What Makes a Good Café

Some of you have probably noticed that I mostly write favorable reviews for cafés. That’s true, I do. I try to find as many redeeming qualities in a café that I can. I’m not interested in making a cafe look bad. If there’s a place I really don’t like, I don’t bother writing about it. I’m not out to make enemies and I’d rather use my time to write about places that I think are worth visiting. 

So what makes something a good café? Here’s a list of things that I look for, so that you can have an idea of my criteria.
  1. I tend to like places that give a damn about coffee and about service. If a place cares about both, it’s likely to get a good review.
  2. I like places with personality. The café doesn’t have to be weird, but having something that distinguishes it from other cafés is a good thing.
  3. I drink my coffee from a ceramic cup. If a café only has paper cups, it ought not be in business. Not only is it wasteful to use only paper cups, but I also hate putting paper in my mouth. I’ll do it if there’s no other option, but it doesn’t make me happy.
  4. On a similar note, any self-respecting café ought to have metal stirring spoons. If you only have plastic stirrers, or even worse, only wooden stirring sticks, you lose major points. A wooden stick transfers its flavors to the coffee, and how am I supposed to clean up the sugar at the bottom of my cup? The only time I want to put wood in my mouth is when I’m using a toothpick to clean steak out of my teeth.
  5. Music volume is important. I like music. I listen to music. I write music. I play music. When I’m in a café if you want to play music, that’s great. However, if it is so loud that I can’t have a conversation or if I can hear your music over the music coming through my earphones, you ought to turn your music down. 
  6. Friendly service makes me happy. I don’t expect you to be super-smiley, but polite and friendly is not too much to ask. 
  7. If I come in to a café and you don’t want to pause your conversation with a co-worker to help me, that’s a bad sign. I promise not to be on my cell phone when I order, and you should offer me similar respect. If you don’t, you’re not getting a tip and you’ll probably lose a customer.
  8. Show some enthusiasm for the coffee, for crying out loud!
  9. I tend to prefer places that have just a touch of class. I’m not expecting high society, but I prefer things to look neat. It’s a bonus when the baristas dress similarly as if they were all part of a team. 
  10. Your employees ought to know something about the coffee. I don’t expect everyone to be coffee experts, but if you ask an employee “What’s your coffee like?” and he or she says “Um, it’s good," you are losing an opportunity to educate me and create more interest in your coffee. 
  11. Wi-Fi is nice to have. It’s not a requirement, but as a writer it’s one of the tools I like to have available.
  12. Finally, there’s the most ambiguous criterion of all: vibe. Some cafés have it, some just don’t. I don’t know how to explain this one. It’s like trying to explain what “cool” is. Fonzie was cool, Richie wasn’t. Same goes for cafés.
That’s what I look for when I go to a café. Anyone care to add anything? One of these day’s I’ll write up what makes a good customer. We have a few responsibilities too.