The first shortlist for the 2016 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot” Award, won in 2015 by Amid Giants & Idols. Finding Coffee Spots in cities such as New York, Edinburgh or Manchester is to be expected. However, good Coffee Spots are everywhere, some of them are in very unexpected places, both geographically and in terms of setting.
This Award is very much defined by the nominees on the shortlist. Some of these are geographical, a reward for bringing great coffee to unexpected places. Others are a recognition of a great or unusual setting for a Coffee Spot.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
Located in the heart of Fitzrovia, the location, per se, wasn’t the unexpected part of Mother’s Milk. What was surprising was that this was an excellent coffee shop in the back of a communications agency, where it occupied a lovely bar. To get there, you had to walk in past reception, which was always an interesting experience! Sadly Mother’s Milk is now closed, but hopefully the boys will be back at some point.
Flying the flag for Shrewsbury, The Bird’s Nest is a lovely, eclectic spot which is tucked away at the back of the top floor of Shrewsbury’s 1960s Market Hall. A wonderful mix of tables, chairs and sofas, it felt like you’d just stumbled in. This is exactly the sort of friendly, welcoming coffee shop that every town market should have! The Bird’s Nest is also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.
Bristol has many excellent coffee shops. What makes The Crazy Fox unexpected is the location, right in the city centre, on the Broadmead no less, at the end of the lovely St James Arcade, another example of a Victorian Arcade. I’m always a fan of speciality coffee shops in mainstream settings, where the chains usually dominate. The Crazy Fox is also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.
Coffee shops come in all shapes and sizes, and they occupy all sorts of unexpected premises. The Cow & Co Cafe stands out slightly more than most in that it grew out of a design shop in Liverpool, which started selling coffee, slowly morphing into speciality coffee shop. It still retains its roots as a design store, with a large set of retail shelves, while there’s also a rack of art, design and lifestyle magazines. The Cow & Co Cafe is also shortlisted for the Best Cake Award.
Proving that speciality coffee isn’t just the preserve of city centres, I present Under Pressure Espresso in Sutton Coldfield, to the northeast of Birmingham. Sandwiched between an insurance agent and a large, generic bar/lounge, Under Pressure Espresso is a real gem, serving excellent coffee, a selection of loose-leaf teas plus homemade cakes. Coffee Under Pressure is also shortlisted for the Best Cake Award and the Coffee Spot Special Award.
Another one bringing coffee to the suburbs, this time to Aigburth, to the south of Liverpool city centre. Sandwiched between a hairdresser and a balloon shop, there was a lot more to Junction than just the coffee, with an impressive range of sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, panini, wraps and bagels, plus salads and a soup of the day. Sadly, having been a stalwart of the community since 2011, Junction had to close its doors for good this summer.
I’ve been waiting a long time for a speciality coffee shop worthy of the name in my home town of Guildford, where high rates/rents are the enemy of independents. Now, in the shape of the lovely Surrey Hills Coffee, I finally have a local! Surrey Hills is also shortlisted for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.
I’ve found speciality coffee in many strange places in my time, but in a telephone box? Yes, in a telephone box. In Birmingham. Despite its lack of size, it packs a lot in, including food, a wide range of tea, plus hot chocolate. And coffee. Jake’s Coffee Box is also shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee Award.
When I went to Porto this spring, I wasn’t expecting anything except great Port. Then I found Mesa 325 and re-calibrated my expectations. Speciality coffee meets typical Portuguese bar, with locally-roasted coffee, this is a home-grown speciality coffee scene and an excellent one at that. Mesa 325 is also shortlisted for the Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.
Continuing the theme of speciality coffee inside unexpected places, how about finding a coffee bar in a top-notch restaurant? Well, that’s Lyle’s for you. Lyle’s, on Shoreditch High Street, is a dedicated coffee bar inside the restaurant, so you can drink great coffee without having to eat as well. Just walk in, grab a stool at the counter to your right, and off you go! A multi-roaster, ordering in coffee from around the UK and beyond, it’s a real coffee-lover’s dream. Lyle’s is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.
Forget restaurants: how about a speciality coffee shop in the back of a barbershop? Parlor Coffee, is just that, occupying a tiny spot at the back of the Persons of Interest barbershop in Brooklyn. To get to the coffee shop, you have to walk through the barbershop, where a door in a glass partition at the back leads into Parlor Coffee. Parlor roasts all its own coffee, the owner opening both coffee shop and roastery at the same time just over four years ago. Parlor is also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
Another example of bringing speciality coffee to the mainstream is provided by Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective. Known as much for its roasting as its coffee shops, this is a wonderful coffee bar in the Torvehallerne food hall in the heart of Copenhagen. Coffee Collective serves its full range of coffee, including multiple espresso & pour-over options, and is also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.
Just as I wasn’t looking for great coffee in Porto, I wasn’t looking for great coffee in the outer suburbs of Phoenix on my recent business trip. Then I stumbled on the wonderful Press Coffee, a short walk from my hotel in the Scottsdale Quarter. Press Coffee is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.
Watford does not spring to mind when I think of speciality coffee, but for the last three years, The LP Café has been serving excellent coffee from a small parade of shops near Watford Junction station. The LP Café is also unusual in that it combines speciality coffee and vinyl records, the two sides of the business supporting each other. The LP Café is also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award.
Another one bringing speciality coffee to a mainstream setting is Manchester‘s Grindsmith chain, which opened its third branch in Salford’s Media City, home of the BBC and about as mainstream as you can get! It also takes advantage of a large kitchen to serve an extended food range. Grindsmith is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.
A special mention also needs to go to the following:
Expresso Base, in a churchyard in London
Slate Coffee Roasters, in an unassuming Seattle suburb
Hatch Coffee, in a disused parking attendant’s hut in Newcastle
Espresso by K2, tucked away down an alley in Parson’s Green
Bop, another excellent find in Porto
Store Street Espresso, Padddington, more speciality coffee in a mainstream setting
Intelligentsia, Old Town, a coffee shop in a grocery store.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2016.
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