A great coffee shop has many components and if you are a coffee enthusiast like @thebeanagent you would jump in your car or hop on a plane and go pretty much anywhere to seek out that perfect brew you have been dreaming of.
Location is not that important to us. It could be a drive-thru shack in rural Oregon or a bank kiosk from the 80's with a bunch of bags of beans piled high and a roaster - as long as the coffee tastes great and the owner has great love for coffee and cares for their people it makes our list. But there are a few categories that we @thebeangent uses to determine or rate/review a shop.
Consistency: It is of utmost importance that a shop brew coffee and compose coffee drinks that are the same in taste everytime. I have been to some shops where one day the non-flavored latte taste's decent and then the next day it's just not tasting right at all. This inconsistency turns me away and while I don't ever send any negativity a shop's way, I just do not return. I am not an expert on why this is except that I love coffee. I drink Almond Milk or another milk alternative in my drink so I find sometimes the espresso that the shop is using just does not go with the alternative milks. At first, I thought it could be the origin of the espresso, as in if it's from Ethiopia it will be fruity and floral and this doesn't blend well with the alternative milks. But then I have had awesome lattes from @anthologycoffee and @literaticoffee whose espresso was Ethiopian and Tanzanian respectively and they were fabulous! So maybe its the way the bean is roasted or the alternative milk brand, but the coffee drink needs to be consistent in it's taste every time.
Culture: When I enter a shop, order and wait for my drink, I am looking for friendliness and knowledge, but mostly friendliness. The people making the drinks do need to have decent skill, but more than that they need to have a good attitude and exchange a few words. Deeper than that though, is the atmosphere created by all the folks in the shop. Whether you are having a business meeting, studying or at the bar drinking pour over after pour over, all together the crowd needs to operate like a family. The people who frequent a coffee shop need not all be besties, but they are linked by a common interest: coffee! And by the desire to have a place to go where they feel comfortable, fit it and it doesn't matter what their clothes or hair looks like etc. A good shop with good coffee culture provides a comfort zone for everyone who comes in whether it is only for a few minutes or it is a few hours. I have been to shops that I consider "sterile". There decor is "minimalist" like painted all white and the people working there have no personalities and barely speak to you when they hand you your drink. Its like everyone in the place is like a robot. Now luckily, I have only been to a few shops like this, but I can guarantee you I did not return.
Bean Quality: The shop must have an awareness or knowledge of where the beans that they are serving come from. A shop that uses or sells beans under the light, medium and dark roasts concept and does not notate where they come from is probably not serving stellar coffee drinks. If the shop does not roast their own beans or partner with someone who is a decent roaster you will be able to taste the difference. Realize that coffee beans are harvested year around in different parts of the world and they have seasons just as produce does in a garden.
Education: Once a customer visits the shop on a regular basis, there should be a level of education occurring about what they are drinking and how its made and where the beans come from etc. Nothing specific here, but this is how @thebeanagent learned what a pour over was (thank you @vagabondcoffee) and led to our promotion of high quality beans and shop experiences today.
Pastry: No one is asking for a french patisserie level here, but there is pure joy in enjoying a croissant, donut or trendy poptart with your coffee. I have been seriously impressed at the uniqueness of the pastry offerings across the shops I've visited. I am Gluten-Free so it is always a bonus if a shop caters to this need. My consistent favorite is the awesome coconut krisp protein balls @speakesycafe These mean comfort whenever I travel back to my homestate of VT.
Decor: Not the highest requirement on my list, but it is great to observe local art or a well decorated shop while you are waiting for your order. Best design which really spills over into architecture goes to @foundationcoffee With a huge wall fountain, high ceilings and a true industrial unfinished but finished feel, I just love their downtown Tampa location. Best artist features goes to @strangematter who always has me staring at something new I have never seen while I am waiting for my drink. And best overall decorated shop with an uhmazzing hand painted barista/chemex pour over mural, displayed roaster, cold brew, syphon etc. as well as these awesome bean campfire candles that are "LIT" as my friend @904coffee would say goes to @ashesupplyco