2017 Awards – Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award

The word "Kaffeine" written in a cursive script at an angle of 30 degrees to the horizontalWelcome to the penultimate Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2017, the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award, which was won last year by Kaffeine Eastcastle. This is a special award for those Coffee Spots which don’t quite fit into the other categories, but which nonetheless I absolutely love… It’s also a chance for me to recognise and reward those wonderful Coffee Spots that I come across during the year and which mean something special to me.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Acme Coffee Roasting Company, something special in Seaside, California.
  • Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017, moving season, skipping a year, and doubling in size.
  • Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, a wonderful welcome in Harrogate.
  • Oriberry Coffee, Hang Trong, pioneering farm-to-cup direct trade in Vietnam.
  • The Caffinet, a marriage of western coffee culture and Vietnamese-grown coffee.
  • Tab x Tab, a marriage of design and speciality coffee.
  • Lost Sheep Coffee, far from lost in Canterbury.
  • Hard Lines Coffee, coffee, vinyl and a lot of resilience in Cardiff.
  • Garage Coffee, doing great things in at Fruitworks, Canterbury.
  • Vermillion Cafe, perhaps the perfect setting for a coffee shop.
  • Eden Cafe, a slice of New Zealand in Witney, Oxfordshire.
  • Ezra To Go, taking a very different route to opening a second coffee shop in Manchester.
  • The Corner, paying it forward in coffee shop fashion in Beijing.
  • Lanna Coffee, Yuyuan Road, pioneering farm-to-cup direct trade, this time in China.
  • Forte Espresso Bar, home of the nicest man in speciality coffee?
Acme Coffee Roasting Company, something special in Seaside, California.1 Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017, moving season, skipping a year, and doubling in size.2 Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, a wonderful welcome in Harrogate.3 Oriberry Coffee, Hang Trong, pioneering farm-to-cup direct trade in Vietnam.4 The Caffinet, a marriage of western coffee culture and Vietnamese-grown coffee.5 Tab x Tab, a marriage of design and speciality coffee.6 Lost Sheep Coffee, far from lost in Canterbury.7 Hard Lines Coffee, coffee, vinyl and a lot of resilience in Cardiff.8 Garage Coffee, doing great things in at Fruitworks, Canterbury.9 Vermillion Cafe, perhaps the perfect setting for a coffee shop.10 Eden Cafe, a slice of New Zealand in Witney, Oxfordshire.11 Ezra To Go, taking a very different route to opening a second coffee shop in Manchester.12 The Corner, paying it forward in coffee shop fashion in Beijing.13 Lanna Coffee, Yuyuan Road, pioneering farm-to-cup direct trade, this time in China.14 Forte Espresso Bar, home of the nicest man in speciality coffee?15
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There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

The Acme Coffee Roasting Company logo from the front of its coffee counter in Seaside, CA.Acme Coffee Roasting Company

I really loved the Acme Coffee Roasting Company which has already been shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot and Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Awards. It had an impact on me out of all proportion to anything I was expecting as I drove up the Californian coast. It’s to reward exactly this je ne sais quoi that I established the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.

The Glasgow Coffee Festival LogoGlasgow Coffee Festival 2017

To skip a year, move your festival from its autumn slot to the spring and then to have to confidence to expand it from one day to two. That all takes a lot confidence. The Glasgow Coffee Festival is also on the Best Saturday Supplement shortlist.

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

There’s a real neighbourhood feel to Harrogate’s Westmoreland Speciality Coffee (hence the place on the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award shortlist). The staff are also very welcoming and friendly (hence the place on the Happiest Staff Award shortlist). However, there’s something else about Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, which has seen it outgrow the tiny shop where it started and move down the street to its current spot on the corner.

A beautiful vase from Oriberry Coffee in Hanoi.Oriberry Coffee, Hàng Trống

Direct trade is at the heart of speciality coffee and nowhere I’ve visited in my five years of writing the Coffee Spot has epitomised this more than Vietnam’s Oriberry Coffee. Serving coffee grown, processed and roasted in the country, this is from farm to cup at its best. Oriberry Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

A traditional cup-top filter at The Caffinet in Hanoi.The Caffinet

A second entry from Vietnam, The Caffinet has taken a slightly different route than Oriberry Coffee albeit to the same end. The Caffinet opened in 2016 with the aim of serving Vietnamese-grown coffee and tea with a distinctly western-style. It does this using coffee from La Viet, a coffee shop/ roaster in the Dalat coffee-growing region of Vietnam, and, tea from Long Dinh, which comes from Vietnam’s Lam Dong tea-growing province.

