The first shortlist for the 2019 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot” Award, won in 2018 by Craving Coffee. Finding Coffee Spots in cities such as New York, Edinburgh or Manchester is to be expected. However, good Coffee Spots are everywhere, some of them are in very unexpected places, both geographically and in terms of setting.
This Award is very much defined by the nominees on the shortlist. Some of these are geographical, a reward for bringing great coffee to unexpected places. Others are a recognition of a great or unusual setting for a Coffee Spot.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 18 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
Liar Liar, in the market town of Oswestry, is not really somewhere I’d associate with speciality coffee. It’s certainly not somewhere I’d expect to find an outstanding coffee shop that would grace any city in the world! Liar Liar has been shortlisted for three other Awards: Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot, Best Breakfast & Most Popular Coffee Spot.
Stan’s Bike Shack is on the long-distance cycle-path, the Downs Link, between the villages of Partridge Green and Bines Green in West Sussex. A real walkers’ / cyclists’ coffee shop, it’s not accessible by car (although there is parking relatively nearby). Stan’s Bike Shack has also been shortlisted for the Happiest Staff and Best Breakfast Awards.
Phoenix, in Arizona, has a rich and growing speciality coffee scene, so finding a great multi-roaster coffee shop there is not that unexpected. What got Kream | Coffee a place of the list is that it’s in a design shop, the coffee shop’s seating effortlessly blending into the display at the front of the store. Kream has also been shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
Staying with the idea of speciality coffee shops inside other shops, Rag & Bone Coffee is a (still) rare example of a speciality coffee shop inside a barbershop (although Sharps has had a speciality shop on site in Windmill Street since 2012). Rag & Bone was the latest incarnation, taking over in February, although since my visit, the operation has passed onto Good as Gold.
Speaking of coffee shops inside other establishments, how about a coffee shop inside a church? Like Sharps, Host Café has been going since 2012, occupying the back of the nave of St Mary Aldermary in the City of London, a truly awe-inspiring setting for a coffee shop, good enough to win it a place on the shortlist for the Best Physical Space Award.
I went to the ancient Water Town of Zhujiajiao, on Shanghai’s western outskirts, purely as a tourist, not expecting to find any great coffee. However, I found quite a few decent coffee shops, including The Point, a wonderful coffee shop/roaster with a gorgeous terrace at the back, overlooking the Dianpu River, just west of the famous Fangsheng Bridge. The Point has also been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Best Cake Awards.
Staying with the theme of rivers, I discovered Congregation Coffee Roasters on my most recent trip to New Orleans. It’s out at Algiers Point, just a short ride on the Canal Street Ferry from the heart of downtown New Orleans. A coffee shop and roaster, serving some excellent coffee, all roasted on-site in a lovely old building, it’s definitely worth the trip. Congregation Coffe Roasters is also on the Most Passionate About Coffee Award shortlist.
Staying in the US, the historic Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles is home to G & B Coffee (short for Glanville and Babinski Coffee, after founders Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski). I wish more markets had amazing coffee shops like this. G & B Coffee occupies an island counter at the top end of the market, providing a couple of options on espresso and filter, all roasted in-house.
I often pick my hotels on the basis of nearby coffee shops, but it’s still rare to find speciality coffee shops inside hotels. Canary Coffee was, therefore, an unexpected surprise when I arrived at the Novotel in Canary Wharf, particularly as I had no idea it was there! Serving Climpson and Sons on espresso, it’s a lovely coffee shop in its own right. Canary Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.
Staying in London, Pavilion Café is an old hand when it comes to speciality coffee, serving great coffee and food from a circular, glass-domed pavilion (hence the name) on the eastern side of the West Lake in Bethnal Green’s Victoria Park. Nevertheless, speciality coffee in settings such as parks are still rare, which got Pavilon Café its spot on the shortlist. Pavilon Café has also been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.
Back to America and Willa Jean is a brunch spot, restaurant and bakery in New Orleans’ Central Business District. On top of all that, it also serves some excellent coffee from Chicago’s Intelligentsia, with options on espresso and batch-brew, plus a pair of single-origin pour-overs through the V60. A rare example of speciality coffee done well in a restaurant setting.
The first of three entries from Japan, all from the first of my two trips this year, Higashide Coffee is in Kanazawa, where I unexpectedly found some excellent coffee. I say unexpectedly, since I wasn’t really looking, but I struck it lucky with my hotel, with several great coffee shops all within a few minutes’ walk. Higashide is a traditional Japanese kissaten, roasting all the coffee on an old Fuji Royal in the window.
Moving on to Kyoto, this is one of three % Arabica locations in the city, with an amazing setting on the banks of the Katsura River to the northwest of the city. It’s a very popular tourist area and not somewhere I would immediately associate with speciality coffee, but there it is, overlooking the river and the mountains beyond. % Arabica is also on the shortlist for the Best Takeaway Coffee Award.
The third of three entries from Japan, Dark Arts is an offshoot of Hackney’s Dark Arts Coffee, itself worthy of an entry on this shortlist. However, rather than being in one of Japan’s speciality coffee centres, such as Kyoto or Tokyo, you’ll find it in the small town of Hayama, on the Kanagawa prefecture. Dark Arts has also been shortlisted for the Best Espresso and Best Breakfast Awards.
Wandering the quiet, residential streets of Portobello, just to the south of Dublin city centre, I was beginning to think that I was in the wrong place, but there it was, First Draft Coffee & Wine, unexpected both for its location, and for the large selection of wine available, still unusual in terms of speciality coffee in the UK and Ireland. First Draft is also on the shortlists for this year’s Best Flat White and Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Awards.
Staying Dublin, Indigo & Cloth offers a offered a blend of international and local menswear, lifestyle and design products, plus, since 2014, a speciality coffee shop. Following similar principles, the coffee shop blends local and international roasters, with Belfast’s Bailies Coffee Roasters providing a house-blend and two single-origins on filter, joined by two seasonal guest roasters, with a single-origin on espresso and two more on filter.
The Hideout is the latest addition to the University of Surrey’s Stag Hill campus, an unexpected bonus given that it’s about a 45-minute walk from my house. Serving Union Hand-roasted on espresso and with the bold move of refusing to use disposable takeaway cups from the get-go, the Hideout is unexpected in more ways than one! The Hideout has also been shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
The curious thing about Coffee Curiosity is its location. A short walk from Canterbury’s bustling medieval centre, this is an oasis of calm, located in Tannery Wharf, which backs onto the Great Stour on the southern side of Tannery Square, part of a modern housing development tucked into the western end of Canterbury’s medieval city centre. Coffee Curiosity is also on the Most Passionate About Coffee and Best Outdoor Seating shortlists.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2019.
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