2019 Awards – Coffee Spot with the Best Basement

Barista skills in action: pouring two Kalita Wave filters simultaneously at Verve Coffee Roasters in Omotesando, Tokyo.Our third shortlist in the 2019 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Coffee Spot with the Best Basement” Award. As regular readers will know, I have a soft spot for Coffee Spots with good basements. In 2018 this went to Verve Omotesando.

To some, a basement is a dark, sometimes dingy, cramped space. However, when they are at their best, basements are cosy, welcoming spaces that provide the perfect spot to curl up with your coffee. This award celebrates those Coffee Spots with outstanding basements, the sort of places you want to go and spend all day in! It also includes those Coffee Spots which, while not technically basements, have that basement-like feel to them.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Cairngorm Coffee, Frederick Street, more of a coffee shop in a basement. Two, in fact.
  • Little Bean Coffee Musuem, in the basement of the K11 Mall in Shanghai.
  • Staying in Shanghai, and staying in the basements of shopping malls, it's Seesaw IFC.
  • And the third Shanghai basement in a third shopping mall. It's % Arabica, Xintiandi Plaza.
  • Lot 61 Coffee Roasters, with an awesome basement that used to be a roastery.
  • Moving to Chicago, Doughnut Vault, Canal Street, is in the basement of an office building.
  • Chalk Coffee, in Chester, technically not a basement, but it certainly feels like one.
  • The Beehive in Bethnal Green, with an awesome basement that doubles as a library.
  • I loved the massive basement in Caffenation, Amsterdam.
  • Ozone Coffee Roasters, with a roastery and plenty of seating in the basement.
  • Second Shot, Marylebone, the second Second Shot, with a lovely, large basement.
  • Another shopping mall basement, this time in Kyoto Station where you'll find Ogawa Coffee.
  • Blue Bottle Coffee, Nakameguro, with an excellent, spacious basement at the back.
  • Panna Chester, across the road from Chalk Coffee, and another not quite basement.
  • HR Higgins Coffee Room, a cosy basement in Mayfair, with a coffee merchant upstairs.
  • Kiss the Hippo, with its sunny basement in Fitzrovia.
  • Another shopping mall, another station, this time in Kanazawa: it's Blue Monday.
  • Society Cafe, The Corridor with a lovely basement where once there was just a storeroom.
Cairngorm Coffee, Frederick Street, more of a coffee shop in a basement. Two, in fact.1 Little Bean Coffee Musuem, in the basement of the K11 Mall in Shanghai.2 Staying in Shanghai, and staying in the basements of shopping malls, it's Seesaw IFC.3 And the third Shanghai basement in a third shopping mall. It's % Arabica, Xintiandi Plaza.4 Lot 61 Coffee Roasters, with an awesome basement that used to be a roastery.5 Moving to Chicago, Doughnut Vault, Canal Street, is in the basement of an office building.6 Chalk Coffee, in Chester, technically not a basement, but it certainly feels like one.7 The Beehive in Bethnal Green, with an awesome basement that doubles as a library.8 I loved the massive basement in Caffenation, Amsterdam.9 Ozone Coffee Roasters, with a roastery and plenty of seating in the basement.10 Second Shot, Marylebone, the second Second Shot, with a lovely, large basement.11 Another shopping mall basement, this time in Kyoto Station where you'll find Ogawa Coffee.12 Blue Bottle Coffee, Nakameguro, with an excellent, spacious basement at the back.13 Panna Chester, across the road from Chalk Coffee, and another not quite basement.14 HR Higgins Coffee Room, a cosy basement in Mayfair, with a coffee merchant upstairs.15 Kiss the Hippo, with its sunny basement in Fitzrovia.16 Another shopping mall, another station, this time in Kanazawa: it's Blue Monday.17 Society Cafe, The Corridor with a lovely basement where once there was just a storeroom.18
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There are 18 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

A piccolo in a glass on a red saucer at Cairngorm Coffee, Frederick Street, Edinburgh.Cairngorm Coffee, Frederick Street

One of two Cairngorm Coffee locations in Edinburgh, this is less a coffee shop with a basement, and more a coffee shop in a basement. Two basements, in fact, one on the left, with the counter, and the other off to the right, where you’ll find the seating. Naturally, the coffee is excellent, all roasted in-house, while there’s also a small food selection.

