2017 Awards – Best Espresso

A piccolo with a tulip latte art pattern in a glass on a glass saucer, seen from directly above.We’re halfway through the 2017 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Best Espresso” Award, which was won in 2016 by Coleman Coffee Roasters. When it comes down to it, I still tend to judge a Coffee Spot by the quality of its espresso. Of course, this is entirely subjective and down to taste. I would never knock a place that made a good espresso just because it wasn’t to my taste.

This award is for those Coffee Spots which served me the best and most memorable espressos of the year. I started the Coffee Spot as a confirmed Italian espresso drinker. While I still like something full-bodied and robust, my palette has definitely evolved and expanded over time. This year I had some truly sublime espresso, leading to this being one of the most hotly contested of this year’s Awards.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe, where I had a lovely split shot. So beautifully presented too.
  • Over to Taylor Street Baristas, The Shed, for a naturally-processed Costa Rican espresso.
  • Federation Coffee, and another split shot, this time of the house-blend from Curve.
  • Tincan Coffee Co, North St, where I had a Clifton Coffee Roasters single-origin Ethiopian.
  • Sextant Coffee Roasters and it's lovely Maiden Voyage house espresso.
  • Luckie Beans, Glasgow Queen Street, with the Queen Street espresso blend.
  • Barefoot Coffee Campbell, where I enjoyed the seasonal winter/spring blend, The Boss.
  • Off to 5th Element Coffee for an El Salvador single-origin espresso, the Finca Esparanza.
  • Saint Frank Coffee, with a Guatemalan Las Palomas, good in milk, awesome on its own.
  • Back in London, at Exmouth Market Grind, to try its Peruvian single-origin espresso.
  • Canopy Coffee, for Square Mile’s Mormora single-origin from Ethiopia’s Guji region.
  • Back to America & Panther Coffee to try the East and West Coast blends.
  • Final stop: Tokyo's Nem Coffee & Espresso for a shot of its house-blend from Switch Coffee.
Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe, where I had a lovely split shot. So beautifully presented too.1 Over to Taylor Street Baristas, The Shed, for a naturally-processed Costa Rican espresso.2 Federation Coffee, and another split shot, this time of the house-blend from Curve.3 Tincan Coffee Co, North St, where I had a Clifton Coffee Roasters single-origin Ethiopian.4 Sextant Coffee Roasters and it's lovely Maiden Voyage house espresso.5 Luckie Beans, Glasgow Queen Street, with the Queen Street espresso blend.6 Barefoot Coffee Campbell, where I enjoyed the seasonal winter/spring blend, The Boss.7 Off to 5th Element Coffee for an El Salvador single-origin espresso, the Finca Esparanza. 8 Saint Frank Coffee, with a Guatemalan Las Palomas, good in milk, awesome on its own.9 Back in London, at Exmouth Market Grind, to try its Peruvian single-origin espresso.10 Canopy Coffee, for Square Mile’s Mormora single-origin from Ethiopia’s Guji region. 11 Back to America & Panther Coffee to try the East and West Coast blends.12 Final stop: Tokyo's Nem Coffee & Espresso for a shot of its house-blend from Switch Coffee.13
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There are 13 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

A one and one (otherwise known as a split shot), beautifully presented on a wooden tray with a glass of soda water at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe, Arizona.Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe

Phoenix’s Cartel Coffee Lab has its headquarters and roastery in Tempe (so, technically, not Phoenix). I had a “one-and-one” (split shot), served as a single espresso/piccolo.  Well balanced, with just a hint of bitterness, the espresso went down very smoothly and was even better in milk. Cartel is also shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

The opening times, and a grinning skull, taken from the door of Taylor St Baristas, The Shed.Taylor Street Baristas, The Shed

Tucked away behind a large building in Shoreditch, Taylor Street Baristas, The Shed is where I had a naturally-processed Costa Rican espresso. A lovely, short, fruity shot, while not the most complex coffee I’ve had, I found it beautifully well-rounded and nicely balanced. The Shed has also been shortlisted for this year’s Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

My piccolo in a glass at Federation Coffee, Brixton, part of a split shot using the Curve house blend, Stardust Vol 2.Federation Coffee

Federation Coffee in Brixton Market is a real gem, with a house-blend from Kent-based roasters, Curve. I tried this as a split shot: the espresso was really fruity and well-balanced, becoming a little sharper on the second mouthful, while as a piccolo, the milk and coffee were in perfect harmony. Federation Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station and Best Outdoor Seating Awards.

The Tincan Coffee logo, taken from the brunch menu at the North Street branch in Southville, Bristol.Tincan Coffee Co, North Street

On Bristol’s North Street, this is the first bricks-and-mortar coffee shop for Tincan Coffee Co. There are two options on espresso, a blend and a single-origin, both from the local Clifton Coffee Roasters. I had the single-origin, a well-rounded and very smooth Ethiopian, which was not at all what I was expecting! Tincan Coffee Co has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso Award.

