2018 Awards – Smallest Coffee Spot

The Root & Branch sign, pointing the way to good coffee on Belfast's Jameson Street.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 Root & Branch.

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! To keep things manageable, I have excluded Coffee Spots that are no more than counters/carts/kiosks.

Even so, this is one of several Awards that I could have filled many times over, so much so that there are a total of 18 entries on this year’s shortlist and another 17 special mentions! And yes, I appreciate the irony that the Smallest Coffee Spot Award has the longest shortlist…

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Spitfire Coffee, down in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
  • Over Under Coffee, Ham Yard, sandwiched between Piccadilly Circus and Soho.
  • Graph Cafe, the smallest of the small coffee shop/roastery chain in Chiang Mai.
  • Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court, with its delightful (and tiny) seating area.
  • Onibus Coffee, Nakameguro, a coffee shop and roastery in an unfeasibly small spot.
  • Koffee Mameya, no more than a windowless cube with no seats in Tokyo.
  • Staying in Tokyo, About Life Coffee Brewers has a small seating area at the back.
  • There's something about Tokyo and small coffee shop: Switch Coffee, Yoyogi-Hachiman.
  • Staying in Tokyo, Little Nap Coffee Stand is another tiny spot with a handful of seats.
  • The Black Chapel, in Wandsworth, a tiny spot with just enough space for three stools!
  • Staying in London, Urban Baristas, Waterloo is a short corridor with a counter at the back.
  • The original Switch Coffee Tokyo in Meguro is not much bigger that the new branch.
  • Stockholm Roast / The Tobacco Stand, a seventh entry from Tokyo!
  • Shots Espresso Bar, Birmingham's Upstairs Coffee reborn under new ownership.
  • The second branch of Surrey Hills Coffee on London Square is no more than a container.
  • Metal Hands Coffee Co, the first of three entries from the same street in Beijing.
  • Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters is probably even smaller than Metal Hands.
  • The last of the three Beijing entries is Metal Hands White Space.
Spitfire Coffee, down in the French Quarter in New Orleans.1 Over Under Coffee, Ham Yard, sandwiched between Piccadilly Circus and Soho.2 Graph Cafe, the smallest of the small coffee shop/roastery chain in Chiang Mai.3 Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court, with its delightful (and tiny) seating area.4 Onibus Coffee, Nakameguro, a coffee shop and roastery in an unfeasibly small spot.5 Koffee Mameya, no more than a windowless cube with no seats in Tokyo.6 Staying in Tokyo, About Life Coffee Brewers has a small seating area at the back.7 There's something about Tokyo and small coffee shop: Switch Coffee, Yoyogi-Hachiman.8 Staying in Tokyo, Little Nap Coffee Stand is another tiny spot with a handful of seats.9 The Black Chapel, in Wandsworth, a tiny spot with just enough space for three stools!10 Staying in London, Urban Baristas, Waterloo is a short corridor with a counter at the back.11 The original Switch Coffee Tokyo in Meguro is not much bigger that the new branch.12 Stockholm Roast / The Tobacco Stand, a seventh entry from Tokyo! 13 Shots Espresso Bar, Birmingham's Upstairs Coffee reborn under new ownership.14 The second branch of Surrey Hills Coffee on London Square is no more than a container.15 Metal Hands Coffee Co, the first of three entries from the same street in Beijing.16 Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters is probably even smaller than Metal Hands.17 The last of the three Beijing entries is Metal Hands White Space.18
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There are 18 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

Watching espresso extract from my seat by the counter at Spitfire Coffee in New Orleans.Spitfire Coffee

Spitfire Coffee is a tiny spot down in the French Quarter in New Orleans. There are just three seats at a small bar along the wall, but this doesn’t stop Spitfire Coffee acting like a much bigger coffee shop, bringing in roasters from all over America. Spitfire Coffee has also been shortlisted for this year’s Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.

