecuff.com.
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