2016 Awards – Best Overseas Coffee Spot

The sign from the window of Slate Coffee Roasters in Seattle: the words 'SLATE COFFEE ROASTERS', one word per lineNext up in the 2016 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Best Overseas Coffee Spot”. This was won in 2015 by Coffee Tasting Flight at Slate and celebrates all those wonderful Coffee Spots that I’ve visited outside of the UK. I’d love to travel more, since I keep hearing about great coffee all over the world.

This year has been excellent for overseas Coffee Spots. I’ve had three trips to the USA, as well as heading for the first time (with my Coffee Spot hat on) to Portugal, Copenhagen, Hong Kong and Shanghai, as well as returning to Dublin. If you want to read more of my travel exploits, check out Brian’s Travel Spot.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • The Chelsea branch of Cafe Grumpy was my first Grumpy experience. And I loved it.
  • The first coffee shop of Pennsylvania roaster, Square One, on Philadelphia's South 13th St.
  • Bright and airy, on a corner on Flushing Avenue, it's the Brooklyn Roasting Company.
  • Dave's Coffee, Providence. Sadly there's no Award for Strangest Shaped Coffee Spot.
  • Dwelltime/barismo 364 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with its amazing island counter.
  • Flying the flag for Seattle, there's the Victrola Roastery and Cafe.
  • Asado Coffee, River North, in an old loading bay in the heart of Chicago.
  • Coava Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop in an apartment building. I want to live there!
  • Kickstarting Porto's home-grown speciality coffee scene, it's Mesa 325.
  • And talking of Portugal, here's Denmark's finest, the Copenhagen Coffee Lab. In Lisbon.
  • 18 Grams, Causeway Bay, flying the flag for Speciality Coffee in Hong Kong.
  • And talking of Hong Kong, I also had the pleasure of visiting The Cupping Room in Central.
  • Meanwhile, flying the flag for speciality coffee in Shanghai, here's Sumerian Coffee.
  • An old favourite, Intelligentsia, in a new setting, in a grocery store in Chicago's Old Town.
  • Improving hotel coffee, one cup at a time, it's Bolt Coffee at the Dean Hotel, Providence.
The Chelsea branch of Cafe Grumpy was my first Grumpy experience. And I loved it.1 The first coffee shop of Pennsylvania roaster, Square One, on Philadelphia's South 13th St.2 Bright and airy, on a corner on Flushing Avenue, it's the Brooklyn Roasting Company.3 Dave's Coffee, Providence. Sadly there's no Award for Strangest Shaped Coffee Spot.4 Dwelltime/barismo 364 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with its amazing island counter.5 Flying the flag for Seattle, there's the Victrola Roastery and Cafe.6 Asado Coffee, River North, in an old loading bay in the heart of Chicago.7 Coava Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop in an apartment building. I want to live there!8 Kickstarting Porto's home-grown speciality coffee scene, it's Mesa 325.9 And talking of Portugal, here's Denmark's finest, the Copenhagen Coffee Lab. In Lisbon.10 18 Grams, Causeway Bay, flying the flag for Speciality Coffee in Hong Kong.11 And talking of Hong Kong, I also had the pleasure of visiting The Cupping Room in Central.12 Meanwhile, flying the flag for speciality coffee in Shanghai, here's Sumerian Coffee.13 An old favourite, Intelligentsia, in a new setting, in a grocery store in Chicago's Old Town.14 Improving hotel coffee, one cup at a time, it's Bolt Coffee at the Dean Hotel, Providence.15
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There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

The somewhat unwelcoming Cafe Grumpy sign: an elongated oval, stylised as a face, with frowning eyebrows and a downturned mouth.Café Grumpy Chelsea

Never was a coffee shop/roaster chain more inappropriately named than the lovely Café Grumpy, which I first experienced in its Chelsea branch. I loved the coffee, the space and the attitude. Café Grumpy is also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.

The words "SQUARE one COFFEE" one word per row, white on black inside a white square.Square One, South 13th Street

The first (Philadelphia) coffee shop of Pennsylvania roaster, Square One, is on South 13th Street. The clever placement of the island counter splits what could otherwise be a large, anonymous space into several much smaller spots. The coffee is good too, with a nice emphasis on pour-over. A bright, relaxing place to drink your coffee any time of the day.

One of two lovely Faema E61 espresso machines on the end of the counter at the Brooklyn Roasting Company's Flushing Avenue branch.Brooklyn Roasting Company, Flushing Avenue

The Flushing Avenue branch of the Brooklyn Roasting Company occupies a stunning spot on a corner. With glass on two sides, it’s flooded with light, while the coffee, from the twin Faema E61 machines, is excellent. Brooklyn Roasting Company is also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.

The words "Dave's Coffee" in red on a white wall.Dave’s Coffee

Sadly there is no Award for the Coffee Spot with the Strangest Shape, otherwise Dave’s Coffee, occupying a sort of triangle/L-shape in Providence, would have been an instant winner. All the coffee is roasted in-house by the way, with a focus on pour-over.

