What I believe Makes a Coffee Shop Great

Since 2017, I’ve visited over 100 coffee shops across multiple countries, states, and cities. Big shops, little shops, shops that roasted their own beans, shops where they didn’t speak English, shops that know me by name, and shops that wanted nothing to do with me. Coffee shops come in many shapes, sizes, and they all appeal to certain kinds of people. While I’ve never worked in a coffee shop, I do have my perspective as a customer, and I’m only one of many.

The Coffee

Probably the first thing that you have to ask yourself is, “Does this coffee shop serve coffee?” You’d think that it would be obvious for a coffee shop to serve coffee, but there have been shops, or perhaps I should call them something else, that doesn’t serve coffee as their primary good. I do my best to forget these kinds of places that don’t emphasize coffee on their menu and instead go for colorful beverages and slab the word ‘coffee’ on them. They certainly won’t fool me.

Another question that’s often thought up is, “Does the coffee taste good?” The coffee that’s being served has to be appealing to the tongue. It needs to taste good, to say the least. A coffee shop needs to have well-rounded coffee beans that can be brewed into great tasting coffee, an espresso machine that can pull good espresso shots that aren’t harsh and bitter but enjoyable and flavorful. The milk in your coffee shouldn’t be too hot to where your tongue winces from the pain. And if a coffee shop offers manually brewed coffee, a barista that is skilled at pour-over methods makes or breaks the final result.

The Atmosphere

There’s no one size fits all for a coffee shop, they all target specific people. The atmosphere that encompasses a coffee shop is probably the most noticeable characteristic that attracts a targeted audience. Coffee shops in a downtown urban area look very different from coffee shops located in the suburbs or a coffee shop located in a mountainous area versus a coffee shop on the beach.

To see how some coffee shops can become representations of their local areas is incredible! Coffee shops, like bars, are oftentimes the most common communal spots in a given area. If a lot of people go to a particular coffee shop, that’s a tell-tale sign that the shop must be doing something right.

The interior of a coffee shop commonly reflects its given area. 1418 Coffee is a coffee shop located in a historic downtown setting and the interior reflects the historic vibe. Coral Sword is a board game coffee shop located a few blocks from the University of Houston, so they cater to university students who want a fun environment. Heirloom is a modern outpost located in downtown Raleigh that serves high-quality coffee, tea, sake, and very presentable food all in a modernly sleek environment. The atmosphere not only appeals to the given location but also the people around it.

The Baristas

Coffee doesn’t make itself nor does it serve itself. Baristas, in my opinion, make or break a shop both when it comes to making coffee but more importantly, how they interact with people in a coffee shop. All too often I find myself in these extravagant coffee shops that have amazing atmospheres, great-tasting coffee, but the baristas just downright suck. They come off more like worker bees and not like people that you can interact with, even the barista that’s taking your order. There are baristas out there that just don’t know how to be ‘people-people’ or know how to make a customer feel glad that they walked inside a coffee shop.

It’s important for baristas to be able to interact and chit-chat with people at the coffee shop that they work at, ask customers how their day’s been going, ask what their name is, check up on customers that are dining in, and wishing every person a wonderful day. While making great coffee is an admirable value for a coffee shop to hold onto, it’s equally, if not more important, for a coffee shop to value baristas that know how to show appreciation for the people that walk into their coffee shop.

Your Experience

I can go on and on about what I think makes a coffee shop great for me, but you, the reader, have a different opinion and a different perspective. You may like different coffee shops from what I might prefer, maybe you only like grabbing your coffee to-go and just need a space to get some work done and a caffeine hit, that’s perfectly fine too. What’s important is that your experience with a coffee shop, from walking in to walking out, is a great one! I doubt that you enjoy leaving a coffee shop feeling like you had a bad experience.

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