The first shortlist for the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot” Award, won in 2017 by Lost Sheep Coffee. 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. 2018 was a bumper year for finding coffee in unexpected places, hence the unusually large shortlist.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 17 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
A sleepy Hampshire village between Salisbury and Winchester is not where I’d expect to find top-notch speciality coffee, but there it was, on the main road running through the centre of Stockbridge. What a gem too! On the top floor of a lovely old building overlooking a courtyard, with outside balcony seating (which got it a place on the Best Outdoor Seating shortlist) and a cosy back room. Coffee Lab is also on the Most Popular Coffee Spot shortlist.
Speciality coffee shops in apartment buildings are slowly becoming a thing, but there are still far too few of them, so it is always a pleasant surprise when I find one. Press Coffee, in Tempe, is a great example: easy access for the residents, but also open to the public. Part of the small coffee shop/roaster chain of the same name in and around Phoenix, Arizona.
Staying in Arizona, I went to Flagstaff for the mountains, the canyons and the desserts. I didn’t go for the coffee. Therefore it was a very pleasant surprise to not only find good coffee, but to find the gem that is 111 Roasting Works, the roasting arm of local coffee shop, Firecreek Coffee. Sadly, the Tasting Room, which was coffee geek heaven, opening daily, now only opens for events. Also on the Most Passionate About Coffee Award shortlist.
The small town of Hope, in the heart of the Peak District, west of Sheffield, is not the sort of place you expect to find speciality coffee, and yet, this is where Grasshopper Café has decided to make its home. It’s a lovely setting too, occupying the front and back rooms of a old, stone cottage, with a wonderful garden in the back yard. Grasshopper Café was also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.
Speciality coffee and major league tourist destinations rarely go hand-in-hand, but an obvious exception to this is Spitfire Coffee. In the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, you don’t get more touristy and, with Spitfire, you don’t get more speciality either. A true multi-roaster, with a different option on espresso every day, coupled with multiple options on pour-over using V60 or Chemex. Also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
Just as I find great coffee a rarity in tourist destinations, so it is with international airports. However, Phoenix Sky Harbor is leading the way, favouring local food and drink producers over the chains. A good example of this is local coffee shop/roaster chain, Cartel Coffee Lab, which is at Terminal 4, serving the full Cartel range on espresso, batch-brew and pour-over. Cartel is also on the Best Takeaway Coffee Award shortlist.
The well-named Hideout Coffee is indeed carefully hidden, down a side-street in Portsmouth, just around the corner from a Starbucks! Effectively Hideout Coffee is the in-house coffee shop for design agency I Love Dust, whose offices are above Hideout. To get to I Love Dust, you go through Hideout first, which is in the small entrance lobby to offices. Hideout Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.
As you have probably guessed by now, I love finding great coffee shops in unusual places and they don’t come much more unusual that inside an art gallery. Bangkok’s Gallery Drip Coffee, is located inside the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre, and only serves pour-over coffee (the clue is in the name), a style directly inspired by Japanese coffee culture. Gallery Drip Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.
It takes a leap of faith to get to Cottontree Coffee Roasters in Chang Mai. At the end of a dead-end road, in a modern development just west of the ring road, it’s not somewhere you stumble upon by accident. Even worse, when I was there, major construction on the ring road forced me to walk through a full-on construction site to get to the one road that leads to Cottontree! Also shortlisted for the Best Cake and Best Physical Space Awards.
Back to Flagstaff, Arizona and Matador Coffee Roasting Co., another unexpected find (in more ways that one). This roastery and coffee shop, complete with drive-through kiosk is in an old garage, on the old Route 66 through Flagstaff. And by complete coincidence, it happened to be directly opposite my motel for the duration of my stay. Just as unexpectedly, on my first visit I ran into leading Arizona coffee-blogger, Coffee Ken.
I never expected to find speciality coffee in my home town of Holywell in North Wales, the place where I was born and grew up. And yet, this year, Sarah’s Caring Coffee opened The Coffee Bean, a lovely little retail shop selling speciality coffee for Sarah’s charity, the Cariad Project. Sarah’s Caring Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retail Award and the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.
On my recent visits to Japan, I’ve been indebted to my friend, Christopher, for getting me out of Tokyo and up into the mountains near his home in the eastern Nagano Prefecture. On my first trip, he also took me to & Espresso, a delightful spot in the town of Tomi, occupying a converted rice storehouse at the rear of a small parking lot. & Espresso has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Physical Space Award.
Craving Coffee is a pioneering outpost of speciality coffee in Tottenham in northeast London, which is not somewhere I venture very often! A café, bar, community hub and evening social, Craving Coffee is also an art gallery, where different artists exhibit each month. There’s a blend on espresso, plus decaf and (usually) a single-origin on pour-over through the V60. Craving Coffee is also on the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot & Best Cake shortlists.
Discourse Coffee is in Door County, the peninsular that sticks out into Lake Michigan, north/east of Green Bay. I went there to enjoy the countryside and the lake views, but much like Flagstaff, I found great coffee as well. Discourse Coffee subtitles itself “a liquid workshop”, with a regularly-changing cast of latte-based drinks with some very interesting flavour combinations. Also on the Best Espresso and Most Passionate About Coffee shortlists.
Staying in Wisconsin, Appleton, near Lake Winnebago, isn’t where you’d expect to find great coffee, particularly not tucked away at the end of small row of industrial buildings down a dead-end road. However, that’s exactly where you’ll find Uncommon Grounds. First and foremost a roaster, its front part section is a spacious, relaxed coffee shop, where you can order coffee, buy beans and chat with Dan, the owner and head roaster.
Montréal’s My Little Cup is no more than a coffee counter tucked away next to the McGill metro station in the underground city, not exactly where I was expecting to find top-notch coffee. However, that’s exactly what I did find, serving Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian on espresso and batch-brew, the options changing every day or two. My Little Cup is also shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee and Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Awards.
The final entry on this year’s shortlist is another roastery/coffee shop, this time on an industrial estate in Lymington, Hampshire. Occupying a large, industrial unit, it’s actually three-in-one, the roastery at the back, a retail section in the middle and a cozy coffee shop at the front. Coffee Monger’s is also on the Best Roaster/Retailer Award shortlist.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2018.
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