Coffee Spots come in all shapes and sizes, but for some reason I have a real soft spot for small Coffee Spots. Last year the “Smallest Coffee Spot” Award was won by Upstairs Coffee.
This year I have once again been blessed by some very small Coffee Spots serving some very fine coffee. As in previous years, this Award is entirely subjective: no Coffee Spots were measured during the judging process! This is one of several Awards where it really was tough to whittle things down to a shortlist of 15: the world seems full of lots of really lovely, small, Coffee Spots.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
And Coffee was a chance discovery while wandering the streets of Shanghai. There’s enough space inside for a central, eight-person communal table in the centre, while squeezing in a four-person window-bar at the front, but that’s about it. For somewhere so small, there’s an impressive coffee offering, with the usual espresso-based drinks and a choice of four single-origins on pour-overs, all using beans from the local Moon Coffee Roaster.
New York City‘s Third Rail Coffee in Greenwich Village is definitely in the small is beautiful category, with exposed brick, wooden floorboards and whitewashed walls. There are multiple choices of single-origins on espresso, bulk-brew & pour-over.
Tucked away in Leadenhall Market, CoffeeWorks Project is the idle hideaway from the bustle of the market. In stark contrast to the rambling interior of the original in Islington, this is a compact, cosy spot where you can grab a coffee (all roasted in-house) and watch the world go by.
Part of the (now international) Taylor Street Barista mini-chain, The Shed is, literally, a shed. And a very nice one at that. A tiny, intimate spot, there are just four seats inside, which are at two bars, one in the window between the two doors and one along the back of the left-hand wall. Despite this, there’s an impressive range of coffee. The Shed was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso Award.
York’s Stanley & Ramona is run by a lovely couple, disappointingly called Lee and Lucy, although they do redeem themselves by having alliterative names, which always gets bonus points. A small cosy, spot, you’re obliged to talk with Lee & Lucy who are excellent company, although they did spend most of my visit insulting the other customers. Stanley & Ramona has also been shortlisted for the Happiest Staff and Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Awards.
The tiny Balance in Brixton is so small that there’s just enough space for the counter where you can order and wait for your coffee. If you want to sit down, you need to head outside (although you’re welcome to stand at the counter and drink your coffee) where you’ll find a bench & two tables on the pavement. Balance has also been shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station Awards.
Hidden at the back of a parking lot in Seaside, California, Acme Coffee Roasting Company occupies a fairly large space, although the front of house, between counter and front wall, is suitably small. There’s enough space for a table and two stools inside & some chairs out front. Acme has also been shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot & Coffee Spot Special Awards.
Located on the ground floor of the Fujii Daimaru department store in Kyoto, % Arabica serves a house-blend & single-origin on espresso from a very limited menu, all roasted in-house. It’s a surprisingly pleasant environment in which to sit down and rest your weary legs between sight-seeing stops.% Arabica has also been shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee Award.
A second entry from Kyoto and also a second entry hidden at the back of parking lot, Weekenders Coffee is tiny, with just enough space for the counter and a bench outside. Despite its unpromising location, it’s actually a lovely spot to sit and drink your coffee, all of which is roasted in-house. There’s house-blend or single-origin on espresso, plus multiple single-origins on pour-over.
Islington’s Ground Control is another small is beautiful spot, done out in dark wooden panelling with some lovely furniture and an equally pleasant outside seating area. All the coffee is roasted in-house, with Ground Control only offering coffee from Ethiopia either on espresso or pour-over.
Staying in London, La Gelatiera mixes speciality coffee and ice cream in a cramped spot on New Row, just off St Martin’s Lane. There’s a handful of tables inside and usually a queue of people waiting for some ice cream all the way to the door. Order a espresso from the lovely lever machine and grab a seat if you can! La Gelatiera has also been shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.
A new addition this year to Glasgow‘s growing speciality coffee scene, Kaf Coffee is a multi-roaster with, given the size, an impressive selection of single-origins on pour-over. The counter’s at the front, while at the back, there’s an equally impressive amount of seating for such a tiny space. Kaf Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.
Belfast’s Root & Branch is spread over two floors, has a courtyard and seating outside on the pavement. Despite this, it is genuinely tiny. It’s standing room only while upstairs there’s a pair of chairs and a few stools. Despite the lack of room, Root & Branch has miraculously managed to fit a 6kg Giesen coffee roaster in the corner where all the coffee is roasted! Root & Branch is also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.
Crosstown Doughnuts occupies a pod in the new Nova development near Victoria. There’s far more seating outside than in, where there are two corner tables. Crosstown has also been shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station, Best Takeaway Coffee and Best Cake Awards.
Having started with an entry from Shanghai, we also finish with one. Rumors Coffee Roastery is a tiny, but very beautiful Japanese-inspired space with a bewildering array of pour-over coffees, all roasted in-house. It’s also a very weird shape (which I don’t have an award for), sort of triangular, but not quite. If you can’t find a seat inside, you can always sit outside at the window-bar.
A special mention also needs to go to the following:
Silhouette Cheapside: no sadly closed, it was no bigger than a counter in a shop
Made by Hand Coffee Pop-up, UniQlo: see above
Workshop Coffee, Marylebone, a lovely little spot, slightly too big for the shortlist!
Cartel Coffee Lab, Downtown Phoenix, off the lobby of a downtown office building
Canopy Coffee, with two tiny rooms, it very neatly squeezed in
Idle Hands @ Grub: a container at the Grub street food market
Nem Coffee & Espresso: another in the small and beautiful category
Kapow Coffee, The Calls: the original Kapow Coffee is another cosy spot
Eden Café: rivalling Rumors both in size and in strangeness of shape
Kin-Kin Coffee at Festival Foods a coffee counter in a super market
18 Grams, Times Square: another coffee counter in a supermarket
Finally, there’s Small St Espresso, in many ways the benchmark when it comes to small, beautiful coffee shops. I deliberately held it out of this year’s shortlist to give everyone else a chance!
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2017.
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