By Lara Berendt
I’m sure everyone has their own idea of what makes the perfect coffee house. Here are my top five make-or-break criteria, some obvious, others more personal.
1. Atmosphere. If I’m in the mood to read or work, but employees have opted to blast heavy metal, it’s a bad fit. Noise level is a key component at coffee shops, and if music is playing, I’d rather it be chill, soothing or happy—not angry, overloud or obnoxious (and by obnoxious, I generally mean thumping and electronic). The soft, classic jazz at Flightpath or stimulating discourse of an NPR talk show at Corona were ideal. Furniture and décor also greatly impact whether I want to spend time at a shop and run up a bar tab. Uncomfortable chairs? Not enough outlets? No fun.
2. Friendly service. Nothing can ruin a trip to a coffee lounge for me faster than snotty or painfully indifferent baristas. Customer service is important, man! Turn that frown upside down and you’ve already won me over, before I’ve even tasted the coffee. Bonus points for cute boy baristas with floppy hair or thick-framed hipster glasses. Now I’ve said too much…
3. Good foodstuffs. I’m never not hungry. Variety, freshness and sufficient vegetarian options are the criteria by which I judge a coffee shop’s food menu. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so if the menu ends at pastries, I’m disappointed. Thunderbird on Manor Road whips up simple but satisfying paninis with a bit of greens on the side, and Cherrywood goes all the way with many burgers (including a veggie burger), sandwiches, tacos and breakfast items to choose from.
4. Well-made, high-quality coffee drinks. Notice this is not my number one priority. That’s because I’m an eater, first and foremost. If I’m going to a coffee house with the intention of actually hanging out for a while, the previous four items on my list trump the actual coffee. I apologize to those who find this approach sacrilegious. I do appreciate the importance of a carefully crafted coffee beverage, though, and burnt espresso or foam-heavy cappuccino will not be tolerated.
5. Tea. (Yes, tea.) The health benefits of tea’s antioxidants combined with the gentler caffeine dosage often lead me to opt for this ancient beverage over coffee. Shops with a sad tea selection make me sad in return. First off, it needs to be loose-leaf tea. The tea in tea bags is of the lowest quality, and has been broken down so much that all of the valuable natural oils (and the health benefits associated with them) are gone. I appreciate when coffee shops offer a variety of black, oolong, green and herbal loose-leaf teas, such as at JP’s Java, Corona Café and Caffe Medici.
There you have it. What are your coffee shop criteria? Share in the comments section.