Travel Insight: Defining “luxury” in in-room coffee in luxury hotels

November 21, 2013 Leigh Powell Hines

coffee is luxury - in your hotel room

I’m one of those people who despise going to a hotel lobby for a morning cup of coffee. If you could see me in the morning, then you would know why. I also need a hot form of liquid in my body as soon as my eyes open in the morning. I’m not alone in my views, but after polling the HinesSight Blog Facebook community, it’s about 50/50 on whether in-room coffee is a necessity when staying in a luxury property. In-room coffee is not always found in luxury properties because these hotels are all about service, and making mediocre coffee in the room doesn’t meet its service expectations.

Room Service at Hotel Monaco in San Francisco

Many of you who check in to luxury hotels agree, and don’t mind sending your husband down to the lobby for your morning java because you want a really good cup of coffee and you believe that in-room coffee in tiny coffee pots doesn’t fit the bill or seem very luxurious. Some of you can’t get over the fact that a person you don’t know used the coffeemaker before you. Some of you just think in-room coffee is bad, and you would rather wait for a good cup to start your day.

Others, however, are more like me and want coffee as soon as the sun shines. In-room coffee is a necessity, and when it’s not an option no one wants a hefty room service bill, either, in order to get coffee.

Jefferson Room Service

I racked up a $30 room service bill, including tip, at the five-star Jefferson Hotel in Richmond this summer for a large pot of coffee, one milk, and one orange juice because I wanted to enjoy coffee in my room before I got ready for a morning meeting.

Let’s just talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? That is an absurd amount to pay for coffee in a hotel when you could have had it for free in the lobby. There was a little snafu, and I was not aware of the coffee service in the lobby, but I am not sure I would have made the trip downstairs in hindsight.

In-Room Coffee in Luxury Hotels

Umstead Room

The Umstead Hotel and Spa guest room

Luxury hotels are constantly evaluating a guest’s needs, and as a result of numerous guest requests, many luxury hotels that used to provide no in-room coffee are now providing single-cup Keurig coffee makers in guest rooms. The quality has been high enough to suit its guest expectations, at least for now.

The five-star property The Umstead Hotel and Spa, located in Cary, North Carolina, is one of those properties that listened to its guests and decided to give in-room coffee a try, and they furnish complimentary Caribou coffee in the guestrooms.

Skimbaco Coffee Story_Umstead

It was important for us to listen to our guests, and provide both value and convenience to their stay,”

remarked Darah Whyte, the Umstead Hotel’s Marketing Director, when we chatted about the topic (over coffee, by the way).

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead

The Ritz-Carlton, a top luxury hotel brand, in the Buckhead area of Atlanta has provided in-room coffee for several years because of the same reasons.

Williamsburg Inn lobby

The Williamsburg Inn

The five-star Williamsburg Inn in Williamsburg, Virginia, only serves complimentary coffee in the lobby, just like The Jefferson in Richmond, but the hotel will provide a Keurig coffee maker in the room at a guest’s request. They tell me that they get very few requests for the coffee maker, though. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has equipped Keurigs in all rooms in the Williamsburg Lodge, though, which is their other luxury property, but that hotel is not at the same level of luxury as the Williamsburg Inn, The Umstead Hotel and Spa, The Ritz-Carlton, or The Jefferson.

The Jefferson Hotel_Richmond

The Jefferson Hotel

The Jefferson, on the other hand, says it is constantly evaluating in-room coffee services.
Public Relations Manager Jennifer Crisp revealed:

We have not yet found, however, a solution that provides the consistent quality, variety and convenience that we anticipate that our guests will expect. That said, as products change, we will continue evaluating. We do find, however, that our guests enjoy the complimentary coffee service in the lobby. It’s a bit more traditional and does allow us to provide a high-quality product and a variety of coffees, teas and accompaniments so that guests can concoct their perfect cup.”

Will Espresso Machines Define a New Luxury for Hotels for In-Room Coffee?

Espresso Machine in Ritz  Carlton  Buckhead

The new Espresso machine found in the spa level rooms in the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta

As Keurigs become more common, as with the recent announcement that all Hilton Garden Inn rooms will be equipped with Keurigs, will that cause luxury hotels to take it up a notch for the next level of luxury?

