2019 Awards – Best Physical Space

The Cottontree Coffee Cafe logo, with a pour-over kettle on top and an espresso portafilter at the bottom.Next up today, the 2019 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Physical Space”, which was won last year by Cottontree Coffee Roasters. One of the most important things for me is how a Coffee Spot looks and feels. This, to me, is just as important as the coffee.

This award celebrates those Coffee Spots in which there’s a pure joy in just sitting there, soaking it all in. It’s not just about physical beauty and elegance. Instead, it’s as much about atmosphere, layout and overall feel. It’s another where I could have made two or three different shortlists, all with worthy winners. However, I have managed to whittle it down to just a single list for this year’s Award.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Exo Roast Co., all classic exposed brick and wood, with gloriously high ceilings.
  • Cartel Coffee Lab, Downtown Tucson, a large brick-built space with open A-frame roof.
  • Gaslight Coffee Roasters: exposed brick, wooden floorboards and old wooden beams.
  • Machina Espresso, Nicolson Street, cleverly broken up with scaffolding-style shelving units.
  • Host Cafe occupying the back of the nave of St Mary Aldermary Church.
  • UNDEF/NE, a series of multiple, interconnected spaces, part café, part gallery.
  • Stumptown Coffee, another sumptuous Ace Hotel fit-out this time in New Orleans.
  • Flywheel Coffee Roasters, in  a classic San Francisco ex-industrial building.
  • Pražírna Kavárna, with exposed brick walls and vaulted ceilings across multiple rooms.
  • The Pilgrm, a boutique hotel with a lovely upstairs lounge.
  • Cherry Coffee Roasters, looking like an elegant New Orleans mansion.
  • Java Lounge, Colmore Row, its main space beautifully fitted out in reclaimed wood.
  • Hirano Coffee in a traditional two-storey Japanese house.
  • Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden in a restored 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.
  • Three Fools Coffee, transforming an unappealing concrete and glass shell.
  • Shoe Lane Coffee, Tara Street, spread across two very lovely floors.
  • Ipsento, the cosiest of cosy back rooms.
  • Garage Coffee, spread over three floors of a lovely, 500-year-old building.
Exo Roast Co., all classic exposed brick and wood, with gloriously high ceilings.1 Cartel Coffee Lab, Downtown Tucson, a large brick-built space with open A-frame roof.2 Gaslight Coffee Roasters: exposed brick, wooden floorboards and old wooden beams.3 Machina Espresso, Nicolson Street, cleverly broken up with scaffolding-style shelving units.4 Host Cafe occupying the back of the nave of St Mary Aldermary Church.5 UNDEF/NE, a series of multiple, interconnected spaces, part café, part gallery.6 Stumptown Coffee, another sumptuous Ace Hotel fit-out this time in New Orleans.7 Flywheel Coffee Roasters, in  a classic San Francisco ex-industrial building.8 Pražírna Kavárna, with exposed brick walls and vaulted ceilings across multiple rooms.9 The Pilgrm, a boutique hotel with a lovely upstairs lounge.10 Cherry Coffee Roasters, looking like an elegant New Orleans mansion.11 Java Lounge, Colmore Row, its main space beautifully fitted out in reclaimed wood.12 Hirano Coffee in a traditional two-storey Japanese house.13 Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden in a restored 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.14 Three Fools Coffee, transforming an unappealing concrete and glass shell.15 Shoe Lane Coffee, Tara Street, spread across two very lovely floors.16 Ipsento, the cosiest of cosy back rooms.17 Garage Coffee, spread over three floors of a lovely, 500-year-old building.18
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There are 18 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

The Exo logo, and a little bit of an explanation, from the wall at the back on Tucson's 7th Street.Exo Roast Co.

We begin the shortlist in Tucson, Arizona where Exo Roast Co occupies a sunny corner. Split into two parts, the coffee shop is up front with the roaster tucked in behind the counter. The back room, meanwhile, provides overspill seating, a part-time bar and occasional events space. Inside, it’s a case of classic exposed brick and wood, with gloriously high ceilings. Exo Roast Co has also been shortlisted for the Best Breakfast Award.