The sign hanging outside dwelltime in Cambridge, although since my visit in June last year, it's changed its name to barismo 364.Dwelltime/barismo 364

Dwelltime (now renamed barismo 364) is own by local roasters barismo. It’s a lovely spot in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a fantastic island counter in the centre of the room. Almost eye-shaped, it really defines the shape and feel of the room. You can sit at the of the many tables or, best of all, sit at the counter itself, chatting with the baristas and watching the coffee being made.

The Victrola Coffee Roasters logo, showing a black-and-white line drawing of the 1920s phonograph after which Victrola is named.Victrola Roastery and Café

One of Seattle’s more established roasters, Victrola’s roastery and café is a lovely spot, with the roastery at the back and cafe at the front. Grab one of the seats in the window if you can and watch the world go by.

A mug of filter coffee from Asado, River North.Asado Coffee, River North

I was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the then-unopened Asado Coffee in River North in Chicago. Occupying a lovely spot in what was the loading dock of an old industrial building (which is now used for offices), Asado Coffee roasts all its own coffee on site and champions the use of lever espresso machines. Asado Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Lighting Award.

Detail taken from a picture on top of the retail shelves at Coava Coffee Roasters branch on Hawthorne Street, Portland.Coava Coffee Roasters, Hawthorne

Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland (Oregon) has this amazing coffee shop on the ground floor of an apartment building in Hawthorne. The coffee shop end of the operation has its own entrance from the street, while the residents get to use the seating area as a lounge, with their own entrance from the lobby. With top-notch coffee on offer, what’s not to like?

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

When I went to Porto this spring, I unexpectedly found Mesa 325. Representing a home-grown speciality coffee scene, and an excellent one at that, this is speciality coffee meets typical Portuguese bar, with locally-roasted coffee. Mesa 325 is also shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot.

The bright, yellow front of the Copenhagen Coffee La, with a green awning shading the windows either side of the door.Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Lisbon

Staying in Portugal, the coffee scene in Lisbon is also slowly growing, although it’s less home-grown, as witnessed by this outpost of Denmark’s Copenhagen Coffee Lab. All the coffee is imported from Copenhagen, while the setting wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch. The Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Lisbon, is also shortlisted for the Happiest Staff Award.

The words "18 GRAMS" in white in a black circle. Some stylised coffee beans are drawn above the 18.18 Grams, Causeway Bay

My first experience of Hong Kong speciality coffee. was at 18 Grams in Causeway Bay in this lovely little spot on Cannon Street. 18 Grams is a roaster and small chain of coffee shops, with each branch having its own character. As well as excellent coffee, there is also an extensive food menu, all served from a small kitchen behind the counter. 18 Grams is also shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

The square facade of The Cupping Room in Central, facing onto the steeply-sloping Cochrane Street.The Cupping Room Central

Staying in Hong Kong, The Cupping Room, a chain of three coffee shops, really puts the speciality into speciality coffee, with table service upstairs. Set up by an ex-Hong Kong Barista Champion, The Cupping Room has its coffee roasted in America and flown in, while there is an extensive range of food to go with your coffee. The Cupping Room is also shortlisted for the Best Breakfast Award.

A lovely cappuccino in a handleless cup from Sumerian Coffee in Shanghai.Sumerian Coffee

From Hong Kong to Shanghai and my first experience of Chinese speciality coffee in my first Chinese speciality coffee shop. I have to say that I was extremely impressed on both counts. Sumerian Coffee is very much a home-grown affair, which roasts all its own coffee, the quality of which stands comparison with anywhere in the world. There are also bagels and cakes if you are hungry.

A shot of the Black Cat seasonal espresso at Intelligentsia's Old Town branch in Chicago.Intelligentsia, Old Town

An old favourite of mine, Chicago’s Intelligentsia is slowly opening new branches. This one is inside the Plum Market, a food store in Chicago’s Old Town. The coffee shop is at one end of the building, connected to the market by a long corridor where it shares seating with Plum. All the usual Intelligentsia favourites are there, headed up by the seasonal Black Cat espresso blend.

The words "Bolt Coffee Co" written in a circular wooden sign.Bolt Coffee at the Dean Hotel

Staying in America, Bolt Coffee in Providence is in the lobby space at the Dean Hotel. The perfect example of how to bring speciality coffee into a hotel, Bolt stands alone as a coffee shop, with its own entrance from the car park, while at the same time offering excellent coffee to the hotel guests. You can take your coffee standing at the counter, or lounge on one of the comfortable sofas.

A special mention also needs to go to the following:

Sweetleaf, Jackson Avenue is the original Sweetleaf, a lovely spot in Queens
Elm Coffee Roasters another standout Seattle coffee shop/roaster
Slate Coffee Roasters, last year’s winner, back again for another year
Tandem Coffee + Bakery, one of my favourites from the other Portland (Maine)
Fábrica Coffee Roasters, another member of Lisbon’s growing speciality coffee scene
Café Grumpy, Lower East Side, more Grumpy excellence, this time in a tiny spot
Coffee Collective, Torvehallerne, the renown roaster bring coffee to a mainstream setting
Gimme! Coffee, Roebling Street, a Brooklyn branch of an old NYC favourite of mine

And the winner is The Cupping Room Central
Runners-up: Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Lisbon and Café Grumpy Chelsea

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


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