Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2019 underway, here are the winners of the seventh annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2018. The shortlists for all 20 Awards were announced between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and now we have the winners!
Before we go on, I know I’ve said this before, but a big thank you to everyone who’s visited the Coffee Spot, followed me on Twitter, liked my Facebook page and looked at my pictures on Instagram. While I do this for the love of coffee, it means a lot to me that so many of you take the time to read and comment on my writing. Without you, it really would be pointless.
If you don’t like lists, you can see who won this year’s Awards in the gallery.
So, without further ado, let’s see who won.
Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot (2017 Winner: Lost Sheep Coffee)
Craving Coffee is a top-notch coffee shop that would grace any town or city. The fact that it’s out in Tottenham in north-east London, rather than in Shoreditch is a testament to how mainstream speciality coffee has become. Shortlisted for two other awards, Craving Coffee, which is also a bar, community hub and evening social, could easily won either of them.
Best Takeaway Coffee (2017 Winner: Lever & Bloom)
CanDo Coffee uses the Rocket 88 blend from Ealing’s Electric Coffee Company, serving it from a cart on Merchant Square in West London. It could easily have won the Best Espresso Award, but I felt that this one was more fitting, since making coffee outdoors in all weather takes a particular skill. I also had a couple of awesome flat whites on my way to the office.
Coffee Spot with the Best Basement (2017 Winner: Laynes Espresso)
Verve’s second Tokyo branch is in Omotesando in the basement below the Rag & Bone store. It has its own entrance from the street, leading into a light-filled front section, or, for the real basement experience, you can sit in the small room at the back.
Runners-up: Scarlett Green, with a large and beautifully-appointed basement in Soho and Café Myriade – Dominion Square, another beautifully-appointed basement inside the Club Monaco clothing store on Montréal’s Dominion Square.
Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2017 Winner: The Moon & Sixpence)
Milk Teeth Café & Stores in Bristol is pretty much the epitome of the neighbourhood coffee shop, which made it the runaway winner this year. Located in the unfashionable (for trendy coffee shops) area of Saint Paul’s, the owner, Josh, lives a couple of streets away, while the coffee shop itself does its best to use local suppliers and support local business, including using Milk Teeth to provide micro-finance to local start-ups.
Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting (2017 Winner: London Grind)
I really loved the lighting (and lots else) at Exeter’s Exe Coffee Roasters. What swung it for me was the clever upcycling, which included lights made from old colanders. Best of all, however, were the lights made from old espresso boilers, one of which you can see in the photograph to the left.
Best Filter Coffee (2017 Winner: Café Integral, Chicago)
This year was a very good year for filter coffee, including one that tasted of tomatoes. However, the worthy winner is New Orleans’ Pax Treme, where I had a V60 of a Colombian, roasted by Onyx. In the bag it smelled amazing, while in the cup, I was really impressed by the rich sweetness. It lost a little of this as it cooled, but that only allowed the fruity notes to come through even more strongly.
Slowly but surely, coffee at railway stations is improving, and Canvas Coffee, down in Portsmouth and Southsea station has been leading the way for several years. A lovely coffee shop in its own right, it occupies the old station buffet building just outside of the ticket barriers which means that you can pop for a coffee even if you’re not catching a train.
Best Saturday Supplement (2017 Winner: Goodbye Ridley Place)
Until this year, the best coffee (and frankly the only good coffee) I’ve had while flying has been what I’ve brewed up for myself. However, that’s all changed with the partnership between British Airways and Union Hand-roasted, who have raised the bar when it comes to coffee in the air and on the ground in its UK lounges.
Best Outdoor Seating (2017 Winner: St Martin’s)
I’ve always liked Lemana Coffee & Kitchen down in Lymington, Hampshire. This year, under new ownership, it’s going from strength-to-strength, although I have to say that it’s always had a rather large and impressive outdoor seating area. This year I was impressed with the gazebo for the colder months, providing even more outdoor seating options.
Best Espresso (2017 Winner: Federation Coffee)
Like this year’s Best Filter Coffee Award, it’s been a great year for espresso, with a record 18 entries on the shortlist. This really is an Award I could have given many, many times over. As it was, I decided to give the nod to Verve Coffee Roasters, with its excellent Street Level blend, beating out strong competition from multiple single-origin espressos this year.
