2017 Awards – Happiest Staff

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

  • The Gentlemen Baristas on Union Street, a cheerful bunch if ever there was one.
  • Go Get Em Tiger, dedication on display on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.
  • Now sadly closed, I used to love popping into Silhouette Cheapside to chat with Lee.
  • George Howell, Godfrey Hotel, where communication with the customer is king.
  • Stanley & Ramona, run by Lee & Lucy, who are excellent company.
  • Flat Cap Victoria, making great coffee with good cheer in all weathers.
  • Baltzersens, the first of four entries on the shortlist from Harrogate.
  • The Steamie, a friendly welcome in Glasgow's West End.
  • Sarutahiko Coffee Omotesandō where the staff went above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Hoxton North, the second entry from Harrogate. There must be something in the water.
  • Staying in Harrogate, here's Westmoreland Speciality Coffee.
  • For the Good of the People Coffee, featuring one of my favourite baristas, Claire.
  • Buzz Killer Espresso, another coffee shop with happy, friendly staff.
  • LMDC Espresso Bar, Harrogate's fourth and final entry on the shortlist.
  • Saint Frank Coffee has all the shiny kit, but it's the staff that really make the place.
The Gentlemen Baristas on Union Street, a cheerful bunch if ever there was one.1 Go Get Em Tiger, dedication on display on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.2 Now sadly closed, I used to love popping into Silhouette Cheapside to chat with Lee.3 George Howell, Godfrey Hotel, where communication with the customer is king.4 Stanley & Ramona, run by Lee & Lucy, who are excellent company.5 Flat Cap Victoria, making great coffee with good cheer in all weathers.6 Baltzersens, the first of four entries on the shortlist from Harrogate.7 The Steamie, a friendly welcome in Glasgow's West End.8 Sarutahiko Coffee Omotesandō where the staff went above and beyond the call of duty.9 Hoxton North, the second entry from Harrogate. There must be something in the water.10 Staying in Harrogate, here's Westmoreland Speciality Coffee.11 For the Good of the People Coffee, featuring one of my favourite baristas, Claire.12 Buzz Killer Espresso, another coffee shop with happy, friendly staff.13 LMDC Espresso Bar, Harrogate's fourth and final entry on the shortlist.14 Saint Frank Coffee has all the shiny kit, but it's the staff that really make the place.15
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There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

Detail taken from The Gentlemen Baristas logo drawn on the wall upstairs at Union Street.The Gentlemen Baristas, Union Street

The Gentlemen Baristas projects a certain jolly image and this seems to have rubbed off on the staff, who are some the most cheerful I’ve known. The Gentlemen Baristas has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Physical Space Award.

A classic cappuccino in a non-classic glass, along with two samples of filter coffee from Go Get Em Tiger on Hollywood Boulevard, LA.Go Get Em Tiger

Down on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, the staff at Go Get Em Tiger are exceptional. I was impressed with the professionalism and level of commitment, plus the amount of time they took when busy to answer all my annoying questions (and this was before I’d said who I was). Go Get Em Tiger has been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Most Passionate About Coffee Awards.

From the sign outside Silhouette on Cheapside.Silhouette Cheapside

Going to Silhouette on Cheapside (and the original in Hackney) to see Lee was always one of the highlights of any coffee trip to London (it was Lee who convinced me to visit Los Angeles instead of driving past it and recommended Go Get Em Tiger). It’s such a shame that Silhouette has closed and I wish Lee (and Syirin) all the best in their future endeavours. Silhouette is on the Best Cake shortlist.

Detail from the wall of the George Howell Coffee Shop in the Godfrey Hotel in BostonGeorge Howell, Godfrey Hotel

George Howell is about more than selling coffee. The Exploratorium, in the Godfrey Hotel is a good example, with talks, cuppings & masterclasses, all open to the public. Otherwise, it’s the retail section, where you can chat with the knowledgeable staff. George Howell is on the Best Cake shortlist.

