Coffee Spot Awards 2017: Winners

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2018 underway, here are the winners of the sixth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2017. 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 and looked at 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.

  • Lost Sheep Coffee, the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot.
  • Lever & Bloom, serving up this year's Best Takeaway Coffee.
  • Laynes Espresso, winnner of the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
  • The Moon & Sixpence, the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot.
  • London Grind, the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting.
  • Cafe Integral, Chicago, serving this year's Best Filter Coffee.
  • Craft Coffee, King's Cross, the Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station.
  • Goodbye Ridley Place, my ode to the original Flat Caps Coffee, Best Saturday Supplement.
  • St Martin's, winner of the Best Outdoor Seating Award.
  • Federation Coffee, serving up this year's Best Espresso.
  • Root & Branch, 2017's Smallest Coffee Spot.
  • Coffee Lab, Salisbury, where I had 2017's Best Cake.
  • Carvetii Coffee Roasters, winner of the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.
  • Panther Coffee, Wynwood, in Miami, this year's Best Overseas Coffee Spot.
  • Society Cafe, Bristol, winner of the Best Physical Space Award.
  • Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, the Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff.
  • Homeground Coffee + Kitchen, who provided me with 2017's Best Breakfast.
  • Coffee + Beer, Most Passionate About Coffee.
  • Forte Espresso Bar, winner of the Brian's Coffee Spot Special Award.
  • Made by Knock: Aergrind, 2017's Most Popular Coffee Spot.
Lost Sheep Coffee, the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot.1 Lever & Bloom, serving up this year's Best Takeaway Coffee.2 Laynes Espresso, winnner of the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.3 The Moon & Sixpence, the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot.4 London Grind, the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting.5 Cafe Integral, Chicago, serving this year's Best Filter Coffee.6 Craft Coffee, King's Cross, the Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station.7 Goodbye Ridley Place, my ode to the original Flat Caps Coffee, Best Saturday Supplement.8 St Martin's, winner of the Best Outdoor Seating Award.9 Federation Coffee, serving up this year's Best Espresso.10 Root & Branch, 2017's Smallest Coffee Spot.11 Coffee Lab, Salisbury, where I had 2017's Best Cake.12 Carvetii Coffee Roasters, winner of the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.13 Panther Coffee, Wynwood, in Miami, this year's Best Overseas Coffee Spot.14 Society Cafe, Bristol, winner of the Best Physical Space Award.15 Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, the Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff.16 Homeground Coffee + Kitchen, who provided me with 2017's Best Breakfast.17 Coffee + Beer, Most Passionate About Coffee.18 Forte Espresso Bar, winner of the Brian's Coffee Spot Special Award.19 Made by Knock: Aergrind, 2017's Most Popular Coffee Spot.20
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So, without further ado, let’s see who won.

Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: Jake’s Coffee Box)

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

A wonderful coffee pod down by the bus station in Canterbury, now bigger and better than ever and since my visit, serving coffee roasted in-house, so I’m out-of-date already… Well, I guess I’ll just to go back. On a slightly more serious note, Lost Sheep Coffee was shortlisted for three awards, could have been shortlisted for a lot more and is a very worthy winner.

Runners-up: Nem Coffee & Espresso, excellent coffee in a residential alley in Tokyo, and Acme Coffee Roasting Company, hidden in a parking lot in Seaside, California.

Best Takeaway Coffee (2016 Winner: Hatch Coffee)

My flat white in my Ecoffee Cup on a lovely patterned tile at Lever & Bloom.Lever & Bloom

Making coffee outdoors in all weather’s takes particular skill, amply demonstrated by Mounir of Lever & Bloom, which has been serving  Climpson and Sons’ Baron espresso blend from a lovely lever espresso machine inside a red miniature four-wheeled box van. On the corner of Byng Place in Bloomsbury, London, it has the magnificent Church of Christ the King as its backdrop.

Runners-up: Flat Cap Victoria, stalwarts of London’s speciality coffee scene in Strutton Ground Market, and Idle Hands @ Grub, back making excellent coffee, if only briefly, at Grub.

Coffee Spot with the Best Basement (2016 Winner: Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Copenhagen)

The original facade of Laynes Espresso on New Station Street, Leeds, before its expansion.Laynes Espresso

Once-upon-a-time, Laynes Espresso in Leeds had a small, cosy basement (to go with a small, cosy upstairs). Then it took over the space next door, knock through the walls up and down and suddenly the basement was three times the size. And probably at least three times nicer.

 

Runners-up: Primal Roast, not one, but two basements in Glasgow, and Nkora, another in the small, cosy basement category, this time in Shoreditch.

Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: No 12 Easton)

A lovely Kokoa Collection hot chocolate served in a distinctive mug at The Moon & Sixpence in Cockermouth.The Moon & Sixpence

The Moon & Sixpence, in Cockermouth, exudes a sense of community. The regulars there are more like friends of the owner, Stephen, than they are customers.It helps that the coffee is excellent as are the cakes, but more than anything, it’s a wonderful place just to sit and be.