A V60 of a Costa Rican Geisha being prepared at Little Bean Coffee Museum in Shanghai.Little Bean Coffee Museum

Next is Shanghai, with the first of three entries, all in shopping malls basements, a favoured location, it seems, of Shanghai speciality coffee shops. Little Bean Coffee Museum is in the centre of the large basement under the K11 Mall. The coffee is some of the best I’ve had in China, all roasted in-house and served from a long, thin island counter with seating down the sides and at either end. Little Bean is also on the Best Filter Coffee shortlist.

My espresso, made with the Giraffe house-blend, and served in a classic black cup at Seesaw in the IFC Mall in Shanghai.Seesaw IFC

Our second entry is Seesaw, another Shanghai coffee shop / roastery chain, up there with Little Bean when it comes to the best coffee in Shanghai. In this case it’s in the basement of the IFC Mall on the Pudong side of the river, although since the IFC Mall has several basements levels, all of which are massive, it has less of a basement feel than the others. Seesaw has also been shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.

The % Arabica logo from the floor of its latest Shanghai branch in the Sunken Plaza of the Xintiandi Plaza shopping centre.% Arabica, Xintiandi Plaza

Our third and final Shanghai entry is % Arabica in Xintiandi Plaza, just across the road from Little Bean in K11 (you can move between them without ever setting foot outside). This one looks out onto a pleasant, basement courtyard, so is the brightest of the three. Like all % Arabicas that I’ve visited, it only has disposable cups, so , so don’t forget to bring your own. % Arabica has also been shortlisted for the Best Flat White Award.

The Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters logo from the awning outside the coffee shop on Kinkerstraat, west Amsterdam.Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters

Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters in Amsterdam used to be a ground floor coffee shop with a basement-like roastery behind/below it. These days, the roaster has gone, moved to a larger, dedicated facility, freeing up the space to provide extra seating, which takes the pressure off the upstairs and the benches outside, vital given how popular Lot Sixty One has become.

Some gorgeous latte art in Amanda's cappuccino at the Doughnut Vault on Canal Street, Chicago.Doughnut Vault, Canal Street

Chicago’s Doughnut Vault has two locations, both downtown and close to my office. The original mainly sells doughnuts, which are baked in the downstairs kitchen. The Canal Street location, meanwhile, is a full coffee shop, in a basement-like space under an office building. You’ll have to be quick if you want a doughnut though, since they sell out early. The Doughnut Vault is also on the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting shortlist.

The Chalk Coffee logo from the wall of the coffee shop in Chester.Chalk Coffee

Chalk Coffee is the first of two entries from Chester, occupying a ground floor space on Watergate Street. Stretching a long way back under the famous Rows, it is a basement in all but name, particularly at the back, with its low, vaulted ceiling. The coffee is from Origin with a single-origin or blend on espresso, while there’s also a single-origin on batch brew. Chalk Coffee is also shortlisted for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

The sign from outside The Beehive in Bethnal Green, with the slogan, "Coffee & Industry".The Beehive

The Beehive is one of a number of excellent coffee shops in Bethnal Green. It is a social enterprise, part of the Bethnal Green Mission Church, with a lovely outdoor seating area at the northern end of Paradise Gardens. It has an equally lovely, basement, albeit of a very different character, which doubles as a library, amongst other things. The Beehive has also been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.

A piccolo, made with the house blend at Caffènation in Amsterdam, and served in an espresso cup.Caffènation, Amsterdam

Caffènation is the second entry from Amsterdam, with a massive, sprawling basement, perhaps the biggest on this year’s shortlist. It’s a wonderful, cosy space, with multiple seating options, the ideal place to hide away in the winter months. Naturally, I was there over the summer. All the coffee, naturally enough, is from Caffènation in Antwerp.

