“What do you look for in a coffee shop?”

I get asked this a lot, especially because I go around judging them as a sort of hobby and now because I write this blog. It’s a good question and I suppose seeing as how I write about my experiences I should outline what I like and dislike so that if you read my shop reviews you can take my opinions into consideration knowing how I feel towards things before I make my decision as to whether it’s a good or bad shop.

Let’s start with what I like. One of the main things I look for in any place whether it be a store, a restaurant, a coffee shop or a bar/pub is personality. I love the feeling of walking in somewhere and having that sense of atmosphere hit you over the head. We live in such a faceless world where nobody speaks to each other and everything is online so to go somewhere and have a bit of fun and human interaction is a real plus in my book. Whether it’s a chat with a regular in the pub or a customer coming into my store to ask about something, just that face to face interaction can really make your day and is sometimes just what you need. In terms of coffee shops: compare somewhere like Starbucks to a local independent place, they’re totally different in this respect. In fairness whilst it’s totally possible to be a hardcore regular at your local Starbucks and get to know the staff and some other customers, the personal touch will never be in the same league as an independent joint.

Another characteristic I always look out for is a lack of the fear factor. A lot of coffee shops have a slightly intimidating vibe which can put a lot of people off. Admittedly the majority of people just see swarms of hipsters crowded by the door and instantly feel as if they’re not welcome because they forgot their vegan Doc Martens, lumberjack shirt and left their pair of thin wire specs (from 1978) somewhere in their incredibly long beard when really they couldn’t be more wrong. I have developed a test to see if a coffee shop is intimidating or not which is basically as such: I take my mum for a drink. She doesn’t know anything about coffee or tea besides the fact that she likes tea and not coffee. She is easily intimidated by some places but if the coffee shop seems easy going and laid back then she really enjoys it.

Other than that the only other thing I really look out for I the obvious one, the quality of the drinks and service but that goes without saying. It’s also worth saying that I’d rather go somewhere with a smaller range of drinks on offer but that offers good quality than somewhere that’s going to give me a V60 or a Chemex that tastes like cat piss.

So what don’t I like? Oh there’s a lot, trust me but just a few points:

Firstly, lack of attention to you and the drink. Places that just bang out orders for the sake of speed are never good. I’d rather wait for aa good drink than have a crap one quickly.

I also hate feeling anonymous. It might sound arrogant but I want to be valued as a customer not just seen to and tossed aside. I understand in the larger chain shops this is more difficult for them to do due to the volume of footfall they get but the local Caffè Nero has some of the best customer service regardless of the type of coffee shop.

Other things that really bother me are: overpricing – nobody wants to pay a fiver for a latte, writing names on cups – nobody is too stupid to forget what they ordered, places that practically force you to into buying a cake or something – if I want something I’m more than capable of asking and finally the one thing that annoys me the most is when you get the Spanish inquisition over what drink you want.

What I mean is, if I walk in and as for a flat white just give me a flat white. Don’t for god’s sake ask if I want soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, extra shots, syrup, sugar, added hot water. Surely it would make sense that if I was going to want any of this I’d just ask?

Anyway that’s just a summary of some of the things I look out for and take into consideration especially when I’m writing my little reviews for Northern Brew.

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