2016 Awards – Happiest Staff

A pair of Beany Green deckchairs, blue on the left, pink on the right. Each shows a half-peeled banana with the word "YOUR" above the image, and "NEEDS YOU" underneath.I present the final shortlist of the day, which is for another of my favourite Coffee Spot Awards, that of “Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff”. Last year it was won by Beany Green, Regent’s Place. In my opinion, 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 were exceptional, with some infectiously happy staff. However, this award isn’t just for happy staff; it’s for any staff who go that extra mile to make their coffee shop a special place.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Origin, Charlotte Road, one three London branches of Origin that could have made the list.
  • Spitfire Espresso, where a warm welcome awaits from owners Danny and Emily.
  • Playground Coffee, mixing speciality coffee, games and some very lovely staff.
  • C.U.P. in Reading, where Maria & Nasos can't wait to meet you.
  • Copenhagen Coffee Lab: Denmark comes to Libson with some equally cosmopolitan staff.
  • Store Street Espresso, Padddington, home of the lovely Aurelien.
  • Brooklyn Coffee in London's Shoreditch, small cosy and very, very friendly.
  • Ipsento 606, the second branch of Chicago's veteran coffee shop/roaster, Ipsento.
  • The Speciality Coffee Shop, a real family affair, run by Michelangelo and Lucy.
  • Coffee Lab, Winchester, home of everyone's favourite barista, Dhan, plus some great staff!
  • Brixton Blend, newly opened, but with some very wonderful staff.
  • Kiosk: Project Space, another new opening, run by the delightful Rebecca and Russ.
Origin, Charlotte Road, one three London branches of Origin that could have made the list.1 Spitfire Espresso, where a warm welcome awaits from owners Danny and Emily.2 Playground Coffee, mixing speciality coffee, games and some very lovely staff.3 C.U.P. in Reading, where Maria & Nasos can't wait to meet you.4 Copenhagen Coffee Lab: Denmark comes to Libson with some equally cosmopolitan staff.5 Store Street Espresso, Padddington, home of the lovely Aurelien.6 Brooklyn Coffee in London's Shoreditch, small cosy and very, very friendly.7 Ipsento 606, the second branch of Chicago's veteran coffee shop/roaster, Ipsento.8 The Speciality Coffee Shop, a real family affair, run by Michelangelo and Lucy.9 Coffee Lab, Winchester, home of everyone's favourite barista, Dhan, plus some great staff!10 Brixton Blend, newly opened, but with some very wonderful staff.11 Kiosk: Project Space, another new opening, run by the delightful Rebecca and Russ.12
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There are 12 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

A glass Kalita Wave Filter sitting on a glass Kalita carafe which itself is on a pair of black Acaia scales. The ground coffee has been put in the filter paper, ready for brewing.Origin, Charlotte Road

Any of Origin’s three London branches that I visited this year could have made it onto this shortlist. I’ve been consistently struck with the dedication of all the staff across all three branches (and yes, generally speaking, they are a happy bunch). However, Origin’s flagship branch on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch gets the nod. Origin is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.

The Spitfire Espresso logo, as painted on the wall of the shop in Candleriggs.Spitfire Espresso

Glasgow’s Spitfire Espresso, which opened last year, is part of the city’s growing band of speciality coffee shops. The owners, Danny and Emily, are a lovely couple and this shows in the atmosphere that they have created in Spitfire Espresso. The service is excellent and you couldn’t want for a more friendly welcome. Spitfire Espresso is also shortlisted for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

The front of Playground Coffee, with the door to the right, window to the left and with a table and two chairs in front of the windowPlayground Coffee

Bristol’s Playground Coffee is the one speciality coffee shop/games cafe that I know of. Perhaps it’s all those games which make the staff so happy. Whatever the reason, I’m particularly impressed by staff such as Francesca who can remain warm and welcoming when things are going wrong. Playground Coffee is also shortlisted for the Best Cake Award.

A saucer, seen above, with the outline of a cup drawn on the base of the saucer. The words "Coffee Under Pressure" are written around the circumference of the outline. In the centre is a black circle with "C.U.P." written in white in the very centre.

C.U.P.

Reading’s Coffee Under Pressure (or C.U.P.) is hidden away to the north of Reading Minister, but it’s well worth seeking out for the welcoming atmosphere generated by owners, Maria & Nasos. Although C.U.P. has a dedicated band of regulars, the casual visitor such as myself gets a similarly warm welcome. C.U.P. is also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.