A mug of the Providencia Black Honey single-origin from El Salvador, served at Cartel Coffee Lab in downtown Tucson.Cartel Coffee Lab, Downtown Tucson

Staying in Tucson, Cartel Coffee Lab occupies a beautiful, sunlight downtown spot. There’s a single, large brick-built space open to the shallow A-frame roof and it might be my favourite Cartel space to date (and Cartel has some wonderful locations). Of course, there’s the usual excellent Cartel coffee, while Cartel Coffee Lab has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

A Burundi single-origin espresso, served in a classic white cup at Gaslight Coffee Roasters in Chicago.Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Moving on to Chicago, Gaslight Coffee Roasters is a coffee shop, roaster and retailer all-in-one. It also has a full kitchen, serving five or six seasonal dishes until three o’clock each afternoon, while roasting takes place three times a week in a separate room to the rear of the store. It occupies a wedge-shaped space in an old building, with exposed brick walls, wooden floorboards and a whitewashed ceiling and old wooden beams.

Machina Espresso Coffee Bar: detail from the sign outside the Nicolson Street branchMachina Espresso, Nicolson Street

I first discovered Edinburgh’s Machina Espresso in 2013, back when it was an equipment supplier. There followed a first coffee shop in Brougham Place, and then, in 2017, it started roasting and opened a second branch on Nicolson Street. Although it occupies a single, open space, this is cleverly broken up with scaffolding-style shelving units, feeling like lots of small, secluded spaces, which has won it a spot on this shortlist.

A lovely flat white made with the Up Hill espresso blend from Mission Coffee Works at Host Cafe in St Mary Aldermary Church, LondonHost Café

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. There’s dedicated coffee shop seating at the back of the church, but you’re welcome to take your coffee and sit on the pews.Host Café has also won a place on the shortlist for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.

My espresso, plus a glass of water, beautifully-presented on a metal tray, at Shanghai's UNDEF/NE.UNDEF/NE

UNDEF/NE is in Shanghai Art District M50), occupying part of the ground floor of an old factory building. It’s a series of multiple, interconnected spaces, including two mezzanine levels, which is part café, part gallery, the distinction between the two sometimes blurred. UNDEF/NE has also been shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.

A beautiful, colourful bag of coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters which I swapped for a copy of my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, at Stumptown's New Orleans branch in the Ace Hotel.Stumptown Coffee, Ace Hotel (New Orleans)

Stumptown’s long association with Ace Hotels has seen its coffee shops in various hotels in cities across America. One common feature is the high standard of the fit-out, which is continued by the Ace Hotel in New Orleans, enough to merit a place on this shortlist, while the lighting, which is stunning has ensured a spot on the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting shortlist. Finally, Stumptown has been shortlisted for the Happiest Staff Award.

The Flywheel Coffee Roasters logo from the wall of the coffee shop in San Francisco.Flywheel Coffee Roasters

Staying in the USA, but moving up the bay to San Francisco, which has a long tradition of combined coffee shop/roasters in glorious ex-industrial buildings, and Flywheel Coffee Roasters is no exception, winning it a place on this shortlist. Flywheel has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Roaster/Retailer and Best Filter Coffee Awards.

The Pražírna Kavárna logo, a black and white line drawing of a roaster. Am I the only one who thinks it looks like a steam train?Pražírna Kavárna

The first place I visited on this summer’s trip to Prague, it’s fair to say that I loved everything about Pražírna Kavárna, from the massive, secluded courtyard at the back (which saw it shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award) to its multi-roomed interior, each with its own character, and the exposed brick walls and vaulted ceilings that gained it a place on this shortlist.

Some lovely latte art in my flat white upstairs at the Pilgrm, made with Workshop's Los Naranjos single-origin Colombian espresso.The Pilgrm

The Pilgrm is a boutique hotel just south of Paddington Station. While there’s coffee downstairs from Workshop, upstairs is a lovely lounge. Although primarily for hotel guests, you’re welcome to take your coffee up there, which I would definitely recommend, particularly if you can get one of the armchairs at the top of the stairs. The Pilgrm’s has also been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Best Breakfast Awards.

