2016 Awards – Smallest Coffee Spot

The words "Pavé Coffeee" in black on a white shield, itself on a black background, with the words "ESPRESSO BAR" in white underneathCoffee Spots come in all shapes and sizes, but for some reason I have a real soft spot for small Coffee Spots. Last year the “Smallest Coffee Spot” Award was won by Pavé Coffee.

This year I have once again been blessed by some very small Coffee Spots serving some very fine coffee. As in previous years, this Award is entirely subjective: no Coffee Spots were measured during the judging process! This is one of several Awards that I could have filled many times over: the world seems full of lots of really lovely, small, Coffee Spots. Please note that I have deliberately excluded Coffee Spots with no internal space/seating, although they do get a mention.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Lanark Coffee, on London's Hackney Road, is both tiny and long & thin.
  • New Row Coffee, with enough room for seating at the counter and at a window bar!
  • The original Curators Coffee in the City of London, the Studio is best described as compact.
  • Although it's bigger than it was, the Exploding Bakery is still pretty small for a coffee shop.
  • The coffee excellence at Slate Coffee Roasters is out of all proportion to its size.
  • The tiny Upstairs Coffee is upstairs from a very large basement.
  • London's Espresso by K2 feels much larger than it actually is.
  • At ex-storeroom at the back of a barbershop in Brooklyn: Parlor Coffee.
  • Crosstown Doughnuts, long, thin and stuffed full of doughnuts. Description or life ambition?
  • The new MacIntyre Coffee is a lot smaller than the old one.
  • New York's Café Grumpy on the Lower East Side is the smallest Café Grumpy of them all.
  • Brooklyn Coffee in Shoreditch has enough room for some seating in both the windows.
  • Winchester's Coffee Lab is another compact affair.
  • Nottingham's Outpost Coffee, a lovely little spot right in the heart of the city.
  • Kiosk: Project Space, gallery, coffee shop and kitchen, all in one unfeasibly small space.
Lanark Coffee, on London's Hackney Road, is both tiny and long & thin.1 New Row Coffee, with enough room for seating at the counter and at a window bar!2 The original Curators Coffee in the City of London, the Studio is best described as compact.3 Although it's bigger than it was, the Exploding Bakery is still pretty small for a coffee shop.4 The coffee excellence at Slate Coffee Roasters is out of all proportion to its size.5 The tiny Upstairs Coffee is upstairs from a very large basement.6 London's Espresso by K2 feels much larger than it actually is.7 At ex-storeroom at the back of a barbershop in Brooklyn: Parlor Coffee.8 Crosstown Doughnuts, long, thin and stuffed full of doughnuts. Description or life ambition?9 The new MacIntyre Coffee is a lot smaller than the old one.10 New York's Café Grumpy on the Lower East Side is the smallest Café Grumpy of them all.11 Brooklyn Coffee in Shoreditch has enough room for some seating in both the windows.12 Winchester's Coffee Lab is another compact affair.13 Nottingham's Outpost Coffee, a lovely little spot right in the heart of the city.14 Kiosk: Project Space, gallery, coffee shop and kitchen, all in one unfeasibly small space. 15
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There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

The A-board outside Lanark Coffee on Hackney RoadLanark Coffee

A tiny spot on London’s Hackney Road, Lanark serves some excellent coffee despite its size limitations. It’s also a really odd shape. Where’s most small coffee shops are square, this one is long and thin, with the long side running along the front of the store. And there’s a flight of stairs running along the back wall. I’m just impressed that Lanark managed to actually fit a coffee shop in there at all. Lanark is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.

The New Row Coffee logo, taken from the sign hanging outside the shopNew Row Coffee

A stalwart of the speciality coffee scene, London’s New Row Coffee is another small spot with a coffee output exceeds its physical dimensions. There’s a counter at the back, which you can sit at, and a row seating along the window front, but that’s about it. Despite the small size, New Row has a full range of espresso-based drinks, as well as several pour-over options.

A nine-leaf tulip latte-art pattern in a classic white cup, seen from above.Curators Coffee Studio

Another stalwart of the speciality coffee scene, London’s Curators Coffee Studio is the original Curators, tucked away in the heart of the city. There’s slightly more space here, but largely only due to the tables out front, which, coupled with the tables down the side, means that there’s more seating outside than there is inside, where the window-bar is the place to be.

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

Exeter’s Exploding Bakery is both a working bakery and a full-time coffee shop. I’m always torn by the Exploding Bakery, since, if you include the bakery, it’s quite large. However, all the space devoted to the coffee shop is bigger than it was after its internal reorganisation, it’s still pretty small. The Exploding Bakery is also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Shop near a Railway Station and the Best Cake Awards.

The sign from the window of Slate Coffee Roasters in Seattle: the words 'SLATE COFFEE ROASTERS', one word per lineSlate Coffee Roasters

Seattle’s Slate Coffee Roasters is a modest enough physical spot, but its coffee output is exceptional. Slate is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.