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

Lisbon’s speciality coffee scene is a cosmopolitan one, as witnessed by this outpost of Denmark’s Copenhagen Coffee Lab, which imports all its coffee from Copenhagen. The staff are an equally cosmopolitan bunch, hailing from the likes of Northern Germany, Denmark and even Portugal! Copenhagen Coffee Lab is also shortlisted for the Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.

A lovely shot of Red Brick espresso in a classic white cup, pulled by Aurelien at Store Street Espresso in 2 Kingdom StreetStore Street Espresso, Padddington

The latest Store Street Espresso, in the foyer of an office building, is essentially a one-person operation. However, this does stop the barista, Aurelien, from being as friendly and engaging as they come. Store Street Espresso is also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station and Best Espresso Awards.

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

One of things that always impresses me is when the staff take the same pride in a place as the owners, even when the owners are there. Such was the case with Sam and her colleague when I visited Brooklyn Coffee in Shoreditch, which is also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

The silhouette of a coffee cup with a splash of coffee above it with the wording "Ipsento * * 606 * *" below it.Ipsento 606

Ipsento 606 is the second branch of Chicago’s veteran coffee shop/roaster, Ipsento, As I’ve said before, I’m particularly impressed with staff who cope when things aren’t going so well. My server at Ipsento was in her first week and clearly wasn’t having a good day, but was a model of great customer service. Hopefully she’ll have better days too!

Michelangelo, joint-owner of The Speciality Coffee Shop, in the mirror above one of the tables.The Speciality Coffee Shop

Nottingham’s The Speciality Coffee is the brainchild of Michelangelo and Lucy, and is very much a family affair, with Michelangelo making the coffee and Lucy working behind the counter. They’ve even got Lucy’s Grandmother making the cakes! The enthusiasm is infectious and wherever I went in Nottingham, I found that they had generated so much good will. The Speciality Coffee Shop Shop is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.

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

The Coffee Lab was set up by Dhan Tamang, one of the nicest baristas in the UK. He’s also one of the most modest, despite being the reigning, four-time five-time UK latte art champion. Dhan’s infectious enthusiasm has definitely infected his staff, who were wonderful during my visit (Dhan was away in Chichester). The Coffee Lab is also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

The front of Brixton Blend, with the downstairs clearly visible through the glass door and windows.Brixton Blend

Brixton Blend, newly opened opposite Brixton Underground Station, is another example of great staff who take ownership of a coffee shop while the owner is away. Both baristas were excellent, happy to engage and showed a real enthusiasm for the shop. Brixton Blend is also shortlisted for both the Best Takeaway Coffee and Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Awards.

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

Kiosk is the brainchild of Rebecca and Russ and is an amalgam of their interests. Rebecca brings the art/gallery side (although she also makes a mean cup of coffee. Russ, meanwhile, is a talented chef, his creations gracing the menu. Together they have created an incredibly welcoming space that already has a loyal band of followers. Kiosk is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee and Smallest Coffee Spot Awards.

A special mention also needs to go to the following (deep breath…):

Taylor Street Gallery, where I received a warm welcome from Lisa-Laura & her staff
Kaffeine Eastcastle, attention to detail is what keeps the staff happy
Surrey Hills Coffee, the friendliest coffee shop in Guildford?
Sottoscala: Terrone at Pizza Pilgrims, a friendly welcome under the stairs
Origin at the British Library, which could have been one of three Origins on the list
Faculty, the warm welcome alone is worth changing trains at New Street for
Gracenote, Boston, where all seven staff work at the coffee shop & roastery
Blue State Coffee, Thayer Street, friendly, engaged staff in a large, busy coffee shop
Beany Green, Regent’s Place, last year’s winner could just as easily won again this year
Frequency, another coffee shop run by another lovely couple, Justo and Joey
Crosstown Doughnuts, more engaged and friendly staff. And doughnuts.
Urban Larder, a friendly, neighbourhood spot where everyone seems to know everyone
Origin, Euston Road, another one of the Origins which could easily have made the list
Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter, I think I met six of the staff, and they were all great
The LP Café, the sort of place where even the owners hang out on their day off
Idle Hands Pop-up, testiment to the tenancity of owners Dave and Lucy
Ogawa Coffee Boston, blending Japanese & American speciality coffee & service culture

And the winner is The Speciality Coffee Shop
Runners-up: Spitfire Espresso and Coffee Lab Winchester

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


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