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.
There are 18 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2019.
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