Welcome to the penultimate Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2018, the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award, which was won last year by Forte Espresso Bar. This is a special award for those Coffee Spots which don’t quite fit into the other categories, but which nonetheless I absolutely love… It’s also a chance for me to recognise and reward those wonderful Coffee Spots that I come across during the year and which mean something special to me.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
I’ve long been a fan of the concept of bean-to-cup, where the coffee goes from farm to cup under the same ownership. In Peixoto, in Chandler, Arizona, I saw if for the first time outside of a coffee growing country. Peixoto is also shortlisted for the Happiest Staff and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.
Staying in Arizona, and I loved FUTURO in Phoenix. FUTURO is not quite like any coffee shop I’ve visited before, which is a refreshing change from some of the common design elements I see time and time again. The coffee is also very atypical for Phoenix, with a wide selection of single-origins being provided by Heart Coffee Roasters in Portland. There’s a different one on each day, with one option on espresso and another on bulk-brew.
As well as being a fine coffee shop in its own right, serving coffee from The Roasting Party as well as beans it roasts itself in a small room behind the shop, Canvas Coffee is also a social enterprise, helping those in early recovery from drug and alcohol addiction through volunteer opportunities and barista skills training courses, with Canvas’ profits supporting this work. Canvas is also on the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station shortlist.
Talking of social enterprises, Akha Ama Coffee La Fattoria in Chiang Mai is a great example, working closely with local coffee growers in Thailand. It’s not quite farm-to-cup, but it works towards the same ends, improving the conditions of the coffee farmers. It also happens to be an excellent coffee shop, serving a variety of Thai coffee, mostly as blends, but with some single-origins.
Staying in Chiang Mai, Ristr8to Lab is a slightly different beast, with the reigning World Latte Art Champion, Arnon Thitiprasert, working there as head barista. Ristr8to Lab is one of four branches as well as being home to Ristr8to’s 6kg Giesen roaster. With a bewildering array of espresso-based drinks using its Black Hand blend and a different single-origin every month through no fewer than six filter methods, it’s a real treat for coffee lovers.
I met Will, owner of Glasgow‘s It All Started Here, in 2015 in Cardiff. We’ve stayed in touch (on and off) ever since. Back then, Will combined a day job with running stalls markets/pop-ups over the weekends, but last year he extended that principle when he opened his first coffee shop on Glasgow’s south side, an object lesson in knowing what you want and being patient. It All Started Here is also on the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot shortlist.
There are all sorts of reasons for setting up a coffee business. In the case of Sarah, Sarah’s Caring Coffee and its shop, The Coffee Bean, were set up to raise money for her charity, The Cariad Project, while at the same time forging links with coffee farmers in Africa. Sarah’s Caring Coffee has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Roaster/ Retailer and Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Awards.
Surrey Hills Coffee, which started as a roaster in the Surrey Hills, can make a claim to be Guildford’s first independent speciality coffee shop, having opened on Chapel Street. However, the lease on that shop came to an end this year and although new premises were lined up, the usual difficulties led to a long delay in opening the second shop. it might have derailed a lesser business, but Surrey Hills took in its stride. Now the new shop is thriving and I couldn’t be happier. Surrey Hills Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Happiest Staff Award.
Alchemy Café , in the warren of lanes south of St Paul’s in the City of London, is a stalwart of London’s speciality coffee scene, having been roasting and serving its coffee since 2013. A lovely coffee shop, it could have fitting into any number of Award categories, but I wanted to highlight it here because it’s a fairly rare example of a small company, doing what it’s always done and continuing to do it very well.
Some coffee roasters, play it safe, only supplying high-end speciality coffee shops. At the other end of the scale, there are roasters who bring better coffee to a wider audience while still maintaining strong links to the coffee-farming communities. Union Hand-roasted, with its partnership with British Airways, is one such roaster. Also shortlisted for the Best Saturday Supplement Award.
I first knew Paquebot Mont-Royal as Café Plume, in Montréal’s in Mont Royal district when I visited in March 2013. I really loved the old place and when I heard that it had changed hands, I was initially worried, but I needn’t have been. The new owner, Paquebot keeping all that was best with the old place while at the same time building on it. Paquebot Mont-Royal has also been shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.
I love it when roasters open their doors and share their coffee direct with the public. I wish more roasters would follow the lead of the likes of Tokyo‘s Single O and it’s weekend Tasting Bar. I spent a lovely hour or so there, chatting with roaster/barista Yuuki. Single O Tasting Bar has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer and Best Outdoor Seating Awards.
Returning to social enterprises, Redemption Roasters on Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury is an excellent coffee shop in its own right. However, it also roasts all its coffee from a facility inside Aylesbury Young Offenders institute. Redemption Roasters offers training in both coffee roasting and barista skills, as well as helping finding ex-offenders find work in the coffee industry.
Talking of working patiently for what you want (It All Started Here) and trials and tribulations with landlords (Surrey Hills Coffee), it all pales into insignificance compared to the trouble Dave & Lucy have had in finding Idle Hands a permanent home. However, after three pop-ups and numerous set backs over the years, there they are on Manchester‘s Dale Street, knocking it out of the park. Idle Hands has also been shortlisted for the Best Cake Award.
Our final entry, Bean & Wheat, is one of several London-based ventures by chef/restaurateur Adam Handling. Originally the concept was coffee (bean) and bread (wheat), but it’s recently expanded its offering to include craft beer (also wheat, sort of). What’s more, Bean & Wheat is part of Adam Handling’s mission to eliminate waste in his establishments, a laudable aim indeed.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2018.
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