Vicki Wil­liams, John Strick­land

The in-room amenity that should never be found in five-star ho­tels


Hav­ing stayed in – and writ­ten about – nu­mer­ous five-star ho­tels, I like to think I know real lux­ury from wannabe. I have a crit­i­cal eye for de­tail and no­tice the small things – things that can make a huge dif­fer­ence to the guest ex­pe­ri­ence – and am some­times asked if I’m a ho­tel in­spec­tor.

If I was an in­spec­tor, my most re­cent stay in a five-star, Forbes-rated lux­ury ho­tel would have seen the prop­erty los­ing points, be­cause it trig­gered my num­ber one pet peeve when stay­ing at a ho­tel of this cal­i­bre – lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively leav­ing a bad taste in my mouth.

For me it is a crime against hospi­tal­ity. It is de­cid­edly not five star, and frus­trat­ingly, is not con­fined to this par­tic­u­lar ho­tel.

Let me set a typ­i­cal scene. The room is im­pres­sive, per­haps even stun­ning – large, with floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, taste­fully dec­o­rated and fur­nished. The ex­pan­sive bed is ex­tremely com­fort­able, maybe even de­signer or trade­marked; the high thread­count linen is also sold in the gift shop. The bath­room most likely fea­tures a lot of mar­ble, there is a TV in the mir­ror, the bath is big enough for two, and the ameni­ties be­spoke. There is a touch­screen de­vice from which I can con­trol ev­ery­thing in the room. Signs of at­ten­tion to de­tail are every­where.

There’s also the abil­ity to make tea and cof­fee in-room, which I ap­pre­ci­ate. It’s good to be able to have a cup of herbal tea to soothe jet lag when I’m wide awake at 3am, or an in­vig­o­rat­ing morn­ing cup of cof­fee, with­out hav­ing to wait for room ser­vice. It’s a small touch that can make a dif­fer­ence (per­son­ally, I need a cof­fee be­fore in­ter­act­ing with the world).

At the five-star level the tea is never dust or low grade, the col­lec­tion is of­ten cu­rated and is likely to fea­ture el­e­gant tri­an­gu­lar bags made from silk-like ma­te­rial, con­tain­ing large-leaf tea or whole flow­ers; you taste the qual­ity with ev­ery sip.

So far .all ex­pec­ta­tion boxes have been ticked. But turn to the cof­fee and this en­tire pic­ture (of lux­ury and qual­ity) comes crash­ing down as my peeve raises its dragon-like head, elic­it­ing fiery anger and five-star swear­ing. Why? Be­cause it’s mass-pro­duced in­stant cof­fee! Re­ally? I say again: Re­ally? There is noth­ing “lux­u­ri­ous” or “high qual­ity” about in­stant cof­fee – it tastes truly aw­ful. This bit­ter, some­times acidic drink tastes in­fe­rior partly due to the lower-qual­ity beans used (due to the ex­pense of pro­cess­ing in­volved), and be­cause the pro­cess­ing leads to some loss of aro­mat­ics, oils and in­her­ent sweet­ness.

To put it in a five-star ho­tel shouts “cheap” to me. Why go to all this ef­fort and ex­pense (even the com­pli­men­tary tooth­brush at one “in­stant-cof­fee ho­tel” was gold) only to drop the ball? It is so out of place with the rest of the room ex­pe­ri­ence that it stands out like a flash­ing neon sign. In­stant cof­fee may have once been cool, but only ever due to con­ve­nience, and that time has long passed. Now there is so much bet­ter to be had.

I am not sug­gest­ing pod cof­fee ma­chines in ev­ery room – they are an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter on the whole. I am sug­gest­ing what I have oc­ca­sion­ally ex­pe­ri­enced and has im­pressed me: a French press/plunge pot, with ground cof­fee pro­vided in sealed foil pouches – each enough for one pot. Cof­fee could also be pro­vided in re­fill­able air­tight con­tain­ers to be more cost-ef­fec­tive/ en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble. It’s not rocket science, but it would be an im­por­tant break­through.

And while I’m at it, please pro­vide UHT (long-life) milk in the fridge rather than the chem­i­cal/ar­ti­fi­cial-in­gre­di­ent/ sugar-laden non-dairy creamer/whitener, which is as big a crime against our palates as cheap “cof­fee”!

I’m no cof­fee snob – I just like to be able to make my­self a de­cent cup of cof­fee in-room when stay­ing at this level of lux­ury and qual­ity. For me there are no ex­cuses for not be­ing able to – ab­so­lutely none!

I’m no cof­fee snob – I just like to have a de­cent cup of cof­fee in-room when stay­ing in lux­ury ho­tels

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