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CIA Starbucks is the weirdest Starbucks

Where the cups have no name

Christopher Hooton
Monday 29 September 2014 13:07 BST

Nestled in the heart of CIA's high security Langley, Virginia headquarters is a branch of Starbucks.

Its day-to-day operation runs a little different to that of a mall-based coffee shop however, for starters, baristas aren't allowed to write customers' names on their cups.

"They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care," a food services supervisor at the Central Intelligence Agency told The Washington Post, which visited the Starbucks. "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."

Such is the level of secrecy at the agency that receipts for the café simply say "Store Number 1", with staff affectionately calling it "Stealthy Starbucks".

There are no frequent customer reward cards – officials fear the data they contain could be mined by marketers and compromise undercover agents' identity – and baristas have to go through thorough background checks before starting and be escorted on and off the work area by "minders".

The lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Picture: Getty) (Getty)

The 27-year-old supervisor realised this was no regular retail from the very first day.

She only knew that it was a food services job in Langley prior to staring, and when she typed the address into the GPS it came up blank. Eventually a call was put in to the employer and "before I knew it, I realized I was now working for the Starbucks at the CIA."

Apparently a large amount of the job interviews for the CIA take place in the Starbucks, with an officer telling The Washington Post that the chief of the team that helped find Osama Bin Laden recruited a deputy over a latte.

Despite its clandestine nature, the café proves very popular.

"Urban myth says the CIA Starbucks is the busiest in the world, and to me that makes perfect sense," said Vince Houghton, an intelligence expert and curator at the International Spy Museum. "This is a population who have to be alert and spend hours poring through documents. If they miss a word, people can die."

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