A lovely cortado, made with Assembly's seasonal espresso, a Washed Colombia, at Over Under Coffeee in Ham Yard and served on a yellow saucer.Over Under Coffee, Ham Yard

The second branch of Over Under Coffee, this one is in London in Ham Yard, sandwiched between Piccadilly Circus and Soho. A delightful little spot with a couple of outdoor tables, there’s more (but not much more) seating inside and some excellent coffee from Assembly, with it’s seasonal espresso and a regularly-rotating single-origin on V60, Aeropress or batch-brew.

The information plaque on the counter at Graph Cafe, extolling the virtues of its lever espresso machine.Graph Café

Heading over to Chiang Mai in Thailand, Graph Café is part of a small coffee shop/roaster chain. This is the original and it’s tiny, with room for a six-person communal table in the window at the front and pair of two-person tables against the back wall. Indeed, getting in and out is probably the trickiest part of the whole operation. You can also sit outside on the step at the front.

My espresso from Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court: Genesis, a single-origin Costa Rican, roasted by Union.Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court

Some might argue that the original Bolt Court branch of Melbourne in Lichfield is just a kiosk, so should be excluded. but there are seats at the counter and there’s a delightfully small (and generally delightful) seating area to the left, so it’s in. Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court has also been shortlisted for both the Best Espresso and Happiest Staff Awards.

A chalk drawing from the wall upstairs in Onibus Coffee.Onibus Coffee, Nakameguro

Some might argue that with a downstairs, an outside seating area and a room upstairs, Tokyo‘s Onibus Coffee isn’t that small, but it packs in a coffee shop and roastery in the space. Also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Awards.

Four of the potential 25 coffees on offer at Koffee Mameya in Tokyo.Koffee Mameya

Staying in Tokyo (which will become a common theme), Koffee Mameya, the successor to the legendary Omotesando Koffee, is not much more than a windowless square with the counter on one side and standing room only on the other. Koffee Mameya has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best BasementBest Takeaway Coffee and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.

Detail taken from the menu board outside About Life Coffee Brewers in ShibuyaAbout Life Coffee Brewers

A rarity in Tokyo‘s speciality coffee scene, About Life Coffee Brewers (part of the same group as  Onibus Coffee) is effectively a takeaway kiosk, but with a small room at the back where you can stand and drink your coffee, which is what qualifies it for this shortlist. About Life has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee and Happiest Staff Awards.

The front of Switch Coffee Tokyo's tiny branch at Yoyogi-Hachiman.Switch Coffee Tokyo, Yoyogi-Hachiman

This is the second branch of Tokyo roasters Switch Coffee. It occupies a tiny spot, which is standing room only (although there is a bench outside). This branch is across the road from the Yoyogi-Hachiman station, which got Switch Coffee a place on the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station  shortlist.

 

Detail from the black, sliding door to Little Nap Coffee Stand in TokyoLittle Nap Coffee Stand

Long and thin, Little Nap Coffee Stand, the fifth entry from Tokyo, more than lives up to its name, although it manages to squeeze in a bench along one wall, and a window bar, plus tables outside. But honestly, it really is little!

 

An espresso at The Black Chapel in Wandsworth, pulled on a 1958 Faema Lambro.The Black Chapel

Back in South West London (Wandsworth to be precise), The Black Chapel occupies a tiny spot on Chapel Yard. There’s space for three low stools in a seating area off to the left, while there’s far more seating outside in the yard itself, which is what got The Black Chapel has also been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Most Passionate About Coffee Awards.