Smallest Coffee Spot (2017 Winner: Root & Branch)
The irony of having the (joint) largest shortlist for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award is not lost on me and this was another really hard to judge award. In the end, though, the original Melbourne in Lichfield on Bolt Court won out. It’s not quite a kiosk, since it has a little bar at the counter with some stools, plus there’s a table and a couple of chairs in a little sheltered spot off to one side.
Runners-up: Shots Espresso Bar, a previous winner now under new ownership and Surrey Hills Coffee, London Square, no more than a container in a car park (although, at the same time, so much more than a container in a car park).
Best Cake (2017 Winner: Coffee Lab, Salisbury)
Doughnuts. Need I say more? Okay, freshly fried doughnuts, made every morning in the back of the shop using a two-day cold-fermented dough. With a choice of at least nine flavours (I had one filled with raspberry jam, the tartness of the jam perfectly off-setting the sweetness of the doughnut). If you don’t now see why Manchester’s Siop Shop won this year’s Best Cake Award, you never will.
Best Roaster/Retailer (2017 Winner: Carvetii Coffee Roasters)
Tokyo‘s Koffee Mameya, which literally translates as Coffee Beans, is the ultimate coffee retailer, complete with tasting bar. The successor to the famed Omotesando Koffee, there’s a choice of up to 25 different beans available from seven different roasters from around the world, with all the coffee available to drink in-house as either espresso or pour-over.
Best Overseas Coffee Spot (2017 Winner: Panther Coffee, Wynwood)
Amsterdam’s Black Gold is my kind of quirky coffee shop. Originally set up by crowd-funding, it combined coffee with selling (vinyl) records, using 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. It’s also a lovely place to sit and drink your coffee!
Best Physical Space (2017 Winner: Society Café, Bristol)
I found so much good coffee in Thailand, and particularly in Chiang Mai. I would have loved to dedicate a whole set of Awards to them alone. However, Cottontree Coffee Roasters was, in many ways, my favourite, set in a beautiful building worth visiting on aesthetic grounds alone, although the coffee is also awesome, while the owners, Fai (Cotton) and Ton (Tree) are just lovely.
Happiest Staff (2017 Winner: Westmoreland Speciality Coffee)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Manchester-based roaster, Heart & Graft, partly because of the infectious personalities of owners James and Sean. I’m pleased to say that they seem to have passed this on to their staff at their coffee shop, under the railway arches in Salford, where I had a lovely welcome from Ashleigh and Josh. Heart & Graft is another which could have won multiple awards this year.
Best Breakfast (2017 Winner: Homeground Coffee + Kitchen)
This was another ridiculously strong field. In the end, I went for the unusual in choosing the winner, Short + Stout serving me a stack of corn and cauliflower fritters which came interleaved by layers of tomato chutney and pickled red onion, all topped by grilled halloumi and mashed avocado, drizzled with a mint and lime yoghurt sauce. It was as awesome as it sounds!
Most Passionate About Coffee (2017 Winner: Coffee + Beer)
A chance find in Door County, Wisconsin, Discourse Coffee could have just have easily won the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award. However, Discourse, and more specifically its owner, Ryan, blew me away with his dedication. Rarely have I met anyone with more passion for great coffee, constantly playing with extractions and flavours. On that basis, Discourse could easily have won the Best Espresso Award as well!
Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award (2017 Winner: Forte Espresso Bar)
I never expected to see speciality coffee in Holywell, the town where I was born and brought up, but I have Sarah to thank for changing that. This is where she’s based The Coffee Bean, which sells coffee to raise money for her charity, The Cariad Project, while at the same time forging links with coffee farmers in Africa. Sarah is amazing, dedicated and hard-working: I wish her every success in 2019.
Most Popular Coffee Spot (2017 Winner: Made by Knock: Aergrind)
For yet another year, you all decided you wanted to read about coffee equipment, not coffee shops. A clear winner, this year over 1,100 people read my Saturday Supplement on Decent Espresso, a home espresso machine that is aimed firmly at the coffee geek, with the sort of control you find in high-end machines. I managed to get a demonstration earlier this year up in Glasgow.
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