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.
So, without further ado, let’s see who won.
Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: Jake’s Coffee Box)
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bus station in Canterbury, now bigger and better than ever and since my visit, serving coffee roasted in-house, so I’m out-of-date already… Well, I guess I’ll just to go back.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.
Best Takeaway Coffee (2016 Winner: Hatch Coffee)
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.
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.
Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: No 12 Easton)
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.
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.
Best Filter Coffee (2016 Winner: Kiosk: Project Space)
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.
Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station (2016 Winner: Faculty)
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!
Best Saturday Supplement (2016 Winner: Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary)
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.
Best Outdoor Seating (2016 Winner: Expresso Base)
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.
Best Espresso (2016 Winner: Coleman Coffee Roasters)
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!
Smallest Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: Upstairs Coffee)
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.
Best Cake (2016 Winner: The Espresso Library)
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.
Best Roaster/Retailer (2016 Winner: The Roasting Party)
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)
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.
Best Physical Space (2016 Winner: Filter + Fox)
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.
Happiest Staff (2016 Winner: The Speciality Coffee Shop)
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!
Best Breakfast (2016 Winner: Flat Caps Carliol Square)
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.
Most Passionate About Coffee (2016 Winner: Idle Hands Pop-up)
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.
Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award (2016 Winner: Kaffeine Eastcastle)
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.
Most Popular Coffee Spot (2016 Winner: Speciality Coffee in Capsules?)
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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