The Urban Baristas sign from the wall of the Waterloo branch.Urban Baristas, Waterloo

Staying in London, Urban Baristas, opposite the rear entrance of Waterloo Station (which is why it’s been shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station, Award), Urban Baristas is no more than a corridor with a counter at the back, although that doesn’t stop it acting like a much bigger coffee shop. Urban Baristas has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

Lovely (and long-lasting) latte art in my cappuccino, made with the house-blend, at the Switch Coffee Tokyo roastery in Meguro.Switch Coffee Tokyo, Meguro

The original Switch Coffee in Tokyo is not much bigger than the second branch, although this one also has the roastery in it, at the back of the single room. The coffee shop element is no more than a counter running the width of the store. Like the second branch, it’s standing room only, with a solitary bench outside if you want to sit. Switch Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

The Stockholm Roast logo from the wall on the Tobacco Stand in Tokyo.Stockholm Roast / The Tobacco Stand

The seventh and final entry on this year’s shortlist from Tokyo is Stockholm Roast. Located inside The Tobacco Stand, it’s a tiny cube that is almost all counter, save for a line of stools. There’s also a solitary table outside if you want to sit there. Stockholm Roast / The Tobacco Stand has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

A slightly out-of-focus shot of Unkle Funka from Extract Coffee Roasters at SHOTS Espresso Bar in Birmingham.Shots Espresso Bar

A previous winner of the Smallest Coffee Spot Award (2016),  Birmingham’s Upstairs Coffee  closed last year, only to re-open this year under new management, becoming an offshoot of the ever-popular Saint Kitchen. The coffee is now from Extract Coffee Roasters, but other than that, little else has changed.

 

The interior of the new Surrey Hills Coffee shop at London Square.Surrey Hills Coffee, London Square

Surrey Hills Coffee as opened a second branch in my home town of Guildford. The original Surrey Hills Coffee got a mention in the 2016 Smallest Coffee Spot Awards shortlist, but if anything, the new branch, no more than a container, is even smaller. Also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award.

The Metal Hands Coffee Co logo from the wall outside Metal Hands in Beijing.Metal Hands Coffee Co

The first of three Beijing coffee shops that are all on the same street (Wudaoying Hutong), this is the original Metal Hands Coffee Co. Despite being really small, it acts like a much bigger coffee shop with a standard espresso-based menu using a house-blend, plus four single-origins which are available through the V60 and as cold brew. Also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

A lovely piccolo, made with a single-origin Ethiopian, roasted in-house and served at Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters in Beijing.Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters

The second of three Beijing coffee shops on Wudaoying Hutong, Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters is even smaller than Metal Hands, with the only seating being at the counter. That said, like Metal Hands, there’s an impressive output, including a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, plus four single-origin pour-overs, all roasted in-house.

The logo of Metal Hands White Space, taken from the menu.Metal Hands White Space

The final entry is the second branch of Metal Hands on Beijing’s Wudaoying Hutong. It’s actually smaller than the original, lacking the small extension at the back, but still has the same excellent range of coffee.

 


A special mention needs to go to the following:

The Pocket, a lovely little spot in Belfast, with a large outdoor seating area
Uprising Bakehouse, Exeter, a coffee shop and bakery all rolled into one
Fourtillfour, a tiny cube in Phoenix which spoiled its chances with a second room!
Kurasu, long and thin, Kurasu is from Kyoto, but can’t match Tokyo for smallness
Moss Coffee in Chester is another small, single-room coffee shop that’s slightly too big
Lan Din Coffee in Bangkok almost made it onto the shortlist as well
Hideout Coffee in Portsmouth blew its chances by having three distinct (tiny) spaces
Sarutahiko Coffee Ebisu, an eighth Tokyo Coffee Spot that was just too big
The Gentlemen Baristas Coffee Store, smallest of all the GBs, but not small enough!
The Fifth Taste, a coffee counter inside Ealing Common Tube Station
V69, a coffee counter inside Bespoke Cycling on Gresham Street, City of London
My Little Cup, Montréal, a coffee counter in the Underground City
Just Between Friends Coffee, another small but not small enough coffee shop
The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, ruining its chances by attaching itself to a coffee shop!


And the winner is Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court
Runners-up: Shots Espresso Bar and Surrey Hills Coffee, London Square

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2018.


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