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Coffee shop is a store that sells different types of coffee in some shape or form. According to Wikipedia, there is no actual difference between a coffee shop, a café or a coffee house. But that is not entirely correct. As we show below, they can differ in the selection of goods they sell as well as the geographical locations where they are found.

Coffee shop

The Cambridge dictionary defines a coffee shop as “a shop where different types of coffee are sold, either to drink or as beans or powder.” That is partially correct, but it’s not the rule.

In the US or the UK, we may find mostly chain-operated coffee shops. These include Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee or Costa Coffee. They will serve a wide range of coffee drinks, including some with a modern twist. They will also sell some snacks and a lot of cakes and sweets. You go in, get your brew, and get out. You can also stay and get some work done, but they can get pretty busy.

A coffee shop of this sort can also be found in continental Europe, but smaller, independent cafés will definitely prevail.

The Netherlands is a bit of a special case. There, coffee shops are actually establishments that sell weed, or marijuana, for one’s personal consumption. And it is perfectly legal. You can imagine what this does with tourists. That’s why in some cases tourists can be banned from entering these shops altogether.

Coffee shop vs. Café

First, a coffee shop is primarily focused on selling coffee. That is, the beverage itself. Hot or cold, you will find all kinds of coffee variations in a coffee shop.

On that other hand, a café will also have a significant selection of snacks and hot foods like grilled sandwiches, pancakes, omelets, wraps, and so on. Additionally, most café will serve breakfasts, brunches, and even alcohol. This is not to say that you won’t find these in a coffee shop, but generally cafés focus on food as much as they do on coffee.

Second, your current geographical location is everything. This is where it gets exciting (and confusing). Generally speaking, you will mostly see coffee shops in the US and the UK, while continental Europe will have mostly cafés.

They will vary in terms of the assortment of goods sold, so a European café can be solely selling coffee while a US coffee shop might also make incredible brunches. Please don’t shoot the messenger!

Coffee shop vs. Coffee house

Again, there are no significant differences between coffee shops and coffee houses. Nonetheless, a coffee house will be more like a café. It will have a lot of room for people to sit down, socialize and even stay for food or listen to musical performances.

Coffee houses are definitely not the swift coffee shops you know from America. People in coffee houses saunter around – they are flâneurs. Let’s say that coffee houses are something like larger cafés.

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Where do we go from here? You need not worry. These days, all of the above will likely serve excellent coffee. The difference in what we call them is fairly negligible, although they bear slightly varying meanings across borders. Perhaps the only difference that is crucial to remember is the specific role a typical Dutch coffee shop fulfills, as it might not focus on selling coffee at all.

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