The Coffee Spot Awards

An espresso, in a classic white cup on a white saucer on a tableWhere’s the year gone? In some ways, it only feels like yesterday that I was launching the Coffee Spot at the end of September. On the other hand, it feels as if I’ve been doing this all my life.

Anyway, thank you to everyone who has visited the Coffee Spot, followed me on Twitter, liked my Facebook page or +1ed me on Google+. While I do this for the love of it, it means a lot to me that so many of you take the time to read and comment on my writing. And help spread the love for good coffee.

As is traditional at this time of year, it is a time for reflection and what better way of reflecting on three months of the Coffee Spot than by inaugurating the Annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards? In all, there are 11 Awards: the nominees are listed below. The winners will be announced on New Year’s Day…

An elite panel of judges (me) gathered in a secret location (my house) and spent literally minutes considering the nominees for each of the following awards. The winners will be announced by updating this page on New Year’s Day.

So, without further ado, let’s see who has been nominated. There are three nominees for each award, listed in alphabetical order to avoid arguments…

Where It All Began

The first award recognises those special places which played a big part in my personal coffee journey. These are places which inspired me or in some other way defined my coffee experiences.

Anna's Tea Rooms on Conwy's Castle StreetAnna’s Tea Rooms

I’ve been going to Anna’s for years and it’s still one of my favourite places for a cafetiere of coffee and a cake. The cake, by the way, is very good and Anna’s was also in the running for the “Best Cake” award.

 

 

Artisan Roast on Broughton Street, EdinburghArtisan Roast, Broughton Street

I first went to Edinburgh’s Artisan Roast not long after it had opened and was blown away by its passion and love for coffee. Here, I realised, was something very special and very different. I credit it with taking my love for and interest in coffee to another level.

Artisan Roast was also in the running for the “Smallest Coffee Spot” award

A latte with a fern-leaf motif in the milkBoston Tea Party (Park Street)

The Boston Tea Party on Park Street is where it all began for me, the place where I first realised my deep love for coffee shops (as opposed to coffee). It still has a special place in my heart.

The Boston Tea Party is also in the running for the “Most Resembling a Coffee Shop” award.

Also in the running: Coffee Angel, Coffee Charisma

And the winner is: Boston Tea Party (Park Street)

Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot

Let’s face it, go to big cities such as London, Edinburgh and Bristol and you expect to find good Coffee Spots. However, good Coffee Spots are everywhere, and some of them are in very unexpected places… These three are in contention for Most Unlikely Place…

The sign at the entrance to the Abriachan Campsite and CafeAbriachan Camp Site

Located at the northern end of the Great Glen Way, Abriachan Camp Site and Café is not really where you would expect to find a top-notch coffee spot. Nevertheless, there it is, serving great coffee 24 hours a day…

My espresso at Champagne Central, keeping an eye on the trains for meChampagne Central

Railway stations are not generally associated with good coffee. While this is slowly changing, Glasgow Central’s Champagne Central is something really special. Opulence and good coffee overlooking the end of the West Coast Main Line.

Exterior of the Coffee Company, BebingtonThe Coffee Company

I have nothing against the Wirral, but had anyone told me that I would find a great coffee spot on the peninsular opposite where I grew up, I would have been inclined to think them a little mad… However, The Coffee Company of Bebington is here to prove me wrong!

The Coffee Company was also in the running for the “Most Resembling a Coffee Shop” award and “Happiest Staff” award.

Also in the running: Café Boscanova

And the winner is: Abriachan Camp Site

Coffee Shop Most Resembling a Coffee Shop

I know. What a silly title for an award. But think about it. We all have that ideal of what a coffee shop should be, even if part of the joy is that great coffee spots come in all shapes and sizes. However, if I closed my eyes and imagined what a coffee shop should be like, it would be one of these…

Espresso, the Coffee Angel wayCoffee Angel

Edinburgh’s Coffee Angel has all the ingredients for the perfect coffee shop, except, perhaps, for power outlets for my laptop. Other than that, it has it all. Coffee Angel was also the first ever Coffee Spot that I wrote up and so was in the running for the “Where It All Began” award.

 

Upstairs at Coffee Bean Central, Plymouth: the espresso eye-viewCoffee Bean Central

Plymouth’s Coffee Bean Central might just be the perfect place to spend a day drinking coffee, particularly in the upstairs lounge. I’m not sure it can be improved on in any way…

 

The welcoming exterior of Kilimanjaro on Edinburgh's Nicholson StreetKilimanjaro

Edinburgh’s Kilimanjaro has eschewed the experimental nature of many of the recent arrivals on the Edinburgh coffee scene and instead has concentrated on making excellent coffee in a classic setting.

