The Starbucks inside the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA in not like the Starbucks we’re used to.

The Washington Post reports that CIA employees of all levels need lots and lots of caffeine (makes sense). WaPo goes on to explain that due to strict security measures at the CIA, few employees actually leave the compound while working.


Although the decor is what you might find at any other Starbucks, the baristas don’t ever write your name on your cup—because they don’t ever ask you for it in the first place. A CIA food services supervisor who also asked to remain unnamed told WaPo,

“They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care. But giving any name at all was making people—you know, the undercover agents—feel very uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for this location.”

While that does mean you’ll never see any snarky stories about Starbucks baristas getting someone’s name wrong from this location, you’ll probably also never see any stories about this location period—other than acknowledging that it exists. As one barista told WaPo, “The most I can say to friends is that I work in a federal building.” 


That same barista also told WaPo about the hiring process. She said she applied to a catering company that serves federal buildings, and covers the entire region. Before she was hired, she underwent an extensive background check. Once she was hired and told where to report for work, her GPS couldn’t find the location she was given.

She called the hiring manager, who had to explain why it was so secret and give her directions over the phone. “Before I knew it, I realized I was now working for the Starbucks at the CIA.”

As you’d expect, business is crazy busy. Intelligence expert and International Spy Museum curator Vince Houghton told WaPo

“Coffee culture is just huge in the military, and many in the CIA come from that culture. Urban myth says the CIA Starbucks is the busiest in the world, and to me that makes perfect sense. This is a population who have to be alert and spend hours poring through documents. If they miss a word, people can die.”

So how do the baristas identify their regulars? By their drinks, of course. The barista referenced previously said she’ll go, “There’s caramel-macchiato guy” and “the iced white mocha woman.”

But she has no idea what they do—other than drink gallons of coffee—and that’s how both the CIA and the baristas at Starbucks Store No. 1 (as it’s printed on the receipts) like to keep it.

[via the Washington Post]

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