Next up today, the 2017 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Physical Space”, which was won last year by Filter + Fox. One of the most important things for me is how a Coffee Spot looks and feels. This, to me, is just as important as the coffee.
This award celebrates those Coffee Spots in which there’s a pure joy in just sitting there, soaking it all in. It’s not just about physical beauty and elegance. Instead, it’s as much about atmosphere, layout and overall feel. It’s another where I could have made two or three different shortlists, all of whom would be worthy winners. However, I have managed to whittle it down to just a single list for this year’s Award, although I broke my own rules and included 16 Coffee Spots this time around.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 16 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
There are many fine things about the original Gentlemen Baristas on Union Street, south of the Thames. Perhaps its best feature is the space itself, from the cosy back room to the wonderful upstairs space. The Gentlemen Baristas has also been shortlisted for this year’s Happiest Staff Award.
I was definitely in coffee shop heaven in San Francisco with the likes of Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery with its old industrial feel, soaring ceilings and cast iron roaster down on the shop floor. There’s even a mezzanine! Sightglass was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Roaster/Retailer Award.
Bristol’s Small St Espresso has been a perennial favourite of mine since I first visited in 2013. It’s a beautiful, compact space that has been slowly and steady expanded over the years without losing any of its wonderful character. Oh, and the colour of that espresso machine… Small St Espresso was also shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.
Back in San Francisco and I was totally bowled over by the exposed brick and old industrial look of Sextant Coffee Roasters. Maybe it was the low winter sunlight that flooded the place, but whatever it was, Sextant is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve visited this year. Sextant Coffee Roasters was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso and Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.
Long, thin and eclectically decorated, it was love at first sight when I visit The Cran’ in Glasgow. High ceilings, an open, uncluttered layout and multiple windows along the front all combine to give The Cran’ a wonderful sense of space. The Cran’ was also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot & Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Awards.
Tucked away on the top floor of an old building overlooking the main street of Đồng Khởi, The Workshop Coffee is a glorious place, open to the roof, which soars high above and with windows on three of the four sides. The building’s old, but inside it’s very modern, with a post-industrial look and feel, full of exposed brick, concrete floors & iron window-frames. Also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee & Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Awards.
The layout of Belfast’s Established Coffee is an object lesson of making the best of the space you have, with a clear separation between the counter and the seating, with plenty of space to move freely about between the two. I wish all coffee shops could be this well thought out. Established Coffee has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Breakfast Award.
200 Degrees has a reputation for designing beautiful coffee shops and the Leicester branch is no exception. All the usual features are there, but this one stands out due to the amazing rear of the store, where it opens out, soaring up to the skylight, from which two massive lights are suspended. 200 Degrees, Leicester was also shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.
I am a sucker for island counters and Exmouth Market Grind has a lovely example, with coffee on one side and alcohol on the other. The rest of the store has the usual elegance one associates with Grind, with a particularly nice area at the back, plus there are tables outside spilling out across the pavement. Exmouth Market Grind was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso Award.
Tucked away in a residential part of Cardiff, Lufkin Coffee was another example of love at first sight, whether it was the neat counter area with the roaster, or the sunlit room off to one side. Lufkin Coffee was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.
While I have a soft spot for small Coffee Spots, I also have an appreciation for large ones. Garage Coffee in Canterbury occupies the ground floor of Fruitworks Coworking, occupying multiple, connected spaces, each with its own character. Whether you want a cosy spot, a large table to spread out to work at or something in between, Garage Coffee has a space for you. It’s also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.
From its origins on Kingsmead Square in Bath, Society Café has always occupied elegant places and its new branch in Bristol is no exception. Occupying three distinct, interconnected spaces down by the docks, each has its own character, plus there’s outside seating. My personal favourite is the space off to the left of the counter, but there’s something for everyone there.
The Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Café & Store in Witney could have been designed with me in mind, given its exposed brick and wood. Sit at the window if you want some sun, at the back if you want a table or, best of all, at the counter, watching the coffee being made. Ue Coffee was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Filter Coffee Award.
Manchester’s Northern Quarter isn’t short of excellent coffee shops, but Foundation Coffee House is easily the biggest of them all. Located on the ground floor of the magnificent Sevendale House, a brick-built edifice taking up the entire block, clever use of partitions break up what could be a very large, austere coffee shop into multiple, connected spaces.
Beijing’s Soloist Coffee Co. is another love at first sight story, particularly with the winter sun streaming in through the windows. It’s also another that could have been designed with me in mind, and while I loved the exposed brick and wood downstairs, the upstairs probably just edged it, particularly with the wonderful balcony out front and its views over the street below.
The second Kapow Coffee in Leeds, it benefits from the setting of the awesome Thornton’s Arcade, but it’s also a wonderful space in itself, spread over three floors. I really enjoyed sitting downstairs by the counter, but each of the other two floors has something to offer, and each has a very different character.
A special mention also needs to go to the following:
Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe: more multiple, connected spaces, this time in Arizona
London Grind: another elegant offering from Grind
Allpress Dalston: more old industrial architecture and more multiple spaces in Dalston
Coffeewerk + Press: another lovely spot spread over many floors in Galway
Four Barrel Coffee, Valencia: San Francisco brick and cast iron strikes again!
La Colombe, Wicker Park: an almost island counter in Chicago
St Martin’s: a glorious space spread over two floors in Leicester
Saint Frank Coffee: more from San Francisco and another mezzanine
Seesaw 433: that courtyard! There’s a pretty nifty interior too
Root & Branch: challenging Small St Espresso in the “small is beautiful” stakes
Canopy Coffee: kudos for even fitting a coffee shop into that space!
Porter: a coffee shop in a disused railway station. I was sold.
Vermillion Café: perhaps the most perfect setting for any coffee shop anywhere
Nem Coffee & Espresso: elegant Japanese design at its best
200 Degrees, Cardiff: more elegance from 200 Degrees
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2017.
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