So far, that appears to be the case for many luxury properties.

Shangri-la Toronto

The Shangri-La Toronto

The Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto thinks Nespresso is the latest in luxury. The Asian-founded luxury hotel chain has installed Zenius Nespresso machines in all of its guest rooms. Guests can have complimentary morning coffee in their room with a choice of two regular flavors and one decaf option. Shangri-La prides itself as being the first hotel in Toronto to equip Nespresso machines in all guest rooms for complimentary use.

Skimbaco Espresso Buckhead-Rooms

The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead is following suit with a select number of guest rooms located near the spa. The new Spa level rooms are the latest in this hotel’s luxury portfolio with special features such as access to the Spa Lounge, an in-room dining Spa Cuisine menu, and the luxury of enjoying your own espresso in each room.

Skimbaco Espresso Buckhead Guest rooms.

The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead spa level guest room

Each room has an espresso machine and beverage brewer for complimentary coffee beverages and teas. Non-spa level rooms are still equipped with coffeemakers, just not espresso makers.

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, features an in-room Nespresso coffee and tea machine in its rooms for guests’ complimentary use. The ME Hotel in London, also a Preferred Hotel, offers the same coffee perk.

However, other Preferred properties such as The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond and The Michelangelo in New York City remain more “old school” luxury when it comes to in-room coffee. They will happily brew you coffee for your room, but expect a room service charge. Other properties in the membership may offer some type of single-cup brewing system, if not Keurig.

My Nespresso Experience

Hotel Le Germain coffee

Hotel Le Germain Toronto

I experienced my first Nespresso machine for in-room coffee while staying at the Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronto over the summer. In-room coffee at this luxurious boutique hotel is part of the mini-bar, so each capsule comes with a small charge.

Katja and I were drinking the coffee, not realizing it was a mini-bar charge. I had stayed at some very high-end hotels in North Carolina prior to this visit that were equipped with in-room Keurigs, so non-complimentary in-room coffee never entered my mind.

Hotel Germain Lounge

I was disappointed that it was not complimentary. However, after experiencing a hotel stay with no in-room coffee at all, my views changed on the espresso mini-bar concept after that. Even at a charge, one capsule will not set you back that much and is about the cost of an espresso in a local coffee shop. For those who could wait, Hotel Le Germain still offered complimentary cappuccinos in the guest lounge area as well as complimentary espressos for breakfast. There are plenty of places to get your coffee fix, free or not, and that was nice.

Tell me: Are you a coffee-in-the-lobby type of person or an in-room brewer when it’s good coffee?

Photo Credit: K.Presnal, A. Shubin, L.Hines, Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Shangri-La Toronto

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I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Leigh Powell Hines

Leigh Powell Hines, a former TV Journalist/Communications Executive, combined motherhood and her journalism experience and started The Hines-Sight Blog to inspire parents to pack their bags for family travels in and around North Carolina, where she resides. Leigh knows the best in family travel, but as a parent in her mid-forties, she seeks out restaurants and hotels that adults can enjoy, too. Luxury hotels are Leigh’s passion, and she is ready to travel the world, one luxury hotel at a time. Connect with Leigh on Twitter @Hinessightblog, Facebook and check out Hines-Sight Blog on Pinterest.

Comments (2)

  1. I require an Immediate Caffeine Fix as soon as I get up. The problem is that my fix is tea, not coffee, and the fancy schmancy coffee machines have yet to learn how to make a great cup of tea. Still, at that time of day I’ll drink anything. But I actually travel with my own tea and tea maker in case of emergencies. Great post. Thanks. But listen up, hotels – don’t forget the tea addicts.

  2. adrienne shubin

    I absolutely will not get dressed and go to the lobby to get coffee before having coffee. I just got back from Hotel Monaco in San Francisco with a couple of bloggers. One blogger friend happily put on her sweats and went down to the lobby to enjoy coffee and the New York Times. I, however, ordered a $20 pot of coffee and stayed in my room in my PJs and stared out the window until the caffeine kicked in. I guess we are all different when it comes to our coffee preferences. I am definitely more like you, Leigh! Must have coffee in the room no matter what!

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