The Sextant Coffee Roasters logo from the sign outside the front of the store on Folsom Street.Sextant Coffee Roasters

Sextant Coffee Roasters is a coffee shop/roaster, roasting on the premises on a vintage cast-iron roaster and specialising in Ethiopian coffees. I had the Maiden Voyage house espresso, a blend of Ethiopian coffees (Sidamo and Yirgacheffe),a fruity coffee which had a pleasant kick in the first sip, after which it was quite smooth. Sextant has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting and Best Physical Space Awards.

Detail from the front of the Luckie Beans coffee cart on the concourse of Glasgow's Queen Street Station.Luckie Beans, Glasgow Queen Street

Located in Glasgow Queen Street station, Luckie Beans runs a blend on the main grinder with a single-origin on the second. I had the Queen Street blend, 50/50 Sumatran/Brazilian beans. It was a lovely, rich, well-balanced espresso. Luckie Beans is shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee and Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station Awards.

A bag of washed Camiseta coffee from Panana, roasted by Barefoot Coffee Roasters and on sale in its Campbell coffee shop.Barefoot Coffee Campbell

Barefoot Coffee Campbell is another coffee shop/roaster, this time near San Jose in California. I had the seasonal winter/spring blend, The Boss, served in a classic white cup. This was quite chocolately on the first sip, but became slightly more acidic after that. A really well-balanced, complex coffee, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Barefoot Coffee has also been shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

An espresso, plus a glass of sparkling water, beautifully presented at 5th Element Coffee in Madison.5th Element Coffee

Staying in America, I had an El Salvador single-origin coffee, the Finca Esparanza. It was really rich and juicy, with an all-round mouthfeel. I also tried it as a cappuccino which was even better, with an amazing, rich, sweet, caramel taste. 5th Element was also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee and Best Cake Awards.

A beautiful espresso with milk, part of a split shot of a single-origin Guatemalan coffee in Saint Frank Coffee, San Francisco.Saint Frank Coffee

Once again, staying in America, I had a split shot of a Guatemalan Las Palomas single-origin at Saint Frank Coffee. It went well in milk, where it was very smooth, coffee and milk complimenting each other perfectly. However, I preferred it on its own, where I found it beautifully well-balanced with a great mouthfeel. I was struck by rich, chocolately notes, particularly on the first sip. Saint Frank is shortlisted for this year’s Best CakeHappiest Staff Awards.

The right-hand side of Exmouth Market Grind, looking out onto Exmouth Market, it's doors flung open in the warm, May weather.Exmouth Market Grind

Back in London, Exmouth Market Grind is one of this year’s new crop of Grind restaurant/coffee shops. I had Grind’s single-origin espresso, a single-origin Peruvian, made by my friend Lizzie. Next we turned to the single-origin espresso, which was from Peru. This was very impressive, a lovely, fruity espresso. Exmouth Market Grind has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Physical Space Award.

A lovely espresso in a classic white cup being enjoyed in the sun at Canopy Coffee, Guildford.Canopy Coffee

My hometown of Guildford now has a multi-roaster coffee shop in the shape of Canopy Coffee where I had Square Mile’s Mormora single-origin from Ethiopia’s Guji region. A complex coffee, it was bright on the first sip, fruity on the second and more rounded on the third. I returned two days later, trying it as a flat white, where it went surprisingly well in milk. Canopy Coffee is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee and Best Cake Awards.

The label on Panther Coffee's West Coast Espresso Blend.Panther Coffee, Wynwood

Miami’s Panther Coffee is another coffee shop/roaster, with two blends, the more conservative East Coast and the more out there West Coast, so I tried them both. The East Coast was very traditional, with a nicely-balanced first sip. The West Coast was more citrus, but still well-balanced. Initially I preferred the East Coast, but as they cooled, the West Coast came into its own, suggesting a deeper complexity. Panther is also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating &  Best Overseas Coffee Spot Awards.

A lovely shot of the house-blend at Nem Espresso & Coffee in Tokyo, served in a classic white cup.Nem Coffee & Espresso

Tokyo’s Nem Coffee & Espresso serves a house-blend from Switch Coffee. It smelled bright and floral in the cup, but was more bitter on the first sip, but not unpleasantly so. The shot was pulled commendably short and had a great mouthful and balance: in summary, excellent! Nem has also been shortlisted for this year’s Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot and Most Passionate About Coffee Awards.


And the winner is Federation Coffee
Runners-up: Canopy Coffee and Luckie Beans, Glasgow Queen Street

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2017.


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