Next up in the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Best Overseas Coffee Spot”, which was won in 2017 by Panther Coffee, Wynwood. The Award celebrates all those wonderful Coffee Spots that I’ve visited outside of the UK, although this year will be its last.
When I set up the Award in 2013, I made two or three trips a year outside of the UK. In 2018, I spent less than half my time in the UK, which was reflected in my posts this year, with fewer than half of the Coffee Spots coming from this country.
As a result, many of this year’s shortlists are full of non-UK entries, with the Best Roaster/Retailer Award (for example) having just two UK Coffee Spots in the shortlist. I therefore think that it’s time to retire this Award: Overseas Coffee Spots don’t need a special award category of their own any more.
If you want to read more of my travel exploits, check out Brian’s Travel Spot.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
A lovely gem in Miami’s small but growing speciality coffee scene. Vice City Bean is a friendly, welcoming place, bringing in coffee all the way from Madcap (Grand Rapids, Michigan) with guest roasters such as Arkansas’ Onyx Coffee Lab. Vice City Bean has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.
I first came across Philadelphia‘s ReAnimator back in 2014, when I visited what was then its only coffee shop. These days it has a dedicated roastery and coffee shop in the city’s Kensington district. It’s a beautiful building serving some excellent coffee, including the Telemetry blend and decaf on espresso, joined by up to five single-origins which can also be had as pour-overs through V60 or Chemex. ReAnimator has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Physical Space Award.
Heading south to New Orleans, Sólo Espresso is in a gorgeous, basement-like spot (which got it a place on the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award shortlist) east of the French Quarter, on the border between Bywater and St. Claude. The coffee comes from Miami’s Panther Coffee, the East Coast blend joined on espresso by a guest single-origin, plus decaf. There’s also bulk-brew, cold-brew or pour-over using the Chemex.
Still in the USA, Scottsdale’s Regroup Coffee + Bicycles continues the long association between speciality coffee and cycling, albeit one I don’t see much in the USA. The coffee part of the operation occupies the front of the the bike shop, pulling shots on a rather lovely Slayer Espresso machine along with the obligatory bulk-brew filter.
Shin Coffee has several branches in Ho Chi Minh City, but this was the first that I visited. A gorgeous physical space, I had an excellent time sitting at the counter, chatting with the baristas, learning to use a traditional Vietnamese cup-top filter. Shin Coffee is also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.
Café Integral, Elizabeth Street
I’ve long been a fan of Café Integral, ever since I came across it in New York inside the American Two Shot clothing store. That branch has gone now, replaced by a friendly, welcoming stand-alone cafe, serving some excellent Nicaraguan coffee, all roasted in house. Café Integral is also shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso and Happiest Staff Awards.
The second branch of Shin Coffee which I visited in Ho Chi Minh City is just as gorgeous as the first. Perhaps even better is the wonderful upstairs room at the front.This branch also doubles as the roastery, with a pair of roasters in a dedicated area at the rear of the store, which led to Shin Coffee being shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award as well.
Returning to Europe, I made my first Coffee Spot visit to Amsterdam this year, where I came across the excellent White Label Coffee. Perhaps the most strangely-shaped coffee shop (it has a ridge in the middle) it also serves some excellent single-origins, with the filter roasts being produced on the 6 kg Giesen at the back, which won White Label a place on the Best Roaster/Retailer Award shortlist.
Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Avenue
Back in the USA, I fell in love with Verve Coffee Roasters’ flagship branch on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz from the moment I walked in the door. I was struck by the sense of space as well as the twin Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines. The coffee was also pretty awesome, good enough to win a spot on this year’s Best Espresso Award shortlist.
Chatei Hatou is a traditional Japanese kissaten in Tokyo that is more akin to a bar than a modern coffee shop. It only serves pour-over coffee, which is made at the counter, where you can sit, watching the barista at work all day long. Alternatively, there are tables at the back. Long, thin and windowless, Chatei Hatou was also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
Back in Amsterdam, Black Gold is the sort of quirky coffee shop that I adore. In this case, it’s also a (vinyl) record shop. When it comes to coffee, Black Gold uses local roasters White Label Coffee, with a single-origin on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest roaster. There are also three single-origins on filter through V60, Aeropress, cafetiere, plus batch-brew, with the same single-origin guest espresso also available as one of the filter options.
This year saw me venture into Minneapolis for the first time (passing through on the train on my way to Portland in 2015 doesn’t count). Five Watt is a coffee shop/roaster chain with three branches. This, the second, combines the owner’s twin loves of coffee and music, with a small stage in the corner being used to broadcast interviews, etc, on Five Watt’s own internet radio station, Radio Five Watt.
As part of the same Midwest road trip that took me to Five Watt, I called in on Grand Rapids in Michigan, home to renowned roasters, Madcap, whose coffee I’ve enjoyed all across the USA. The flagship branch on Monroe Center (a street, not a place) did not disappoint, being a large, open, airy spot with high ceilings. The coffee didn’t disappoint either!
2018 also saw a first ever (Coffee Spot) visit to Rome, where I had to call in on the famous Tazza D’Oro, one of Rome’s quintessential espresso bars. Don’t come here looking for pour-overs or tables for that matter: this is espresso, Italian-style, taken standing up at the counter. It’s where I first fell in love with Italian espresso and I’m pleased to say it passed the test of time!
A second quintessential Roman espresso bar, Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè is slightly older than its slightly more famous neighbour, Tazza D’Oro (80 years as opposed to 74). Serving the espresso Neapolitan style, you get the same Italian-style, drink it at the counter experience, although there are tables outside if you want to sit down.
And the winner is Black Gold
Runners-up: Café Integral, Elizabeth Street and Shin Coffee, Nguyễn Thiệp
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2018.
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