 

A lovely Kenyan Githaka AB Estate V60, roasted and served at Ozone in Shoreditch, the coffee presented on a tray, with a short mug next to the carafe.Ozone Coffee Roasters

Ozone is a stalwart of London‘s Shoreditch coffee scene, having first opened on Leonard Street in 2012, where it still has its lovely coffee shop / restaurant upstairs, with the roastery in the basement, along with plenty of overflow seating. Ozone has also been shortlisted for the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

A lovely decaf cortado, roasted by Square Mile, and served at the new Second Shot in Marylebone.Second Shot, Marylebone

The second Second Shot (after the original in Bethnal Green) has a lovely, large basement which was only just getting going when I visited, a few weeks after it opened. Like the original, this is a social enterprise, dedicated to helping the homeless through a variety of means, including training. You can sit downstairs in the basement, which also doubles as a training room. Second Shot has also been shortlisted for the Best Cake Award.

A lovely single-origin Ethiopian pour-over from Ogawa Coffee at Kyoto Station.Ogawa Coffee, Kyoto Station

The first of three entries from Japan, Ogawa Coffee is also in a shopping mall, only this one is under Kyoto Station, earning it a place on the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award. Ogawa Coffee offers a concise espresso menu, plus filter, with a choice of the house-blend on batch brew, and two single-origins as pour-over or Aeropress. If you don’t want to sit-in, you can order coffee to go from a separate retail counter.

My single-origin pour-over served in a beautiful glass cup at Blue Bottle Coffee in Nakameguro.Blue Bottle Coffee, Nakameguro

Staying in Japan, but this time in Tokyo, Blue Bottle Coffee’s Nakameguro location occupies an old factory building, with a large, spacious basement-like space at the back, the perfect spot to hide away with your laptop for an hour or two. There’s the full Blue Bottle Coffee offering (with the exception of a syphon service), along with a small food menu. Blue Bottle Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Happiest Staff Award.

A Chemex of a Los Suspiros from Guatemala, roasted by Square Mile of London and served in Panna, Chester.Panna Chester

Panna is the second of two entries from Chester, occupying another ground floor space on Watergate Street, almost directly opposite Chalk Coffee. This too stretches a long way back under the Rows, another basement in all but name, although at the back it opens onto a small basement courtyard where there is an old Roman pillar. Panna Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Happiest Staff Award.

A V60 of the Galapagos San Cristolbol at HR Higgins, beautifully presented in a carafe, cup on one side, resting on the window-bar in the basement coffee room.HR Higgins Coffee Room

Returning to London, HR Higgins celebrated its 75th anniversary this year as a coffee and tea merchant. The basement coffee room is a slightly more recent addition, opening a few years after HR Higgins moved to its current location on Duke Street in 1986. HR Higgins is also shortlisted for the Best Cake Award.

A gorgeous single-origin Ethiopian espresso, roasted in-house, and served in a classic white cup at Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia.Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia

Kiss the Hippo took over the Fitzrovia space of Curators Coffee Gallery, itself shortlisted for the Best Basement Award in 2015. Kiss the Hippo has kept the basic layout, but given the decor a makeover, with the result that the basement is even better than it was before, with a pair of booths along the front, where they get the light from the light-well. Kiss the Hippo is also shortlisted for the Best Espresso Award.

A lovely espresso, made with the house-blend at Blue Monday in Kanazawa and served in a glass, on a patterned glass saucer.Blue Monday

Returning to Japan, Blue Monday is another coffee shop (albeit a kiosk this time) in a shopping mall basement. Opposite Kanazawa Station, which earned it a place on the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award, Blue Monday is an excellent pre- or post-train stop for coffee. Blue Monday has also been shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

The mural on the wall of the basement in Society Cafe, The Corridor, in Bath, showing flowers growing in a coffee cup, with a small animal peaking its head out.Society Café, The Corridor

When I first visited Society Café, in Bath’s Victoria Shopping Arcade, The Corridor, it was 2014 and the basement was just a storeroom. However, when I returned earlier this year, I was delighted to find that it had been converted into a lovely, cosy seating space, every bit the equal of the upstairs (which was good enough to win the 2015 Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award). Society Café has also been shortlisted for the Best Flat White Award.


And the winner is Society Café, The Corridor
Runners-up: HR Higgins Coffee Room and The Beehive

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2019.


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9 thoughts on “2019 Awards – Coffee Spot with the Best Basement

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