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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
'Latte tax' vote looms in Seattle
Anti 'latte tax'  protestors
Passions are stirred as protestors slam 'latte tax' proposals
The world's caffeine capital is getting itself in a stir as voters are set to decide whether to levy a 10 cent 'luxury' tax on premium coffees served in Seattle.

Residents are set to vote on a new proposal - known as Initiative 77 - which aims to raise millions to fund early childhood education projects.

But the proposed 10 cent tax on premium brands, such as lattes and mochas, has left many drinkers steaming with rage. Shop owners have branded the tax 'unfair' and staged protests.

Tea Party revival

Some 200 people turned out on Sunday to vent their anger against the idea - coffee shop owners tossed burlap bags, designed to look like coffee bags, into Seattle's Green Lake, in an passion-filled re-enactment of the 1773 Boston Tea Party.

It's sort of a silly tax... just a silly way of acquiring money
Espresso drinker, Seattle
On that occasion American colonials were protesting at a British-imposed tax on tea to prop up the ailing East India Company, after its profits sunk following a boycott of tea in the colonies.

Across the continent, over two hundred years later, Seattle has become the designer drinks capital of the world, home to more than 650 coffee shops serving a caffeine-fuelled community.

"It's sort of a silly tax. It's just a silly way to acquire money," said espresso drinker Mary Juliano.

But proponents of Initiative 77 - now dubbed the 'latte tax' say that an extra dime per latte would not break the bank.

What's a dime?

The 'latte tax' is the brainchild of John Burbank, of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a liberal Seattle think tank.

"It's a little small minded to be concerned about 10 cents
Latte drinker, Seattle
"It's just 10 cents when you're purchasing a two dollar and 50 cent drink," Mr Burbank stressed.

"The money will provide high-quality pre-kindergarten for kids in poverty who are not getting it now."

Seattle Starbuck's
Froth over 'dime-a-drink' tax leaves a bad taste for coffee fans

City officials say the tax could raise $2m to $4m.

Consequently, some coffee drinkers are cooling down at the prospect of a new tax and warming to the idea of helping fund their children's future.

For many, an extra dime a day is an easy sacrifice to make.

"It's a little small-minded to be so concerned about 10 cents," said latte drinker Kristi Edlefson.

Bureaucratic nightmare

But Seattle's coffee shop owners are adamant that the tax is 'unfair' and claim that it would pose a bureaucratic nightmare.

"The kids are too important. They need way too much to sit there and tag one particular small business."

Ultimately it will be the voters who decide whether to pay more for their lattes, white chocolate mochas, caramel macchiatos and other premium coffees.

Or they may just choose to switch to "drip' coffee, passed through a filter rather than based on the espresso, which will be exempt if the tax goes through.

Local elections, which cover Initiative 77, are taking place on Tuesday, 16 September.

It will be a tense day for Seattle's latte makers, and they may want to reach for a cup of camomile tea to soothe their nerves.

Grounds for a new tax
16 Sep 03  |  Magazine
Seattle in a froth over latte tax
19 Aug 03  |  Business

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