First up today, the 2016 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Roaster/Retailer”, which was won last year by Ancoats Coffee Co, Royal Mills. Initially, this award was only open to retailers, but in 2014, I expanded it to include roasters, who now dominate the award. Contenders have either appeared in the Meet the Roaster series or they are cafe/roasters who I have visited during the year.
Although the Coffee Spot is mostly about places to have coffee, I still drink the majority of my coffee at home, so those wonderful people who provide me with my coffee beans need a mention. The problem, with all these awards, is knowing where to draw the line for the shortlist and this Award is no exception. I’ve visited lots of coffee shops/roasters this year, but I’ve made a decision, with two or three exceptions, to stick to either roasters I’ve written about as roasters or coffee shops where the beans are roasted on site.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
Nottingham’s Outpost Coffee Roasters started life with a roastery on the outskirts of the city and a training room in the centre. Now there’s also a coffee shop, almost directly beneath the training room. Outpost is slowly growing its market in and around Nottingham and the East Midlands, at the same time as it is slowing growing the overall market for speciality coffee. As is often the case, training plays just as important a role in this as does the coffee.
I first came across Avenue Coffee, when it was just the Avenue G café on Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End. Then there was a second branch, on the Great Western Road, was designed from the outset as a roastery, with the roaster housed on the mezzanine level overlooking the floor of the coffee shop. Since then, Avenue Coffee Roasting Co has gone from strength-to-strength, roasting some excellent coffee and starting to supply other shops in and around Glasgow.
I’m kind of cheating with this one since Ancoats won last year when I featured the new coffee shop in Royal Mills. However, this year I wrote about the roasting side of the business which moved into the new coffee shop.
In a business full of new start ups, Butterworth & Son is an old hand. Based in Bury St Edmunds, Butterworth & Son started off in tea (and is still a major tea supplier) before moving into roasting speciality coffee. It now has its own coffee shop too, Guat’s Up!, as it continues to the grow the speciality coffee market in East Anglia.
Another old hand, I’ve been aware of Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters for almost as long as I’ve been writing the Coffee Spot. Extract has a quirky approach to roasting, specialising in older, manual roasters which Dave and the team and Extract take apart and effectively rebuild. And all the roasters have names. For example, Betty is a 1955 Probat, which makes her considerably older than me! Extract is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
Elm Coffee Roasters is just around the corner from King Street Station in downtown Seattle. A delightful coffee bar in its own right, it is also a roaster, with the roastery located behind a glass screen at the far end of the coffee shop. The glass screen, by the way, is a recent addition. Before that, the roaster was getting interrupted too often! Elm Coffee Roasters is also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award.
Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee grew out the desire of two friends, Chris and Ed, to get closer to the coffee. This led them to quit their day jobs as coffee importers and start roasting their own beans. Along the way, they have built up a dedicated following for their impressively bad (or good, depending on your perspective) puns which they use to name all the coffee. Neighbourhood Coffee is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.
Portland roasting legends, Heart Coffee Roasters, had just moved its roasting operation out of its Burnside coffee shop and into a new roasting facility a few weeks before my visit. Talk about timing! Heart Coffee Roasters is also shortlisted for the Best Espresso Award.
A second entry from Liverpool is 92 Degrees, the city’s first combined coffee shop/micro-roastery. All the coffee is roasted on a 2.5 kg Diedrich tucked away in a small kitchen behind the counter. 92 Degrees roasts a mix of blends for espresso and single-origin coffees for both espresso and filter. From the outset, 92 Degrees has been a champion of good decaf.
Fábrica Coffee Roasters is part of the small but growing speciality coffee scene in Lisbon. Although not a home-grown affair (the owners are Russian), it has the feel of a Portuguese café bar, although with its comfortable sofas, upcycled furniture, hand-made counter and lights encased in cages, it wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch! All the coffee is roasted on a shiny 5kg Probatone at the back of the store.
18 Grams is a roaster and coffee shop chain in Hong Kong and it was my first exposure to Hong Kong speciality coffee. I didn’t get to visit the flag ship roastery in nearby Wan Chai, but I fell in love with both the coffee and the chain when I visited the Causeway Bay branch on Cannon Street. 18 Grams is also shortlisted for the Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.
This nomination could easily have gone to any of the three London branches of Origin that I visited this year, since they all use the same excellent single-origin coffees that are roasted down in Cornwall. For a while now Origin has been producing some of my favourite coffee and one day I will get down to the roastery in Cornwall, I promise! Origin is also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award.
Café Integral is a coffee shop inside the American Two Shot clothing store in New York City. It is also a roaster (with the roastery based in Brooklyn). What makes Café Integral stand out from the crowd is that all its coffee is imported from Nicaragua, where the family have ties with local farmers. Café Integral is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
The Roasting Party is another roaster with long standing links with the Coffee Spot, so it was about time I made the relatively short trip down to the roastery in Winchester. With a reputation as the party boys of speciality coffee, Kirby, Wes and Ed are no-nonsense when it comes to the business side of coffee, which perhaps explains The Roasting Party’s considerable success. The Roasting Party is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.
A second entry from Nottingham, Cartwheel Cafe & Roastery opened this year, with an innovative 2.5 kg electric roaster installed in the back of the fairly small cafe space in the city centre. Roasting only single-origins coffees, Cartwheel manages to achieve a large amount from a very small space.
A special mention also needs to go to the following:
Origin, Charlotte Road, which could easily had the nod instead of Euston Road
Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters, a Birmingham stalwart which started roasting this year
Victrola Roastery and Café, an old hand in the Seattle speciality coffee game
Asado Coffee, River North, a small chain with a roaster in each branch
Portland Roasting, The Cupping Room Cafe, roasting in the heart of Portland
Origin at the British Library, which could also easily had the nod instead of Euston Road
Compass Coffee, a recent arrival in Washington DC, with roaster at the back of the store
Bakesmiths, the cake wizards from Bristol also has a roaster in the store
ManCoCo, roasting on one side of the railway arch and serving on the other
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2016.
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