Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2015 underway, here are the winners of the third Annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2014. The shortlists for all 20 Awards were announced between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and now we have the winners!
Before we go on, I know I’ve said this before, but a big 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.
If you don’t like lists, you can see who won this year’s Awards in the gallery..
So, without further ado, let’s see who won.
As regular attendees to any sporting event will know, getting good quality coffee can be a bit of a struggle. Even at Lord’s, the home of cricket, which leads the way in good coffee, the coffee’s not exactly what you’d call speciality. That’s why this year’s award has gone to London coffee legends Kaffeine, who, by supplying the coffee in the Harris Gardens during major international matches, have raised the bar for coffee at major sporting events!
A coffee cart with big ambitions, Reading’s Tamp Culture is also a roaster, roasting all its beans and offering a regularly-rotating selection of single-origin beans from a Piaggio Ape at the entrance to the Oracle centre. As well as the usual espresso-based options, Tamp also offers Aeropress and pour-over filter options. The coffee is sublime and would grace any indoor, permanent coffee shop.
Coffee Spot with the Best Basement (New for 2014)
I love basements and the basement at The Fleet Street Press is the highlight of the year. Cosy, stuffed with sofas and armchairs, it’s the perfect place to be, although upstairs, with its bright, window seats, bar opposite the counter and intimate nook at the back, is pretty decent too.
Fred & Ginger is a comfortingly familiar coffee shop in an unfamiliar setting. It’s the sort of place that wouldn’t look out of place in London, Bristol or Edinburgh. It could have easily won any number of awards, such is its excellence.
Exeter’s Darkhorse Espresso is a neighbourhood coffee shop waiting as its neighbourhood to grow up around it. A little off the beaten track on Exeter’s Magdalen Road, it serves coffee from London’s Ozone and cakes from an Exeter favourite, The Exploding Bakery.
Bean & Bud is coffee (& tea) heaven and is another that could have won any number of awards this year. However, for my Chemex of a Nicaraguan Las Minas, it wins the Best Filter Coffee Award. The coffee was fantastic, with a rich mouth feel & complex flavours. .
Best Outdoor Seating (New for 2014)
Fernandez & Wells occupies part of the East Wing of Somerset House. The interior, spread over three rooms, is glorious, but the outdoor seating, spilling out into the Somerset House courtyard, is even better, especially in the summer when the fountains are on!
2014 was definitely the year of the Coffee Festival and the highlight for me was the inaugural Cup North in Manchester. It was, in my opinion, the perfect coffee festival; small enough to be friendly and intimate, large enough to keep me occupied for two whole days and wishing there had been a third day for me to go to! I’m already looking forward to next year’s!
I got told off in last year’s awards for not mentioning Coffee Affair, which is in the old booking office of Queenstown Road Station (on the line out of Waterloo, between Vauxhall and Clapham Junction). That’s because I didn’t know about it, so I made one of my priorities of 2014 to visit it! And it’s lovely and the deserved winner of this year’s award. If you’re heading into Waterloo on the train, stop at Queenstown Road one day. You’ll love it!
Hands-down winner this year is Norwich’s Stranger’s Coffee House. I had a natural-processed single-origin Yirgacheffe, from Butterworth & Son. I’ve not tasted anything quite like it: it was really light and zingy, a sweet, complex coffee. Quite superb.
Another clear winner. If you want to know how big Bica Coffee House is, take a look at the picture. Yes, it really is that big. It’s tucked away in Westbourne Park tube station on the Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines, two stops west of Paddington and serves some excellent coffee from east London roasters Nude Espresso. Best go in the morning though, since it’s closed in the afternoon! Bica, by the way, was shortlisted for three awards, winning this one and finishing as runner up in the other two!
Set in the soaring nave of Christopher Wren’s St Nicholas Cole Abbey, The Wren’s quite possibly the most delightful coffee shop setting I’ve had the pleasure to step into. However, it’s the small, but wonderful selection of cake, the highlights of which are the amazing bite-sized Friands which come from the Candlestick Bakery that won The Wren this award. The Wren was also nominated for the most awards (four) this year.
Dear Green is a name, for me, synonymous with speciality coffee in Glasgow. Roasting in the heart of the city since 2011, Dear Green has done much to spread speciality coffee through the city and beyond. Another hands-down winner, Dear Green represents all that is best in speciality coffee for me: quality, passion, commitment and an interesting line in names :-).
3FE, short for Third Floor Espresso, is, disappointingly, on the ground floor of its building on Dublin’s Grand Canal Street. However, that’s pretty much the only disappointing thing about it. 3FE is both roaster and coffee shop with the focus firmly on the beans themselves. 3FE is also another one that could have easily won all three awards that it was nominated for!
Manchester‘s Pot Kettle Black graces the Barton Arcade, one of the most beautiful Victorian shopping arcades I’ve seen. Pot Kettle Black takes its lead from there, with gorgeous external features & ornate and sumptuous window art. One of the most beautifully-appointed coffee shops I’ve visited, it’s a clear winner in a hotly-contested category.
I have a soft spot for Beany Green’s Paddington branch, largely because it is now my regular, being two minutes walk from my office. The staff there, however, have always been uber-friendly and have struck me as a very happy, laid-back crew, who go a long way to making Beany Green the wonderful place that it is. The fact that they gave me a Christmas present of coffee beans, granola and spiced nuts has absolutely nothing to do with them winning this award!
Birmingham‘s Saint Kitchen has excellent coffee and even better food. The field mushroom soufflé muffin, plus some farmhouse buttery toast was beautifully presented on a pair of wooden platters that looked like slices of a log. The good news is that it tasted even better than it looked!
A legend amongst coffee enthusiasts and credited as an inspiration for a whole generation of coffee shops and roasters in the South West, the passion of Colonna & Small’s has never been in doubt. What impressed me is that the passion’s there for all, from coffee geek to the average person on the street.
Edinburgh‘s Machina Espresso might just be the perfect coffee shop. There’s an atmosphere about the place that just feels right and it serves some superb coffee in very friendly surroundings. There’s multiple roasters on offer, with retail bags to take home, plus loads of kit on sale. Loads of beautiful, wonderful kit, including the world’s most gorgeous cups. Every time I come in here, I promise myself not to spend a fortune. And fail.
This is the only award where I haven’t chosen the winner. Instead, it was the 1,324 views that Artigiano Espresso’s Exeter branch that propelled it to top spot, a good 300 more than second place. A special mention for 3rd place Vagabond N7 which got 840 views in 2014 despite having been published in 2013!
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