Runners-up: The Cran’, an eclectic space in Glasgow‘s West End and Stir, a real community hub in Cambridge just north of the city centre.

Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting (2016 Winner: Uncommon Ground Coffee Roastery)

The London Grind logo, taken from the wall outside.London Grind

The Grind chain of coffee shops and restaurants has long had a reputation for innovative lighting, none more so than London Grind. The usual neon sign is there (“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”) but I was won over by the long strip lights with light-bulbs instead of fluorescent tubes.

 

Runners-up: Town Square, with its magnificent centre-piece over the communal table, and Sextant Coffee Roasters, just a gorgeous spot in San Francisco.

Best Filter Coffee (2016 Winner: Kiosk: Project Space)

A cup of the Casablanca single-origin Nicaraguan by Cafe Integral, made with the Modbar pour-over module using a Chemex.Café Integral, Chicago

This year I was blessed with some truly stunning filter coffee, but Café Integral was a worthy winner for its Nicaraguan Casablanca. I was won over by the wonderfully heady aroma, making it one of the best-smelling filter coffees I’ve had, while the first sip was amazing: I now know what people mean when they say that a coffee is “bursting with fruit”. In many ways, the coffee got even fruitier/juicier as it cooled and was just as good when it was cold.

Runners-up: Little Bean Roastery for an awesome, naturally-processed Ethiopian Burtukaana, and La Colombe, Wicker Park, with its Myanmar single-origin.

Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station (2016 Winner: Faculty)

Some beautiful latte art by Craft Coffee at King's Cross in my Therma Cup.Craft Coffee, King’s Cross

If you are travelling via King’s Cross any time before about 2 o’clock, allow yourself an extra 10 minutes to call into Craft Coffee. Really, it is that good. Occupying the spot where Noble Espresso once stood, Craft Coffee has more than maintained standards!

 

Runners-up: Laynes Espresso, my go-to spot whenever I’m in Leeds station, and Luckie Beans, not so much near a station as in one, on the concourse of Glasgow Queen Street.

Best Saturday Supplement (2016 Winner: Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary)

The Flat Caps Coffee logo, taken from a bag of coffee roasted to mark Flat Caps' successful Kickstarter.Goodbye Ridley Place

I love the freedom that the Saturday Supplement gives me to write about subjects other than coffee shops. So it’s a little ironic that for this year’s winner, I wrote about a coffee shop, saying goodbye to the original Flat Caps Coffee at Ridley Place in Newcastle. Part love-letter, part explanation of what makes a good coffee shop, credit really goes to Flat Caps itself.

Runners-up: Made by Hand Coffee Pop-up, UniQlo, another Saturday Supplement about a coffee shop! and Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017, fast becoming my favourite festival.

Best Outdoor Seating (2016 Winner: Expresso Base)

A lovely flat white made with the Friday Street Blend at St Martin's in Leicester.St Martin’s

Breaking a run of three years where the winner has come from London, this year’s Best Outdoor Seating Award is off to Leicester and St Martin’s, tucked away down an alley in the pedestrianised precinct of the same name. It has two outdoor seating areas, two pairs of picnic tables flanked the doors and sheltered under a large awning, and a larger, exposed collection of tables at the far end of the building.

Runners-up: Vermillion Café, with its amazing back terrace overlooking a pond, and Little Victories, more excellent outdoor seating in a pedestrianised setting in Bristol.

Best Espresso (2016 Winner: Coleman Coffee Roasters)

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

I had some pretty amazing espresso this year and also, thanks to my Sage Barista Express, revitalised my home-espresso making. For me, the standout espresso of the year was Curve Coffee Roasters‘ Stardust Volume 2 seasonal blend. This was really fruity and well-balanced, becoming a little sharper on the second mouthful. I even got it to work well at home!

Runners-up: Canopy Coffee, who served me Square Mile’s Mormora single-origin from Ethiopia’s Guji region, and Luckie Beans with its Queen Street blend.

Smallest Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: Upstairs Coffee)

The Root & Branch sign, pointing the way to good coffee on Belfast's Jameson Street.Root & Branch

This is one of my favourite awards and this year the deserved winner was Belfast’s Root & Branch which consists of a small courtyard, a small, standing-room only counter area (which includes space for the 6 kg Geisen roaster, an espresso machine and a pour-over area!) and a small upstairs training lab/seating area.

 

Runners-up: Stanley & Ramona, a delightful spot in York with equally delightful owners, and Balance in Brixton, so small that it’s standing room only.

Best Cake (2016 Winner: The Espresso Library)

The new Coffee Lab logo, taken from the counter in the Salisbury branch.Coffee Lab, Salisbury

The rapidly growing Coffee Lab chain does a few things, and it does them extremely well. The Salisbury branch served me an awesome cinnamon bun, which, at the barista’s instance, I had warm (important lesson: never argue with your barista). Not too sticky, not too sickly, and with a rich bread dough, it was absolutely perfect, my enjoyment of it enhanced by it being served warm.

Runners-up: The Moon & Sixpence, with its vegan spicy marmalade and orange cake, and North Star Coffee Shop for the awesome apple and oat crumble.

