2016 Awards – Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot

The Amid Giants & Idols logo from the A-board outside.The first shortlist for the 2016 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot” Award, won in 2015 by Amid Giants & Idols. Finding Coffee Spots in cities such as New York, Edinburgh or Manchester is to be expected. However, good Coffee Spots are everywhere, some of them are in very unexpected places, both geographically and in terms of setting.

This Award is very much defined by the nominees on the shortlist. Some of these are geographical, a reward for bringing great coffee to unexpected places. Others are a recognition of a great or unusual setting for a Coffee Spot.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • The sadly missed Mother's Milk, which served coffee from inside an advertising agency.
  • The Bird's Nest, a wonderfully eclectic place upstairs in a market in Shrewsbury.
  • Bringing speciality coffee to the High Street, Bristol's The Crazy Fox.
  • A magazine and design shop, plus a lovely little cafe: Liverpool's The Cow & Co Cafe.
  • Sutton Coldfield's Under Pressure Espresso, proving that the suburbs have great coffee too.
  • Sadly now closed, Junction Coffee was a beacon of great coffee in south Liverpool.
  • I've waited a long time for a speciality coffee shop in my home town: Surrey Hills Coffee.
  • Jake's Coffee Box, a speciality coffee shop in a phone box in Birmingham.
  • I really wasn't expecting to find speciality coffee in Portugal, but there was Mesa 325.
  • A speciality coffee bar in a London restaurant? That'll be Lyle's.
  • Parlor Coffee, a wonderful little coffee shop tucked away in the back of a barbershop.
  • Bringing speciality coffee to the masses: Coffee Collective, in Copenhagen's Torvehallerne.
  • Another place I wasn't expecting to find great coffee: Phoenix, where I found Press Coffee.
  • A small parade of shops on the outskirts of Watford is home to the lovely The LP Cafe.
  • Manchester's every-growing Grindsmith chain makes it into the mainstream in Media City.
The sadly missed Mother's Milk, which served coffee from inside an advertising agency.1 The Bird's Nest, a wonderfully eclectic place upstairs in a market in Shrewsbury.2 Bringing speciality coffee to the High Street, Bristol's The Crazy Fox.3 A magazine and design shop, plus a lovely little cafe: Liverpool's The Cow & Co Cafe.4 Sutton Coldfield's Under Pressure Espresso, proving that the suburbs have great coffee too.5 Sadly now closed, Junction Coffee was a beacon of great coffee in south Liverpool.6 I've waited a long time for a speciality coffee shop in my home town: Surrey Hills Coffee.7 Jake's Coffee Box, a speciality coffee shop in a phone box in Birmingham.8 I really wasn't expecting to find speciality coffee in Portugal, but there was Mesa 325.9 A speciality coffee bar in a London restaurant? That'll be Lyle's.10 Parlor Coffee, a wonderful little coffee shop tucked away in the back of a barbershop.11 Bringing speciality coffee to the masses: Coffee Collective, in Copenhagen's Torvehallerne.12 Another place I wasn't expecting to find great coffee: Phoenix, where I found Press Coffee.13 A small parade of shops on the outskirts of Watford is home to the lovely The LP Cafe.14 Manchester's every-growing Grindsmith chain makes it into the mainstream in Media City.15
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There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

A flat white in a glass from Mother's Milk as seen from above with a simple tulip motif.Mother’s Milk

Located in the heart of Fitzrovia, the location, per se, wasn’t the unexpected part of Mother’s Milk. What was surprising was that this was an excellent coffee shop in the back of a communications agency, where it occupied a lovely bar. To get there, you had to walk in past reception, which was always an interesting experience! Sadly Mother’s Milk is now closed, but hopefully the boys will be back at some point.

A classic espresso in a red cup on a green saucer.The Bird’s Nest

Flying the flag for Shrewsbury, The Bird’s Nest is a lovely, eclectic spot which is tucked away at the back of the top floor of Shrewsbury’s 1960s Market Hall. A wonderful mix of tables, chairs and sofas, it felt like you’d just stumbled in. This is exactly the sort of friendly, welcoming coffee shop that every town market should have! The Bird’s Nest is also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.

A drawing of a very smug-looking fox in a circle on a black background, with the words "Coffee Bar" above and "The Crazy Fox" below.The Crazy Fox

Bristol has many excellent coffee shops. What makes The Crazy Fox unexpected is the location, right in the city centre, on the Broadmead no less, at the end of the lovely St James Arcade, another example of a Victorian Arcade. I’m always a fan of speciality coffee shops in mainstream settings, where the chains usually dominate. The Crazy Fox is also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.

The Cow & Co Cafe logo taken from the front of the menu.The Cow & Co Cafe

Coffee shops come in all shapes and sizes, and they occupy all sorts of unexpected premises. The Cow & Co Cafe stands out slightly more than most in that it grew out of a design shop in Liverpool, which started selling coffee, slowly morphing into speciality coffee shop. It still retains its roots as a design store, with a large set of retail shelves, while there’s also a rack of art, design and lifestyle magazines. The Cow & Co Cafe is also shortlisted for the Best Cake Award.

