The coffee, the people, the vibes. These were the 3 factors that Dylan and I decided mattered most in a coffee shop. This is how all three made us regulars at our favorite cafes.
Going to a cafe is an all engaging sensory experience. Blocks away, you can already smell the coffee being roasted from the new Loring or a trusty old Probat. Approaching closer, cups start to appear with ink stamps the barista imprinted on earlier that morning. You can feel temperature change as you walk through the doors, the music and talks about the weather beat against eardrums. The atmosphere changes. No matter what's happening outside, when you're at the cafe- you're in a third home. A friend once told me; you have your home where you live, your home where you work, and the cafe is like a third home. You don't necessarily have to feel good when you enter a coffee shop, but I've noticed I always feel better than I was moments before.
Every coffee shop invites its own characters. They're usually a reflection of the vibe already established by the owner, the architect, the build out, the music, location. I've always felt like a cafe as being a very democratic space. It doesn't matter if you're a big wig on wall street, or a budding coffee nerd, or a homeless person looking for something resembling warmth and comfort. Everyone's on the same playing field, congregating for something as simple as a cup of coffee. Lest we forget about the people in this building who bring us that coffee- the baristas. Some fall into the job, some choose it, and a few define it. A truly great barista is rare bird to find. Not to say you can't have a bad day, as I've entered a barista shift several times falling short of even a 'good enough' attitude. But these people are consistent. They're confident, they care about you, and they care about what's right. They're the ones who make you feel at home when you walk in the door of your neighborhood coffee shop. They are the reason we return every day or every week for our coffee. Special shout out to Sam Lewontin at Everyman Espresso for being one of the best at this. Any time I walked in, he treated me like a long lost best friend. I admire the crap out of this trait.
This romance of the cafe would not be complete without the coffee. The quality of this product is where most of my work and observation has been for the past several years as a barista, roaster, educator, and owner. Half of the industry believes it's the most important thing a cafe could focus on. The other half couldn't care less, as long as bean juice was landing in the cups. While I don't agree with either sentiment, I'll say this: You need all three categories covered for me to be a regular in your cafe. If a cafe cares so much about the coffee that the service starts to feel snobby- I'm out. If a cafe cares so little that the coffee is just hard to drink- I'm out. Like scoring any coffee, it's about balance. The coffee is the final step in this sensory experience! We've smelled the coffee, seen the building, listened to portafilters slide into gaskets, felt the warmth in our hands from that hot cup of coffee. It's finally time to enjoy what your nose has been telling you all about; the coffee your barista confidently yet gently lies in front of you. Everything has lifted your spirits up to this moment. Taste. The quality put into a cup of coffee completes the customer experience.
This intimate, wholesome yet hectic environment is what we decided to model a coffee company after- the coffee shop.