I present the final shortlist of the day, which is for another of my favourite Coffee Spot Awards, that of “Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff”. Last year it was won by Heart & Graft Coffee Shop. In my opinion, staff are probably the most over-looked part of any Coffee Spot. Good staff can make a place and bad staff, no matter how great the coffee and wonderful the location, can kill a place.
Everywhere that features in the Coffee Spot has great staff, but these were exceptional, with some infectiously happy staff. However, this award isn’t just for happy staff; it’s for any staff who go that extra mile to make their coffee shop a special place.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
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 a lovely, family-run affair, with Stan (who’s name is actually Steve) setting the tone behind the counter. Stan’s Bike Shack has also been shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot and Best Breakfast Awards.
Located in the Scottsdale Waterfront development, this is one the newest Press Coffees. As well as the usual excellent coffee, I was particularly well looked after by Dani, my barista, whose face lit up when I asked her to choose from the six single-origins on pour-over. Press Coffee also been shortlisted for the Best Flat White Award.
When I first visited Fortitude, owners Matt and Helen were permanently behind the counter, but these days, they spilt their time between family, coffee shop and roastery. Instead I was expertly looked after by Cristabel and Niall, who gave me the sort of warm welcome I’d have expected from Matt and Helen. Fortitude has also been shortlisted for the Best Flat White and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.
I loved the staff in Chez Black Coffee in Shanghai, who were incredibly helpful, answering all my awkward question about the steampunkesque XLVI espresso machine from Italy. And this is despite me not being able to speak any Chinese. Chez Black has also been shortlisted for the Best Espresso Award.
Staying in Shanghai, Mellower Coffee is another homegrown coffee shop/roaster chain with multiple locations across the city. The staff in Century Link Tower 1, were so helpful, particularly because I wanted to buy some Yunnan coffee which had sold out. Despite the language barrier (see above) they suggested alternatives and gave me a filter bag (individual serving of pre-ground coffee) of the Yunnan I wanted to make up for it.
From Shanghai to New Orleans and Revelator Coffee on Tchoupitoulas Street, a semi-regular haunt of mine during my week there for work. The manager was happy to make me samples of the coffee for me to try and was also a useful source of suggestions for other coffee shops in New Orleans.
Staying in New Orleans, the staff in Stumptown Coffee were universally helpful, particularly my barista Rashidah, her colleague Caroline and the manager, Kyle. They happily made coffees for me to try and were full of suggestions, including putting me onto Woodcat Coffee Bar in Los Angeles. Stumptown Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Physical Space and Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Awards.
Obscure Coffee is a relatively new addition to Chester’s speciality coffee scene, opened by Nick, along with partner Maz, in November 2018. It has a strong pedigree, Nick having worked at both Artisan Roast and Brew Lab in Edinburgh and he’s as engaging as anyone I’ve met in the coffee industry. Obscure Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
Slow Café was my first chance discovery in Prague, popping in on the off chance as I wandered past, drawn in by the weekly brunch menu in the window. It’s another family-run establishment, with the owners very much setting the tone (for example, only working with roasters that they know personally). Slow Café has also been shortlisted for the Best Breakfast Award.
I’ve long though that one of the hardest parts of growing a coffee business is recruiting and maintaining excellent staff, something which Pru and Tom of the Daisy Green Collective have done superbly over the years. At Ziggy Green, one of the recent openings, Bella and her colleagues, looked after me with style. Ziggy Green has also been shortlisted for the Best Breakfast and Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.
From the large to the tiny. Alex, owner, barista and pretty much everything else at Alex Coffee, can be relied upon to greet you with a friendly smile from behind the counter, where he’s as much of a draw as the coffee, which comes from Red Bank Coffee, in Coniston in the Lake District (Alex went to the same law school as Tom, Red Bank’s owner). Alex Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
I must confess that prior to meeting to enthusiastic staff from Ngopi at the Birmingham Coffee Festival, I’d rather overlooked Indonesian coffee. They soon put me right, both the coffee and their friendly disposition winning me over. They’re just the same in the city centre cafe, with Ngopi shortlisted for three more Awards: Best Roaster/Retailer, Best Espresso and Most Passionate About Coffee.
One of the larger chains with multiple staff where I’ve been consistently impressed with the service is Blue Bottle Coffee in Tokyo, where the staff have always been excellent. Against that high standard, the staff at the Nakameguro location, and, in particular, Yoshi, stood out! Blue Bottle Coffee Nakameguro has also been shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
Panna began life in Liverpool, where owners Ivana and Peter, a friendly, welcoming Slovak couple, had turned a potentially unpromising basement in Silkhouse Court into a lovely, warm, welcoming café. When they moved to Chester earlier this year, they brought the same winning combination with them. Panna has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
Returning to Tokyo, where the level of service in pretty much every coffee shop I’ve been to has been excellent, another which has stood out is Onibus Coffee. I’ve shortlisted the Yakumo coffee shop for this award, but honestly, it could have gone to any Onibus location. Onibus Coffee, Yakumo has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Cake Award.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2019.
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