Also in the running: Boston Tea Party, Park Street; The Coffee Company

And the winner is: Coffee Bean Central

Best Espresso

When it comes down to it, I tend to judge a coffee spot by the quality of its espresso. Of course, this is entirely subjective and down to taste and I would never knock a place that made a good espresso just because it wasn’t to my taste. However, these are all places that I would go to just for the espresso.

The famous Bar Italia Clock, hanging outside Bar Italia on Frith StreetBar Italia

Soho’s finest, the closest thing that London has to a proper Italian espresso bar, Bar Italia has been serving the finest espresso for three generations now.

 

 

Brick Lane Coffee from the outside after dark, with the famous A board (being uncontroversial for once)Brick Lane Coffee

I have a love-hate relationship with Brick Lane Coffee. I love that the espresso is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I hate that it was served in a paper cup. It still makes me shudder when I think about it. Never mind, now I know, I’m taking my own cup with me.

Brick Lane Coffee was also in the running for the “Special” award for being, well, you know, special…

 

 

Espresso in a proper, china cup, courtesy of Bean About Town, South Bank Centre. And such a pretty cup too :-)Bean About Town, South  Bank

Serving good espresso in a coffee shop is hard enough, but out of a Citroen van on the Southbank in all weathers? Despite battling against the elements, Claire from Bean About Town makes one of the best espressos there is.

Claire was also in the running for the “Most Passionate About Coffee” award. If there had been a “Best Take Away” award, she would have won it hands down.

Also in the running: Café Boscanova

And the winner is: Bar Italia

Smallest Coffee Spot

I have a special place in my heart from small coffee spots and here are three of the smallest. Note that this is all subjective – I did not get my tape measure out at any point!

The main reason for coming to the Camera Cafe; the Hot Chocolate Fudge Cake.

 Camera Café

The Camera Café is one of my favourite haunts when I’m visiting the British Museum. It’s not really that small, since it has three main spaces, but each of them is quite small, so it feels small. The Camera Café was also in the running for “Best Cake” Award.

Excellent Espresso in a Glass from the Exploding Bakery, ExeterExploding Bakery

Exeter’s Exploding Bakery also sneaks in, since while it is small, the coffee part is sharing space with the bakery, so the question is, does the bakery count or not? Bizarrely, as small as it is, it feels quite large…

The Exploding Bakery was also in the running for the “Best Cake” award.

Wild & Wood: genius use of space and an lovely, all wooden interiorWild & Wood

Another of my favourite haunts around the British Museum, Wild & Wood is genuinely small and makes the most of some very limited space. It helps that the interior is lovely.

 

Also in the running: Artisan Roast

And the winner is: Exploding Bakery

Most Passionate About Coffee

It’s not just about the coffee, it’s also about people who love and care about coffee. In fact, everyone who has been covered in the Coffee Spot is passionate about coffee and one of the great things is how much love there is out there. However, the following three stand out from the crowd.

The (initially) bewildering coffee menu at Brew Lab. It all seems so simple now...Brew Lab

I was blown away by Edinburgh’s Brew Lab. It’s been a long time since I walked into a coffee spot and was confused by what was on offer. Dave, one of the co-founders, gave me a guide to all the various brewing methods used and I was duly impressed.

From the menu of "To A Tea" with the slogan "Take Time for Tea"To a Tea

Now you might be surprised to find a TEA shop (yes, a Tea shop!) in the running for the “Most Passionate…” award, but frankly, Stas, the owner, deserves it. His passion for tea puts many coffee shops to shame and he’s just as keen to get his coffee right.

To a Tea was also in the running for the “Best Cake” award. The red velvet cake almost finished me off.

A deliciously sweet espresso in a glass from Boscombe's Cafe Boscanova

 Café Boscanova

I liked everything about Café Boscanova. Frankly, it could have been a nominee in about half the awards. As it is, it’s the only place that made the short-list in two awards. The passion on display from Luke, the Head Barista, was contagious. Plus I felt bad about narrowly edging Boscanova out of the short-list for the “Best Espresso” award.

Also in the running: Bean About Town, South Bank

And the winner is: Brew Lab

Happiest Staff

I think that staff are probably the most over-looked part of any coffee spot. Good staff can make a place and bad staff, no matter how great the coffee and wonderful the location, can kill a place. Everywhere that features in the Coffee Spot has great staff, but these three stand out.

A lovely latte at the Boston Tea Party, Stokes Croft, Bristol

Boston Tea Party (Stokes Croft)

The Boston Tea Party in Stokes Croft stands in the shadow of the Park Street branch. However, if there’s one thing that stands out for me, it’s the staff, who stick in my mind as some of the happiest and friendliest I’ve come across.