A flat white served in a handmade pottery cup, made with a single-origin Brazilian roasted by Bocca and served in Tab x Tab in London, pulled on a Mavam espresso machine, made in Seattle.Tab x Tab

What impressed me the most about Tab x Tab, which opened at the end of July on Westbourne Grove, not far from Paddington Station, is the marriage of design with great coffee. It was particularly struck by the irregular lines of the beautiful, handleless pottery cup my coffee was served in, one of the many examples of the design/ coffee cross-over. Tab x Tab is also shortlisted for this year’s Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

Detail from the back of the Lost Sheep Coffee Pod in Saint George's Lane, Canterbury.Lost Sheep Coffee

There are many admirable features of Lost Sheep Coffee which, since I visited, has installed a new pod, started roasting its own coffee and has opened a new coffee shop. Maybe I should visit more often…

Lost Sheep Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee and Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Awards.

Details from a sign outside the Castle Emporium in Cardiff, home of Outpost Coffee & VinylHard Lines Coffee

On a trip to Cardiff a few years ago, I visited the Castle Emporium, a hub of independent one-off shops and businesses. I distinctly remember thinking that it needed a speciality coffee shop. Step forward Hard Lines Coffee, mixing coffee and vinyl. During an interesting 2017 Hard Lines overcame the challenge of having to re-brand itself and ended the year with the opening of a second shop!

The Garage Coffee logo from the cafe inside the Fruitworks Coworking space in Canterbury.Garage Coffee

Back to Canterbury and Garage Coffee which has gone from being a small roaster housed in a shipping container (it was meant to be a garage and besides, “Shipping Container Coffee” doesn’t have the same ring) to being invited to provide the in-house coffee at Fruitworks Coworking. Impressive. Garage Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.

A lovely espresso at Vermillion Cafe in Kyoto, made using its bespoke house-blend and served in a classic cup.Vermillion Café

I don’t have a “Favourite Place Ever for a Coffee Spot” Award, so I guess the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award will have to do instead. I’m not sure I can even imagine a better setting than the one enjoyed by Kyoto’s Vermillion Café at the foot of Mount Inariyama. Vermillion Café has also been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Awards.

"Welcome Home" says the sign on the wall of Eden Cafe in Witney, next to a stylised map of New Zealand.Eden Café

There is something very special about this small slice or New Zealand in Witney, from the excellent Allpress Coffee to the gluten-free vegetarian/vegan menu. However, I think it’s the quirky, triangular shape that won me over (I’m not even sure how you’d build a place like that, let alone turn it into a coffee shop).

The Ezra & Gill logo etched in wood from the wall of Ezra To Go on Tib Street.Ezra To Go

Ezra To Go is the little sibling of Manchester’s Ezra & Gil but it’s far from a carbon copy of an Ezra & Gil Mk II. It started life as a design store, doing coffee at the back, but the coffee proved so successful that it took over the next door space and now it’s design store in on one side, coffee shop & kitchen on the other. Ezra To Go has also been shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

The somewhat discretely-located sign outside of Beijing's The Corner.The Corner

I only found The Corner, in Beijing, because the barista in The Soloist told me about Metal Hands and the barista there told me about The Corner, a coffee shop in a car repair workshop (although it’s a lot nicer than it sounds!). So it seems to go in Beijing where speciality coffee still largely flies under the radar. The Corner was also shortlisted for the Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.

The Lanna Coffee logo, in blue, on the wooden wall of the original Lanna Coffee Shop on Yuyuan Road.Lanna Coffee, Yuyuan Road

Like Vietnam’s Oriberry CoffeeLanna Coffee champions farm-to-cup direct trade, this time using coffee grown in China’s southern Yunnan province. The coffee is roasted there and then shipped up to Lanna Coffee’s two Shanghai coffee shops (as an aside, I only discovered Lanna because The Corner in Beijing told me about it). Lanna Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

A cortado, made with Square Mile's Sweet Shop Blend at Forté Espresso Bar in Manchester.Forte Espresso Bar

Technically I didn’t write about Manchester‘s Forte Espresso Bar, updating the post I did about it in 2015 when it was Pavé Coffee. Otherwise it might have won the Smallest Coffee Spot and/or Happiest Staff Awards. On the other hand, Forte, and the lovely Dan who works there, is so wonderful that I couldn’t not mention it. So I’ve bent my own rules to sneak it onto this shortlist. Happy New Year, everyone.


And the winner is Forte Espresso Bar
Runners-up: Hard Lines Coffee and Eden Café

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


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