What Makes a Perfect Cafe?
It’s your individual assessment that’s so much more meaningful than any stereotypical ideas of “cafe culture”.
I’m a creative entrepreneur and founder of a couple of small lifestyle businesses that can all be run virtually. I have a lovely workspace set up in my flat but find myself spending most of my work (and often leisure time) at cafes.
In fact, if I’m to be honest I’d say I’ve become quite obsessed with cafes. Though, not in the wanna-be-a-hipster kind of way. My obsession comes from my reliance on them to provide an atmosphere or energy I can’t get working at home alone (but find to be valuable to my productivity).
You can be anonymous in a cafe but still feel a sense of belonging. They aren’t completely quiet, which could be a distraction to some, but I find the ambient music and constant buzz of the espresso machines to be meditative. Up until recently I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker but now a smooth, creamy, not too sweet latte is a requirement.
Living in Berlin, my most convenient options are no longer cool chains like Blue Bottle but the 3-5 independently owned storefronts that line almost every single block. Though I have my go-to shops, I’m on a mission to seek out the best of the best to add to my rotation and decided to compile a list of what makes a perfect cafe (according to my personal criteria) for fellow enthusiasts.
Thoughtful attention to design is the number one criteria for whether I’ll even try out a cafe or not and it’s worth the premium they may demand. In my busiest weeks I’ll spend 3-4 hours and €10-15 a day in one shop so I want to ensure it is worth it. I prefer extremely clean and minimalistic interiors but not too modern or sterile. There should be an inviting feeling of warmth and cosiness and I find I gravitate most to those that have a Swedish look and feel.
Again, energy will be a major contribution to your feeling of comfort if you’re spending half a day in a place. I don’t want to be the only person in the place but I’m not looking for the see-and-be-seen spot either. I prefer small to medium sized shops with a nice dull lull from light chatter, high quality machinery, good background tunes (perhaps the Afternoon Acoustic playlist on Spotify), and natural light. Oh, and outdoor seating for the summer months is a plus.
I’m not much of a breakfast person so I always have a latte and a croissant. At the very least, those two items need to be made to perfection. I’ve stopped frequenting some of the most beautiful places because the coffee was off and the croissants weren’t fresh. More than anything a cafe is in existence to provide good drinks (and preferably snacks as well) so if they fail on this then I’d move on.
Not only is ample seating important but layout is critical. You don’t want to feel cramped and need personal space to stretch out. It’s a plus if I can get a decent view of the entire cafe in order to people watch while letting my mind rest between tasks. Another major feature, if you are working, is easy access to ample outlets.
Reliable, secure, high-speed, and free. Enough said.
I don’t particularly care if the employees in a place are friendly or not. It’s nice that in some of my spots they remember me and my order as a regular — and an inviting attitude is always a plus — but I care most about efficiency. Be swift yet detailed-oriented in the preparation of my order then leave me be. It’s all I ask! You may feel otherwise which is understandable.
It’s funny how life changes can make you develop an affinity for certain experiences that you previously were indifferent about. My cafe time has become so important to me because it helps me establish a sense of routine and familiarity as an expat.
If you have to spend a lot of time in cafes I’m sure you can appreciate how all of these little features and details can add up to creating a mood or even haven that you come to depend on. Your perfect spot may be dependent on the newspaper assortment, vicinity to transportation, or type of biscotti. It doesn't matter so long as it provides what you personally require to make for an enjoyable experience.