A deliciously sweet espresso in a glass from Boscombe's Cafe BoscanovaCafé Boscanova

Forget the staff. Café Boscanova might just be the happiest place I’ve been, full stop. That said, the staff were very happy and very friendly, all adding to the great atmosphere on the Bosca del Sol. Café Boscanova was also in the running for the “Most Unlikely Place” award.

The Cupcake's eye-view of the Oystercatchers CafeOystercatchers Café

There must be something about the southwest, since the staff at Oystercatchers Café are also some of the friendliest and happiest that I’ve come across, making my visit a real pleasure. Even spilling my espresso all over the floor (I could have cried) didn’t phase them.

Also in the running: The Coffee Company; The House of Coffee, Bea’s of St Paul’s, Bar des Arts

And the winner is: Café Boscanova

Best Coffee Bean Retailer

While the Coffee Spot is mostly about places to have coffee, I drink the majority of my coffee at home, so those wonderful people who provide me with my coffee beans need a mention. The top three are:

Algerian Coffee StoresAlgerian Coffee Stores

The Algerian Coffee Stores on Old Compton Street in Soho is where I get my espresso beans when I can’t get to Rome. ‘Nuff said. It also makes a mean takeaway espresso.

 

Trish, the Proud Owner of Coffee Charisma, at her Stall on Guildford's North Street MarketCoffee Charisma

My bean supplier of choice for more years than I care to mention, Coffee Charisma is one of the main reasons I don’t feel the need to order beans through the post, despite the many lovely places out there. Coffee Charisma was also on the shortlist for the “Where It All Started” award.

The House of Coffee's all important Coffee RoasterThe House of Coffee

Even though the House of Coffee, having heard I was coming, hid itself down an alley in the middle of Leighton Buzzard, I tracked it down. If I lived in Leighton Buzzard, this is where I’d get all my coffee beans. The House of Coffee was also in the running for the “Happiest Staff” award.

And the winner is: Coffee Charisma

Best Cake

It’s not all about the coffee you know (despite what the tag line says). What would a cup of coffee be without a decent slice of cake to go with it? So, cake plays a major part in the Coffee Spot and the following places all excel in the cake department.

Bea's of Bloomsbury on Theobald RoadBea’s of Bloomsbury

Not only does Bea make some of the best cakes around, she makes talking cake. It’s true. Every time I go into Bea’s, I hear them whispering my name… Bea makes excellent cupcakes, but her cheesecake is to die for. Almost literally.

 

 

Glutton & Glee's gleeful logo

Glutton & Glee

Glutton & Glee in my home town of Guildford has cakes from the excellent Butter and Cream Cakes. To be honest, the nomination should really be shared between Glutton & Glee and Butter and Cream Cakes…

 

 

Mimi's BakehouseMimi’s Bakehouse

One of my favourite spots in Edinburgh and, indeed, in the whole country. Mimi does cake! And then some. Only the fact that I live over 400 miles away stops me from being in there every day…

Also in the running: The Exploding Bakery, Bea’s of St Paul’s, To A Tea, Camera Café

And the winner is: Bea’s of Bloomsbury

Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award

I decided that I needed a special award for those places which don’t quite fit into the other categories, but which are nonetheless special…

The world's richest cheesecake? Chocolate and peanut at Bea's of Bloomsbury at St Paul'sBea’s of St Paul’s

Anywhere where the staff won’t let you go until you’ve promised to say that they’re friendlier than the staff at the sister branch (Bea’s of Bloomsbury) has got to get an award for something!

Bea’s of St Paul’s was also in the running for the “Best Cake” award, but it didn’t feel right to nominate Bea twice, no matter how good her cakes are!

Single Espresso, Bar des Arts Style. Isn't the saucer just the perfect size?Bar des Arts

My favourite coffee spot in my home town of Guildford. Bar des Arts conjures up an image in my head of the perfect coffee spot. Then it delivers. Best visited in the morning when there are still some pastries left. Does a mean lunch too.

Bar des Arts was also in the running for the “Happiest Staff” award.

Cafe Kino: ExteriorCafé Kino

Anywhere with a Mission Statement that starts: “Creating inspiring, safe spaces to cultivate community, cooperation and CAKE”  deserves an award! One of my favourite places in Stokes Croft, Bristol.

Also in the running: Brick Lane Coffee

And the winner is: Bar des Arts

Most Popular

And finally, the only award not decided by me. The award has been given to the Coffee Spot which received the greatest number of views (according to JetPack) up to the end of the year. You can find the short-list and the winner here.


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5 thoughts on “The Coffee Spot Awards

  1. Fantastic. Loved that. Got some “Grumpy Mule” coffee at Christmas. Great Espresso beans. Made a great cup with my Kitchen Aid machine. ( doesn’t always make the best coffee). Looking forward to seeing who wins

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