An old-fashioned, heraldic shield, in white, with a black diagonal line running through it, bottom left to top right, with a handle added on the left to turn it into a coffee cupUpstairs Coffee

A newcomer this year, Birmingham’s Upstairs Coffee seems, at first sight, to be a bit of a misnomer, since it’s located on the ground floor. However, it is upstairs from the cocktail bar in the basement, hence the name. It’s also tiny, passing the arms-outstretched test in both directions! Upstairs Coffee is also shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee and Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.

"Aussie bros, slinin' epic espresso | Espresso by K2 (just around the corner)"Espresso by K2

Espresso by K2 occupies the ground floor of an office building tucked away down an alley off Parsons Green in London. It feels much larger than it actually is, largely due to the high ceilings and the cutaway portion of the side wall which connects it to the offices next door. There’s enough room inside for a row of (small) tables along the wall opposite the counter and a small window-bar at the front. Espresso by K2 is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.

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

Parlor Coffee occupies 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. This used to be a storeroom before Parlor took over and it’s so small that there isn’t even enough room for tables. Parlor Coffee is also shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.

The Crosstown Doughnut logo from outside the coffee shop in Soho.Crosstown Doughnuts

Long, thin and stuffed full of doughnuts could be a description of Crosstown’s first coffee shop in Soho, or it could be my personal ambition for 2017. Crosstown is also shortlisted for the Best Cake Award.

The store front of MacIntyre Coffee on St John's Road, London.MacIntyre Coffee

The original MacIntyre Coffee in Shoreditch wasn’t small enough to quality for this award. However, the new location, at Angel, is that little bit smaller. There’s a counter at the back and space for a window-bar which carries on around the right-hand wall, but that’s about it, other than the bench outside. MacIntyre Coffee is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.

An espresso in a classic white cup made by Brooklyn Coffee using Caravan's Daily espresso blend.Brooklyn Coffee

Similar to the likes of New Row Coffee and Curators Coffee Studio, Brooklyn Coffee has a counter at the back and (get this) a PAIR of window-bars at the front. Yes, it’s that big! Brooklyn Coffee is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff Award.

Cafe Grumpy's grumpy face logo, hanging on the wall of the Lower East Side branch.Café Grumpy, Lower East Side

The Café Grumpy branch on the Lower East Side is the smallest Café Grumpy of all. It’s also my new go-to place when I’m staying in New York City. There are a couple of benches outside on the sidewalk, which pretty much doubles the sitting capacity. Inside there’s a stool at the counter, while you can also sit on the very wide windowsill. Café Grumpy is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.

Two flat whites from Coffee Lab, Winchester, seen from front on and from above.Coffee Lab Winchester

Winchester’s Coffee Lab only opened this year, but is already making a big impact. It’s a lovely, small welcoming spot. There’s seating in the window at the front, more opposite the counter, and a communal table at the back. I know that makes it sound huge, but it’s more to do with efficient use of space. Coffee Lab is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff Award.

The front of Outpost Coffee in NottinghamOutpost Coffee

Another newcomer this year, Nottingham’s Outpost Coffee is the first coffee shop of Outpost Coffee Roasters. Located in a small shop below its (much larger) training room, this is another cosy, welcoming coffee shop. There’s a bench outside and a neat shelf/table on the left-hand wall, but the main seating is a row of tables along a bench which lines the front window. Outpost is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.

The modest front of Kiosk: Project Space, on York's Fossgate.Kiosk: Project Space

York’s Kiosk: Project Space is another newcomer, combining gallery, kitchen and coffee shop in one unfeasibly small space. Despite, or perhaps because of this, it is another warm, welcoming place. Kiosk is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee and the Happiest Staff Awards. What is it with these small Coffee Spots and their happy staff? If I was in such close proximity to my customers all day I’d be really grumpy!

A special mention also needs to go to the following:

The Cow & Co Cafe in Liverpool which blew its chances by having a mezzanine
Kaffeine Eastcastle, the second Kaffeine, which is not much bigger than the original
Surrey Hills Coffee, a lovely, tiny spot in my home town of Guildford
Hatch Coffee, a coffee shop inside a parking attendent’s hut
Sottoscala: Terrone at Pizza Pilgrims, a coffee shop in a cupboard under the stairs
Pitch, Fulham Broadway, a counter at the entrance to Fulham Broadway station
Jake’s Coffee Box, a coffee shop in a phone box
Gracenote, Boston, a lovely spot in Boston which almost made it onto the shortlist
Rag & Bone Coffee, a coffee cart in a churchyard near Victoria station
Store Street Espresso, Padddington, small counter, big communal office space
Stumptown, Ace Hotel (NYC), small coffee bar with a large lobby next door
18 Grams, Causeway Bay, a tiny spot in Hong Kong
Manner Coffee, a literal hole-in-the-wall in Shanghai
ManCoCo, under the railway arches in Manchester, it too almost made the shortlist
Cartwheel Cafe & Roastery, slightly too large to qualify, but nonetheless an amazingly efficient use of space

And the winner is Upstairs Coffee
Runners-up: Lanark Coffee and Café Grumpy, Lower East Side

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


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