A cortado, made with a single-origin espresso, and served in a lovely glass at Cherry Coffee Roasters in New Orleans.Cherry Coffee Roasters

The second entry from New Orleans, this is the second location for Cherry. While I described the original Cherry Espresso as a “typical American coffee shop” (and a very nice one at that), this, in the Lower Garden District, has the feel of an elegant New Orleans mansion. Cherry Coffee Roasters has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

My flat white, served in a classic black cup at Java Lounge on Colmore Row, Birmingham.Java Lounge, Colmore Row

Java Lounge occupies a lovely old building on Birmingham‘s Colmore Row. The high-ceilinged main space is beautifully fitted out in reclaimed wood, while there’s a smaller back room with a curved alcove at the back. Java Lounge has also been shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

 

My coffee, a V60 of a Guatemalan single-origin, reflecting the greenery in Hirano Coffee, Nagano.Hirano Coffee

From Birmingham to Japan (Nagano to be precise) and Hirano Coffee, a coffee shop/roastery which won a place on the Best Roaster/Retailer shortlist. It’s located in a traditional two-storey Japanese house. You can sit downstairs with the counter and roaster for company, or upstairs in a series of gorgeous, interconnecting, open rooms. While I was there, quiet jazz filled the place, only adding to the atmosphere.

Details from the curtains hanging in the door of Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden, Kyoto, showing a man pouring latte art.Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden

Staying in Japan, it’s fair to say that I was totally smitten by Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden in Kyoto. It occupies a restored 200-year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse, where the majority of the seating at traditional, low tables, plus various associated buildings all set in a small compound. Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden has also been shortlisted for the Best Breakfast and Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.

An Americano extracting into a cup of hot water at Three Fools Coffee in CorkThree Fools Coffee

From Japan to Ireland and Cork, where Three Fools Coffee occupies what once was a rather unappealing concrete and glass shell. Three Fools has used wood to great effect to transform it into a warm, welcoming interior, including framing the windows, cladding the back wall and building all the furniture and counter from wood. Three Fools Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Espresso Award.

A lovely single-origin Brazilian espresso from Full Circle Roasters, served in a glass at Shoe Lane Coffee, Dublin.Shoe Lane Coffee, Tara Street

Staying in Ireland, but moving north to Dublin, Shoe Lane Coffee is spreads out over two floors. The spacious downstairs has the counter at the back, home to Dublin’s first La Marzocco KB90. Meanwhile, via a switch-back staircase at the back, the upper floor is dominated by a large, communal table with a window-bar. Shoe Lane has is also on the Best Espresso and Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station shortlists.

The Ipsento logo from the back wall of the coffee shop's front room on Western Avenue in Chicago.Ipsento

Back in Chicago and Ipsento, one of the city’s speciality coffee pioneers. The front part of Ipsento, which it shares with the counter, is appealing enough, although I must confess that I am particularly taken with cosy back rooms. In Ipsento, I may well have found the cosiest of cosy back rooms in all of coffee, easily good enough for a place on this shortlist.

The Garage Coffee logo from the cafe inside the Fruitworks Coworking space in Canterbury.Canteen by Garage Coffee

Garage Coffee is spread over three floors of a lovely, 500-year-old building next to Canterbury Cathedral, a magnificent setting if ever there was one. You can sit downstairs with the counter, or, if you can navigate the steep, switch-back stairs in either of the upstairs rooms.

 


A special mention needs to go to the following:

Chez Black Coffee, a coffee shop and library in Shangai
The Point, with its multiple rooms spread over three floors
Canary Coffee, a classic coffee shop attached to my hotel in Canary Wharf
Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm, narrowly beaten out by the lounge upstairs
Ozone Coffee Roasters, still going strong in the heart of Shoreditch
Long & Short Coffee, Walthamstow, making creative use of an old shipping container
Blueprint Coffee & Books, more coffee & books, this time as a bookshop in Whitstable
Spyhouse Coffee, St Paul, occupying a lovely, old grocery shop


And the winner is Pražírna Kavárna
Runners-up: Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden and Ipsento

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


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