Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2017 underway, here are the winners of the fifth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2016. 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’s visited the Coffee Spot, followed me on Twitter, liked my Facebook page, +1ed me on Google+ (not many of you left in that category!) and liked my pictures on Instagram. While I do this for the love of coffee, it means a lot to me that so many of you take the time to read and comment on my writing. Without you, it really would be pointless.
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.
Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot (2015 Winner: Amid Giants & Idols)
Seriously. A speciality coffee shop in a telephone box? Well, yes, seriously. And a very good one at that. Jake makes some excellent coffee and all from the confines of an old red telephone box (plus a table) in Birmingham.
Best Takeaway Coffee (2015 Winner: Notes, Canary Wharf)
Newcastle‘s Hatch Coffee is a counter part to Jake’s Coffee Box, although the space (a disused car park attendant’s hut) is slightly larger. Despite this, the quality of the (takeaway) coffee that Hatch produces is impressive.
Runners-up: Can Do Coffee, Paddington, producing excellent coffee in all weathers on the canal side by Paddington Station and Origin at the British Library, bringing exceptional coffee to the foyer of the British Library.
Coffee Spot with the Best Basement (2015 Winner: Daisy Green)
Not so much the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement as the Coffee Spot in the Best Basement. There’s just a row on tables on the pavement at street level: everything else to do with the Copenhagen Coffee Lab is underground in a wonderful, old basement made up for four inter-linked spaces. It helps that the coffee, all roasted in-house, is every bit as good as the basement.
Runners-up: Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters, refurbished this year with the addition of an awesome basement and Grindsmith Cross Street, the fourth in Manchester‘s Grindsmith chain, but the first with a basement.
Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2015 Winner: G!RO Cycles)
Bristol’s No 12 Easton eschews the “do a few things and do them well” philosophy, and instead does a little bit of everything. And does them with excellence. It’s a coffee shop, café, deli, grocer, off-licence and, perhaps most importantly of all, a community hang-out space.
Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting (2015 Winner: Society Café, The Corridor)
This was a really hard one to judge, with so many great places to choose from. However, Cardiff’s Uncommon Ground, in the beautiful setting of the Royal Arcade, makes best use of its basement-like setting to show off some fantastic lighting. In the end it was the upcycled copper kettles that won it.
Best Filter Coffee (2015 Winner: Saint Espresso)
Hands down the best filter coffee I was served this year was courtesy Rebecca at Kiosk in York. I immediately knew I was in for a treat since it smelled amazing, the first mouthful was outstanding and, as it cooled, it really came into its own. A Panama Geisha from Dark Woods, made with the V60, it was the last of the bag. By such fine threads do Coffee Spot Awards hang.
Runners-up: Faculty, which has served me several outstanding filters this year, and Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter, where I had an amazing Guatemalan through the Seraphim automatic pour-over machine.
Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station (2015 Winner: Electric Coffee Company)
Faculty goes one better in the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award, a reward for consistently excellent coffee and some amazing food from Sixteen Kitchen. Faculty makes changing trains at Birmingham’s New Street Station a pleasure. Indeed, I usually ensure I have at least an hour between trains so that I can either visit Faculty or runners-up, Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters, which is just around the corner! Talk about spoilt for choice.
Best Saturday Supplement (2015 Winner: Cup North)
This was another tough one to judge, with so many worthy contenders. I love the freedom the Satruday Supplement gives me to write about subjects other than coffee shops. This year I decided the winner was Beyond the Bean and it’s Barista Bursary for giving something practical back to the speciality coffee industry and for putting its money where its mouth is. Beyond the Bean unseats reigning Award winner, Cup North, which also won in 2014.
Runners-up: Speciality Coffee in Capsules?, a talk from Maxwell of Colonna Coffee which changed my view of coffee capsules, and the Bonavita Gooseneck Kettle, which changed how I make pour-over coffee.
Best Outdoor Seating (2015 Winner: Farm Girl Café)
For a third year in a row, the Best Outdoor Seating Award goes to a London Coffee Spot (and with two London runners-up as well!). However, Expresso Base was a clear winner, since it’s effectively all outdoor seating, occupying one side of the churchyard at St George’s in Bloomsbury, a beautifully-secluded spot though, set back from the street and with tall buildings on three sides.
