Great coffee shops around the world: What makes a great one anyway?

Hank Leukart, while savoring blueberry pie and a cup of chai at the University of Zoka in Seattle proclaimed it the best coffee shop in the world. As what happens when one proclaims something the best in the world, he immediately began to wonder if he overshot by his gushing. What does he know anyway? After all, had he been in every coffee shop in the world? Of course not, but he has been to a few.

In his essay, “searching for the best coffee shop: a lifelong quest for caffeine nirvana” on his blog without baggage, Leukart extols on the virtues of several coffee shops in various parts of the world. Read his essay and you’ll have visited through his eyes several coffee shops that range from Afro Cafe in Cape Town, South Africa to Latte Da in Lee Vining near the east entrance of Yosemite.

To make it to the best coffee shop list,according to Leukart, there are seven attributes a great coffee shop must have:

  1. great coffee
  2. great tea/Chai,
  3. comfortable seats for relaxing and intermingling
  4. a full menu of good food
  5. free Internet access
  6. laptop outlets
  7. an unlocked bathroom

My current favorite coffee shop is the Crimson Cup in the Clintonville section of Columbus, Ohio. It doesn’t have a full menu, but it has all the other attributes. Although there isn’t a full menu, the eats are fresh baked and awesome, particularly the offerings from Pattycake Bakery that specializes in vegan treats.

For anyone in need of a caffeine fix, check out the side bar that accompanies Leukart’s article. He has several suggestions.

By the way, Leukart doesn’t drink coffee. He’s a fan of chai. I love chai, but have yet to find a coffee shop that serves it unsweetened.

Without Baggage: A traveler’s online magazine with brains and heart

Sarah, a Gadling reader, recommended to us another traveler’s online publication she recently discovered. I headed to Without Baggage to see what was there. Hank Leukart’s Without Baggage is an online magazine that delves into the world’s interesting places with a sense of purpose. The essays posted every so often evoke emotions and intellectual pursuits that aim to explore the depth and meaning of travel experiences whether one heads to Laos or Alaska.

Leukart’s latest essay, “stalking the solitary leopard” is the last installation of his three part series chronicling his trip through Botswana and South Africa. The series has the flavor of part travelogue and part critique of human existence. Hank’s writes thematically. There is a deeper meaning within the the mix of writing and lush photographs. Woven together are the specifics of place and his impressions of it. South Africa is not only a place to go, but a place to study the effects of years of apartheid. Enjoying an animal safari has to do with the willingness to be open to any experience, no matter if your original purpose is met or not.

One of my favorite essays, “i’m never leaving thailand. ever” starts:

UM PHANG, Thailand — I’m never leaving Thailand. Ever.

Just testing. I wanted to see what how I would feel if I decided never to leave. I just finished reading Spiritland by Nava Renek, a novel about a young backpacker and her rollercoaster vacation in Thailand. . .”

Leukart continues with a discussion of Renek’s book and his own desires, plus other people’s fantasies of living in Thailand for the rest of their lives. I have had my own. My daughter would also move to Thailand tomorrow if there was a way and she could take her high school buddies with her.

Leukart has been around the world travel writing for some time now with an enviable list of print magazine and newspaper credits that attest to his passion. Like Sarah said, Without Baggage is a place to return to in case Leukart has more of the world he wants to share. In the meantime, there are plenty of essays for a leisurely approach.