Best Roaster/Retailer (2016 Winner: The Roasting Party)

The Carvetii Coffee Roasters' logo, with the slogan "Cumbria's Coffee Roasters".Carvetii Coffee Roasters

Being a great roaster isn’t just about turning out excellent coffee. It’s also about building and sustaining a market, supporting your customers and improving everything you do each year. For this and a whole lot more, I’m very happy that this year’s Best Roaster/Retailer Award goes to Gareth and Angharad of Carvetii Coffee Roasters in the Lake District.

Runners-up: Hot Numbers, Trumpington Street, doing similar things in Cambridge and running a coffee shop at the same time, and Lufkin Coffee, happy roasting just what it needs in its amazing coffee shop in Cardiff.

Best Overseas Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: The Cupping Room Central)

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

This year, more than any other, I’ve been travelling, notching up trips to Japan, Vietnam, China, Ireland and the USA (four times!). I could have awarded this many times over, but in the end, I kept coming back to Panther Coffee‘s Wynwood store in Miami. I can honestly say that Miami was just going to be a business trip, but I was so impressed with Panther that it’s changed my whole perception of the city and I’m really looking forward to going back in January.

Runners-up: Little Bean Roastery, a slice of coffee heaven in Pudong, Shanghai, and Kaido Books & Coffee, one of many gems I found in Tokyo.

Best Physical Space (2016 Winner: Filter + Fox)

The main entrance to Society Cafe in Bristol, a pair of glass double-doors opening out onto Farr's Lane, with the counter directly ahead.Society Café, Bristol

Society Café is getting itself an enviable reputation for producing excellent, elegant coffee shops. Its new branch in Bristol is no exception, occupying three distinct, interconnected spaces down by the docks. Each space has its own character, plus there’s outside seating. My personal favourite is off to the left of the counter, but there’s something for everyone there.

Runners-up: Small St Espresso, still small, still beautiful and still going strong, and Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Café & Store, bringing a touch of elegance to Witney.

Happiest Staff (2016 Winner: The Speciality Coffee Shop)

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

Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, a little off the beaten track in Harrogate, could have easily won the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award, but I went with the Happiest Staff Award instead. Westmoreland is one of those places where you go in to see the staff (in particular owner, Jamie) as much as to drink the coffee. It helps, of course, that Westmoreland is a lovely spot to sit and drink your coffee and that the coffee’s so good!

Runners-up: Stanley & Ramona and The Gentlemen Baristas, Union Street

Best Breakfast (2016 Winner: Flat Caps Carliol Square)

Some lovely latte art in my flat white at Homeground Coffee + Kitchen, made with the seasonal espresso blend from Carvetii.Homeground Coffee + Kitchen

This was a year of the breakfast, with me doing more travelling than ever before. Ironic then that the winners and both runners up are from the UK…  Homeground Coffee + Kitchen was so good that I came back the following day (which involved an hour’s detour) to have breakfast again, enjoying sourdough toast and poached eggs followed by the Huevos Rancheros.

Runners-up: Laynes Espresso in Leeds, for the awesome Laynes Breakfast, and Brew Coffee Co in Bristol for more breakfasts than I care to remember.

Most Passionate About Coffee (2016 Winner: Idle Hands Pop-up)

The reflection of the skylight in the ceiling above, captured in my coffee at the back of Coffee + Beer in Bristol.Coffee + Beer

There are two basic responses to seeing something missing in life. One is to complain, the other is to do something about it. Dan, the owner of Coffee + Beer in Bristol took the latter approach and thus Coffee + Beer was born, mixing speciality coffee with craft beer (off sales only). On the coffee side, there’s a range of beans for sale, all of which you can try as a pour-over.

Runners-up: Little Victories, refusing to play it safe when opening a second store, and Go Get Em Tiger, passion and commitment on display in Los Angeles.

Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award (2016 Winner: Kaffeine Eastcastle)

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

I may have bent the rules a little to include Forte Espresso Bar in the shortlist, but what’s the point of running your own coffee blog (it’s called Brian’s Coffee Spot for a reason) if you can’t? The return of the lovely Dan to his rightful place behind the espresso machine (after time off for a new baby) had to be marked somehow, so here it is: the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.

Runners-up: Hard Lines Coffee in Cardiff, overcoming adversity to thrive, and Eden Café, a slice of New Zealand in Witney.

Most Popular Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: Speciality Coffee in Capsules?)

The new Aergrind from Knock, with its top off and loaded with beans.Made by Knock: Aergrind

This was the year you all decided you wanted to read about coffee equipment, not coffee shops. A clear winner, this year over 2,100 people read my Saturday Supplement on Knock’s new Aergrind hand grinder. This emulates Knock’s success in 2005 when over 1,000 people read my Saturday Supplement on the Hausgrind and Feldgrind grinders.

Runners-up: Coffee Spot Guide to Reusable Cups, with over 1,750 views (although if you include all related pieces on reusable cups, this swells to over 5,000!) and Sage Barista Express, with over 1,450 of you reading about my adventures with my new espresso machine.


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