So what are people looking for in a coffee shop?
First, we tend to think of the obvious.Delicious coffee sourced from obscure places around the world, prepared by young, attractive baristas using methods that make an Ikea assembly look simple.
But without much introspection, it’s obvious we’re demanding more from a great shop than just the tangible elements. Great shops have a way of making us feel sophisticated.
So what are we looking for when we look for a great coffee shop? I propose we’re really looking for an opportunity to briefly experience ourselves as we wish we always could.
In brief, it is a combination of excellent coffee and food, knowledgeable, yet friendly, baristas and wait staff, convenient location, great atmosphere, efficient and helpful service, a stylish interior aesthetic, comfortable seating, a distinct sense of community, interesting clientele, reasonable pricing and a menu that caters for everyone.
The greatest coffee shops give us a brief experience with something more. Something that even our on-demand age can’t reliably replicate. Something never assured but always possible. Let the search commence! Few coffee shops will score highly in all categories and, as we have discussed previously, great quality beans and friendly baristas are mutually exclusive. Most importantly, coffee shops are one of the last bastions of city culture where serendipitous personal interactions are possible and mostly socially acceptable.
The product, the brew methods, the aesthetic, all of these tangible things are vital. Given most artisan coffee shops are staffed by twenty-something hipsters from the planet Numpty and with the communication skills and work ethic of a disgruntled sloth, the welcome for regular human beings can be chilly to say the least.
The main lesson here, though, is expect to have to make concessions when looking for your ‘World’s Best Coffee Shop’.
And remember, everyone’s favourite coffee shop is likely to be different.
This year, the ‘World’s Greatest Small Coffee Shop’ award goes, after extensive research by our our expert panel of judges (i.e. me) to the superb new Master Jack cafe in Moorooduc, Victoria.
In an incredible case of bad timing, owners Paul and Karen Alexander opened Master Jack in early 2020, a matter of a couple of weeks before the State of Victoria went into enforced loackdown due the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. All businesses, with the exception of those providing vital services were forced to close. Coffee shops were able to remain open, but only for takeaway service.
Members of the public were prohibited from travelling more than 5kms from home, unless for exceptional reasons. Given Master Jack is surrounded by rural properties, their potential market totalled the number of people one could easily fit into a primary school classsroom.
Established, and previously successful, businesses started closing, for good, at a rapidly escalating rate. This was the perfect storm for a newly opened business like Master Jack. Many in the same position would have gone out of business quicker than they had opened. But, needless to say, they didn’t. In fact, they blossomed and business soon started to grow.
Given, they were fortunate to be situated at the end of the Peninsula Link Trail, popular with walkers and cyclists alike. And we all know how much they enjoy a coffee and cake when they finish, particularly the cyclists. Exercise was one of the few reasons Victorians were allowed to actually leave their homes.
But, Master Jack’s survival, growth and success are down to the all-round quality of their offering. Unlike the vast majority of coffee shops the world over, they had a business that scored highly in every category of the aforementioned ‘What People Look for in a Coffee Shop’ list.
They selected a high quality organic coffee range, produced a range of beautiful, house-made meals and delicious sweet treats, assembled a staff of highly trained and experienced staff who put a smile on your face, no matter the type of day you’d been having before arriving, created a wholesome, friendly vibe and, simply made it a great place to visit.