Best Espresso (2015 Winner: Flat Caps, Ridley Place)
And this time Coleman Coffee Roasters goes one better by winning the Best Espresso Award. It’s not uncommon for a coffee shop to serve one espresso for milk, with another for black drinks. Here, it’s the same coffee, only pulled differently, using different group heads on his Synesso. They taste so completely different that it’s hard to believe that it’s the same coffee.
Runners-up: Manchester Coffee Festival 2016/Ancoats Coffee Co for a naturally-processed Ethiopian and Expresso Base for another natural Ethiopian. Both were awesome on their own and even better in milk.
Smallest Coffee Spot (2015 Winner: Pavé Coffee)
Birmingham’s Upstairs Coffee was a clear winner, a tiny, beautifully-appointed spot that is, confusingly on the ground floor (but upstairs from a cocktail bar in the basement). There’s enough room for a counter at the back which holds the espresso machine, an a small table with a couple of stools on the left.
The Espresso Library in Cambridge does everything well, but it got the nod for its sticky date and coconut cake. This was nothing short of excellent: sticky, but not too sticky; sweet, but not too sweet, all with a great date/toffee taste, plus a hint of coconut. Like a (cold) sticky toffee pudding, but without the custard.
Best Roaster/Retailer (2015 Winner: Ancoats Coffee Co, Royal Mills)
Already one of my favourite roasters, I was nevertheless impressed when I visited The Roasting Party in Winchester at the seriousness with which it approaches the business of coffee, directly at odds with the party boy image that has been projected over the years. The key message I came away with was one of partnership, and that The Roasting Party’s success lay in the success of the coffee shops it supplied.
Best Overseas Coffee Spot (2015 Winner: Coffee Tasting Flight at Slate)
This year was a great one for the Coffee Spot and travel, with my visiting various countries for the first time. It’s therefore fitting that the overall prize should go to Hong Kong’s outstanding Cupping Room, which is spread over two storeys in Central. It’s not just that the coffee is excellent, as is the food, it’s that the service is just as important, as is attention to detail.
Runners-up: Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Lisbon, a slice of Copenhagen helping to kickstart Lisbon’s speciality coffee scene, and Café Grumpy Chelsea, my first introduction to New York‘s wonderful (and not at all grumpy) Café Grumpy.
Best Physical Space (2015 Winner: Marmadukes Café Deli)
I could have awarded this one many, many times over. However, for a sense of understated elegance, the Best Physical Space Award goes to Liverpool‘s Filter + Fox, with its gloriously high ceiling and amazing windows.
Happiest Staff (2015 Winner: Beany Green, Regent’s Place)
This is perhaps my favourite award and goes to Nottingham newcomers, The Speciality Coffee. The brainchild of Michelangelo and Lucy, it’s 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! However, Michelangelo might just be the happiest barista I have ever met and his enthusiasm and love for coffee is infectious.
Best Breakfast (2015 Winner: Lemana Coffee & Kitchen)
Not only did Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee open a new coffee shop, it inherited the kitchen at Carliol Square, which was immediately put to good use. I had avocado and poached eggs on toast, consisting of two slices of sour-dough toast, each covered with a sliced avocado and drizzled in a sweet, balsamic dressing, with two perfectly-poached eggs perched on top. My only complain was that there was nothing to complain about!
Most Passionate About Coffee (2015 Winner: Coffee Tasting Flight at Slate)
If I was running a “Most Perseverance” Award, Idle Hands would have won that too, given all the set backs Dave and Lucy have faced in 2016. However, without their driving passion for amazing coffee, I’m sure that they would have given up long ago and the new Idle Hands would never have seen the light of day. And we all would have been worse off for that. You’ve probably got about a month of the new pop-up left before Idle Hands moves to its permanent home, so make the most of it!
Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award (2015 Winner: Greenhood Coffee House)
I’ve always had immense respect for Kaffeine and its founder, Peter Dore-Smith. With the second Kaffeine, on Eastcastle, he’s taken things to new heights in his typical, understated way. Sadly, its mostly for things that will never see the light of day (shop design, workflow, staffing, etc), so here’s an Award to say thanks.
Most Popular Coffee Spot (2015 Winner: Made by Knock: Hausgrind and Feldgrind)
The Saturday Supplement on Speciality Coffee in Capsules?, covering Maxwell of Colonna Coffee‘s talk on the subject had a huge impact on me. It seems I wasn’t alone. Over 1,200 of you read it, making it the clear winner this year, with more than twice the views of the two runners-up combined!
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