My flat white at Stanley & Ramona, in a blue cup on a yellow table, with the latte art surviving to the bottom of the cup.Stanley & Ramona

Stanley & Ramona is run by a lovely couple, disappointingly called Lee and Lucy, although they do redeem themselves by having alliterative names. A small cosy, spot, you’re almost obliged to talk with Lee & Lucy, so it’s just as well that they are excellent company. Stanley & Ramona is also on this year’s shortlists for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Smallest Coffee Spot Awards

A lovely flat white at Flat Cap Victoria in my Therma Cup, made with a single-origin Brazilian coffee, roasted by Notes.Flat Cap Victoria

Making coffee in all weathers when you’re outside takes a certain something. Doing so and remaining cheerful throughout it all is something else. I was therefore very impressed with Charlie and Harry at Flat Cap Victoria who are two of the most likeable people you’ll meet in coffee. Flat Cap Victoria is also shortlisted for this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

A shot of the guest espresso at Baltzersens in Harrogate, served in a handleless cup.Baltzersens

There must be something in the water in Harrogate since this is the first of four entries from Harrogate on the shortlist this year. The staff at Baltzersens struck me with their cheerful efficiency, particularly given how busy they were. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for them. Baltzersens has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Breakfast Award.

Detail from the A-board outside The Steamie on Glasgow's Argyle Street on a sunny day in May. Reads: "The Steamie Coffee Co. Estd. 2014"The Steamie

The Steamie is on the eastern edge of Glasgow’s West End in Finniestan, a lovely little spot serving excellent coffee and food. I’d run into the owner, Stephen, before, but turned up unannounced like I always do to find that Stephen wasn’t there. Instead, I was well looked after by my barista, Amy, had no idea who I was until I introduced myself at the end. The Steamie has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Breakfast Award.

The Sarutahiko Coffee logo from the front of one of its bags of coffee.Sarutahiko Coffee Omotesandō

I’m always embarrassed when I can’t speak the language of the country I’m in (ie most of the time) and so I’m always grateful when staff take the time and effort to communicate clearly with me, particularly when they don’t speak any English. The staff at Sarutahiko Coffee in Omotesandō, Tokyo went above and beyond the call of duty in making me feel welcome

A lovely piccolo, made with Origin’s seasonal Resolute blend, and served in a glass at Hoxton North, Royal Parade, Harrogate.Hoxton North, Royal Parade

Flying the flag for Harrogate is its second entry, Hoxton North. A lovely spot, the staff were very friendly and helpful, happy to go that extra mile, even when I turned up not long before closing time. Twice.

Hoxton North has also been shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

The front door of Westmoreland Coffee on the corner of Westmoreland Road in Harrogate.Westmoreland Speciality Coffee

Staying in Harrogate, Westmoreland Speciality Coffee is one of those places where you go in to see the staff (in particular owner, Jamie) as much as to drink the coffee. When I was there, he was having an animated conversation with a regular about Wales’ chances in the upcoming Six Nations rugby championship. Westmoreland Speciality Coffee has  also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Awards.

A shot of espresso from For the Good of the People at the Southbank Centre Food Market in my Kaffeeform cupFor the Good of the People Coffee

For the Good of the People Coffee features Claire, one of my favourite baristas, who I’ve known ever since she worked the Bean About Town coffee van, For the Good of the People Coffee’s predecessor on the South Bank. For the Good of the People Coffee is also shortlisted for this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee and Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station Awards.

The reflection of a light-bulb in my cup of coffee at Buzz Killer Espresso, Chicago.Buzz Killer Espresso

The staff at Buzz Killer Espresso, Logan and Madison, were exceptionally friendly, and seemed to be very happy in their jobs, which creates such a great atmosphere in a coffee shop. I was also fortunate to meet Tim, who for the last two years has been roasting Buzz Killer’s coffee. Sadly Buzz Killer has left its long-time home on Damen Avenue (which I visited) to move further up Milwaukee Avenue to Logan Square.

A lovely flat white with some impressive latte art in a classic blue cup from LMDC Espresso Bar in Harrogate.LMDC Espresso Bar

The fourth and final appearance of Harrogate on this shortlist, LMDC Espresso Bar is run by owner, Leslie, and Head Barista, Elliott, two very lovely, friendly and welcoming people. They’ve fostered a great atmosphere, which has helped LMDC Espresso Bar to gain a place on the shortlist for this year’s Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.

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

San Francisco’s Saint Frank Coffee is a coffee shop/roaster with a fancy, bespoke espresso machine and automated SP9 pour-over makers. However, it’s staff that make a coffee shop and Lauren, my barista, was one of the best, happy to talk me through all the options (she recommend a split shot because I couldn’t make my mind up). Saint Frank Coffee is also shortlisted for the Best Cake and Best Espresso Awards.


And the winner is Westmoreland Speciality Coffee
Runners-up: Stanley & Ramona and The Gentlemen Baristas, Union Street

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


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