We’re halfway through the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Best Espresso” Award, which was won in 2017 by Federation Coffee. When it comes down to it, I still tend to judge a Coffee Spot by the quality of its espresso. Of course, this is entirely subjective and down to taste. I would never knock a place that made a good espresso just because it wasn’t to my taste.
This award is for those Coffee Spots which served me the best and most memorable espressos of the year. I started the Coffee Spot as a confirmed Italian espresso drinker. While I still like something full-bodied and robust, my palette has definitely evolved and expanded over time. When I started the Coffee Spot Awards, I tried to cap the shortlists at 12, to keep them manageable. Over time, I expanded them to 15. This year, I’ve had so much outstanding espresso that the shortlist now has 18 entries, making this being one of the most hotly contested of this year’s Awards.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 18 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
I had a lovely Ethiopian Guji single-origin espresso roasted by Heartland Coffi when I visited Providero in Llandudno Junction. Sometimes Ethiopians can be too bright for me, but this was quite different. Darker, with plenty of body and a very syrupy mouthfeel, it was smooth rather than challenging, and a real delight to drink. Providero has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Cake and Happiest Staff Awards.
Exeter’s March Coffee uses local roasters, Crankhouse Coffee, with a regularly-changing single-origin on espresso. The Guatemala Finca La Bolsa was in the hopper when I visited. A lovely, well-balanced espresso with an all-round mouthfeel, it was pulled commendably short.
Philadelphia‘s Peddler Coffee was recommended to me on the strength of its pour-overs via the Chemex, which got it a spot on the Best Filter Coffee Award shortlist. However, it also brews up a mean espresso, a gorgeous Brazilian Prima Materia in this case. It smelled fantastic and was no less impressive to drink, turning out to be beautifully well-balanced with a rich, complex taste. Peddler Coffee is also on the Best Physical Space shortlist.
I had Extract‘s Rocket Blend at The Epiphany in Bristol. It was really interesting, incredibly complex on the first sip, but quietening down a little after that. Well-balanced, it had very much a front-of-the-mouth feel to it and a pleasing acidity. Also on the Best Outdoor Seating & Best Cake Award shortlists.
I had a real treat at Glasgow‘s Short Long Black, enjoying a Colombian single-origin, Jimmy G, which had been brought over from Small Batch in Melbourne. Pulled really short, this really enhanced its complex flavours, which came through in a well-rounded three mouthfuls of coffee! Short Long Black has also been shortlisted for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.
Staying in Glasgow, The Good Coffee Cartel served me an experimental Colombian/Costa Rican blend, with the sweetness of the Costa Rican combining with the tartness of the Colombian to produce a beautifully, well-balanced espresso. On this basis, I say The Good Coffee Cartel should carry on experimenting! The Good Coffee Cartel is also shortlisted for Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station and Most Passionate About Coffee Awards.
Café Integral, Elizabeth Street
Café Integral specialises in single-origin Nicaraguan coffee. I had the El Bosque, a naturally-processed catuai varietal, at its Elizabeth Street branch in New York City. A fruity, acidic coffee, it was really bright. The first sip was akin to a brief punch in the mouth, but it calmed down and played nice after that, turning into a rather enjoyable drink. Café Integral has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Overseas Coffee Spot and Happiest Staff Awards.
Vietnam Coffee Republic is small chain of two speciality coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh City. I had the 100% Arabica blend of Vietnamese coffee. A delicate coffee, it was quite bright, but nicely rounded, with very much a front of the mouth taste to it and easily my favourite espresso in Ho Chi Minh City. VCR Bar & Showroom has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.
Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court
Little more than a kiosk in an alley (Bolt Court), Melbourne in Lichfield nonetheless serves some outstanding coffee. In this case it was the guest espresso, a Costa Rican single-origin from Union Hand-roasted, which was pulled slightly longer than normal for an awesome, well-balanced, naturally sweet espresso. Bolt Court has also been shortlisted for both the Smallest Coffee Spot and Happiest Staff Awards.
CanDo Coffee uses the Rocket 88 blend from Ealing’s Electric Coffee Company, serving it in all weathers from a cart on Merchant Square in West London. I had a couple of awesome, rich, sweet, fruity espressos with bags of flavour. CanDo Coffee is also shortlisted for this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee Award.
Gấu Coffee Roasters was a chance find in Hanoi, a recommendation from fellow speciality coffee shop, The Caffinet. All the coffee is roasted in the back of the store, with a range of origins, plus home-grown Vietnamese Arabica. I had the was a house-blend, made with beans from Panama, Ethiopia and Vietnam. This was a beautifully-pulled shot, amazingly well-balanced, bursting with flavour. and probably the best coffee I had in Vietnam.
Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Avenue
I had a One & One at Verve Coffee Roasters Pacific Avenue. branch in Santa Cruz. A split shot, made with Verve’s Street Level blend, it’s served as an espresso and a macchiato. The macchiato was excellent, but as an espresso, it was simply awesome, very smooth, but with a complex taste. Not quite a liquid kiss, but very, very close. Verve Coffee Roasters has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.
I had a Burundi Kibingo Cup of Excellence winner at The Roastery by Nozy in Tokyo. While I didn’t pick out any specific notes, it was a really rich, beautifully well-balanced coffee, so smooth and a real pleasure to drink. The Roastery by Nozy was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Outdoor Seating and Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Awards.
Beanberry, a Woking-based roaster which specialises in organic coffee, has a coffee shop in Kingston upon Thames where I had a washed Ethiopian single-origin. Although I completely lack the palate and vocabulary to describe it, it was lovely and not what I was expecting. Darker, and very complex, it was a real treat.
Kickapoo roasts its coffee in central Wisconsin, while I visited its Milwaukee coffee shop, enjoying an organic Guatemalan Concepcion described as “interesting” and “complex”. Pulled short it more than lived up to its billing, being both complex and interesting, with every sip subtly different. Kickapoo was also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.
Discourse Coffee, a chance find in Door County, Wisconsin, served me a washed Ethiopian Sidamo from Pilcrow Coffee in an hourglass pottery cup. A touch too acidic for my tastes, I tried the same espresso in a cylindrical pottery cup which accentuated its sweetness, producing a much more favourable impression on me! Discourse is also on the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot and Most Passionate About Coffee Award shortlists.
I had a Salaverria from El Salvador at Tokyo’s Fuglen Coffee Roasters, being served by Yusho, who roasted the coffee. An excellent, well-rounded espresso, it was very smooth, with a little acidity but no bitterness and very much a front-of-mouth taste. For me it was pretty much the perfect espresso. Fuglen Coffee Roasters has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.
Staying in Tokyo, Lattest made its name with its signature drink (see photo), but also served me an Ethiopian espresso. I was served by Yumi, who roasted the coffee and who pulled it commendably short. The first thing to hit me was the wonderful floral smell, while the initial sip revealed some acidity that lessened on the second (and final) sip. All-in-all, it was gorgeous, a beautiful, well-balanced espresso.
A special mention needs to go to the following, all of whom served me outstanding espresso:
Blue Bottle Coffee, Aoyama
Krema Coffee Guildford
The Black Penny
It All Started Here
Kaido Books & Coffee
Sarutahiko Coffee Ebisu
Ropes & Twines
Velodrome Coffee Co
Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria
And the winner is Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Avenue
Runners-up: Kickapoo Coffee, Milwaukee and Fuglen Coffee Roasters
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2018.
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