A wizard is shown underneath a large coffee cup. This is surrounded by lightning and is being filled by a stream of coffee from above.Under Pressure Espresso

Proving that speciality coffee isn’t just the preserve of city centres, I present Under Pressure Espresso in Sutton Coldfield, to the northeast of Birmingham. Sandwiched between an insurance agent and a large, generic bar/lounge, Under Pressure Espresso is a real gem, serving excellent coffee, a  selection of loose-leaf teas plus homemade cakes. Coffee Under Pressure is also shortlisted for the Best Cake Award and the Coffee Spot Special Award.

The colourful front cover of the menu at Liverpool's Junction CoffeeJunction Coffee

Another one bringing coffee to the suburbs, this time to Aigburth, to the south of Liverpool city centre. Sandwiched between a hairdresser and a balloon shop, there was a lot more to Junction than just the coffee, with an impressive range of sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, panini, wraps and bagels, plus salads and a soup of the day. Sadly, having been a stalwart of the community since 2011, Junction had to close its doors for good this summer.

The Surrey Hills Coffee logo from the back wall of the coffee shop on Chapel Street, Guildford.Surrey Hills Coffee

I’ve been waiting a long time for a speciality coffee shop worthy of the name in my home town of Guildford, where high rates/rents are the enemy of independents. Now, in the shape of the lovely Surrey Hills Coffee, I finally have a local! Surrey Hills is also shortlisted for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

Jake's Coffee Box, occupying the left-hand of the two red telephone boxes, with a table out front, acting as a counter. Jake himself stands in the door, waiting his next customer.Jake’s Coffee Box

I’ve found speciality coffee in many strange places in my time, but in a telephone box? Yes, in a telephone box. In Birmingham. Despite its lack of size, it packs a lot in, including food, a wide range of tea, plus hot chocolate. And coffee. Jake’s Coffee Box is also shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

Mesa 325, written in white stencil on the grey concrete wall of Mesa 325.Mesa 325

When I went to Porto this spring, I wasn’t expecting anything except great Port. Then I found Mesa 325 and re-calibrated my expectations. Speciality coffee meets typical Portuguese bar, with locally-roasted coffee, this is a home-grown speciality coffee scene and an excellent one at that. Mesa 325 is also shortlisted for the Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.

A carafe of an Ethiopian single-origin coffee from Koppi made through the Clever Dripper at Lyle's in London.Lyle’s

Continuing the theme of speciality coffee inside unexpected places, how about finding a coffee bar in a top-notch restaurant? Well, that’s Lyle’s for you. Lyle’s, on Shoreditch High Street, is a dedicated coffee bar inside the restaurant, so you can drink great coffee without having to eat as well. Just walk in, grab a stool at the counter to your right, and off you go! A multi-roaster, ordering in coffee from around the UK and beyond, it’s a real coffee-lover’s dream. Lyle’s is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.

A simple blackboard with "Parlor Coffee | Serving Daily | Back of Barber-shop" written in white block capitals.Parlor Coffee

Forget restaurants: how about a speciality coffee shop in the back of a barbershop? Parlor Coffee, is just that, occupying a tiny spot at the back of the Persons of Interest barbershop in Brooklyn. To get to the coffee shop, you have to walk through the barbershop, where a door in a glass partition at the back leads into Parlor Coffee. Parlor roasts all its own coffee, the owner opening both coffee shop and roastery at the same time just over four years ago. Parlor is also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

My cortado, seen from above, at Coffee Collective, Torvehallerne, in Copenhagen.Coffee Collective, Torvehallerne

Another example of bringing speciality coffee to the mainstream is provided by Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective. Known as much for its roasting as its coffee shops, this is a wonderful coffee bar in the Torvehallerne food hall in the heart of Copenhagen. Coffee Collective serves its full range of coffee, including multiple espresso & pour-over options, and is also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.

A beautiful cappuccino in a classic, hard-to-photograph black cup on a black saucer, made at Press Coffee Roasters, Scottsdale Quarter.Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter

Just as I wasn’t looking for great coffee in Porto, I wasn’t looking for great coffee in the outer suburbs of Phoenix on my recent business trip. Then I stumbled on the wonderful Press Coffee, a short walk from my hotel in the Scottsdale Quarter. Press Coffee is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.

Some of the LPs for sale on the wall at Watford's The LP CafeThe LP Café

Watford does not spring to mind when I think of speciality coffee, but for the last three years, The LP Café has been serving excellent coffee from a small parade of shops near Watford Junction station. The LP Café is also unusual in that it combines speciality coffee and vinyl records, the two sides of the business supporting each other. The LP Café is also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award.

A beautiful Grindsmith glass, with a Nicaraguan single-origin filter coffee from North Star, served at Grindsmith Media City.Grindsmith Media City

Another one bringing speciality coffee to a mainstream setting is Manchester‘s Grindsmith chain, which opened its third branch in Salford’s Media City, home of the BBC and about as mainstream as you can get! It also takes advantage of a large kitchen to serve an extended food range. Grindsmith is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.

A special mention also needs to go to the following:

Expresso Base, in a churchyard in London
Slate Coffee Roasters, in an unassuming Seattle suburb
Hatch Coffee, in a disused parking attendant’s hut in Newcastle
Espresso by K2, tucked away down an alley in Parson’s Green
Bop, another excellent find in Porto
Store Street Espresso, Padddington, more speciality coffee in a mainstream setting
Intelligentsia, Old Town, a coffee shop in a grocery store.

And the winner is Jake’s Coffee Box
Runners-up: Surrey Hills Coffee and The LP Café

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2016.


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