Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2020 underway, here are the winners of the eighth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2019. The shortlists for all 20 Awards were announced between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and now we have the winners!
Before we go on, I know I’ve said this before, but a big thank you to everyone who’s visited the Coffee Spot, followed me on Twitter, liked my Facebook page and looked at my pictures on Instagram. While I do this for the love of coffee, it means a lot to me that so many of you take the time to read and comment on my writing. Without you, it really would be pointless.
If you don’t like lists, you can see who won this year’s Awards in the gallery.
So, without further ado, let’s see who won.
Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot (2018 Winner: Craving Coffee)
In a year with some great surprise discoveries, The Hideout was a real bonus, opening just on my doorstep at the University of Surrey. While students are known for their coffee drinking, they’re not always known for their speciality coffee drinking, so having a speciality coffee shop open up on campus was a real (and welcome surprise). The Hideout was also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
Best Takeaway Coffee (2018 Winner: CanDo Coffee, Merchant Square)
I was really spoilt for choice this year with so much great takeaway coffee from Phoenix to Tokyo and all points between. It was therefore really difficult to pick a winner, but in the end, I settled on London, where the consistency of both the coffee and the service from Workshop at The Pilgrm, opposite Paddington Station, swung it for me. I look forward to returning next year for many more flat whites to go.
Runners-up: Stockholm Roast, my go-to spot on the way to the office in Tokyo and Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Paddington Central, another great option in Paddington.
Coffee Spot with the Best Basement (2018 Winner: Verve Omotesando)
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. It’s not particularly big, but it’s one of the finest basements that I’ve had the pleasure of gracing for a long time.
Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2018 Winner: Milk Teeth Café & Stores)
There are many ways of creating a neighbourhood feel in a coffee shop, but to do it in when you don’t even have a coffee shop is particularly impressive. Lost Sheep’s coffee pod down by Canterbury bus station has a real community feel to it though, with the majority of the customers being regulars, who seem to know both each other and the staff (who have been known to hang out there on days off!).
Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting (2018 Winner: Exe Coffee Roasters)
Another tough one to judge, I ended up with Coffee Addict, opposite Victoria Station in London, perhaps the smallest winner of this Award over the years. It just goes to show that you don’t need huge numbers of lights, or (that many) fancy light fittings to have some amazing light. In the case of Coffee Addict, it was the combination of the lights and the design which saw it over the line.
Best Filter Coffee (2018 Winner: Pax Treme)
Tokyo‘s Glitch Coffee has become one of my favourite roasters, specialising in lightly-roasted single-origins. It also has a lovely little coffee shop/ roastery and offering filter tasting flights is a big bonus. However, what swung it was the quality of the coffee on offer. I went twice, trying six coffees across two tasting flights and each of them was outstanding in its own right.
Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station (2018 Winner: Canvas Coffee)
Sometimes winners just pick themselves and so it was in the case of the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station, where Espresso Station, sat right on the concourse of Birmingham‘s lovely Moor Street Station, was always going to be extremely hard to beat.
Best Saturday Supplement (2018 Winner: Improving Airline Coffee: British Airways & Union Hand-roasted)
Bean Thinking, the coffee and science blog, is a wonderful thing and in 2019, it went one better, starting a series of evening coffee and science events, held every month at Amoret Speciality Coffee in Notting Hill. I love the combination of science and coffee: if you can, go to one of the events in 2020!
Best Outdoor Seating (2018 Winner: Lemana Coffee & Kitchen)
You can’t beat sitting outside, on the edge of a lake, coffee in one hand, breakfast in front of you. Take a bow, Pavilion Café, serving up your wares from a circular, glass-domed pavilion (hence the name) on the shore of the West Lake in Bethnal Green’s Victoria Park. Sorry it took me so long to get to visit!
Best Espresso (2018 Winner: Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Avenue)
This year was particularly good for espresso, with some fantastic single-origins from all around the world. However, the winner was one I had right at the end of the year, a stunning macerated natural IH-90 varietal from Honduras, roasted by Alchemy, expertly pulled by Matt at Blueprint Coffee & Books.
Smallest Coffee Spot (2018 Winner: Melbourne in Lichfield, Bolt Court)
Alex Coffee is in Fitzrovia, occupying a tiny spot that few (sane) people would have ever considered for a coffee shop. However, it’s an amazing place, exactly the sort of coffee shop that I set up this Award to celebrate, with some awesome coffee and a warm welcome from Alex behind the counter.
There’s been a definite doughnut theme to this Award in recent years and Prague’s Donut Shop has kept that up with a simply stunning Boston Rhubarb, a classic sugared doughnut with a Boston cream filling, complete with chunks of rhubarb, easily the best I’ve had this year.
Best Roaster/Retailer (2018 Winner: Koffee Mameya)
I’ve followed the progress of Wood St Coffee ever since it opened in Walthamstow not long after I started the Coffee Spot, watching it move from pop-up its permanent home in Blackhorse Workshop. Now it can add coffee roaster to its name, producing some wonderful single-origins (I tried them all) from its roastery in a container in front of the coffee shop.
Best Flat White (2018 Winner: New for 2019)
I was very taken with all aspects of First Draft Coffee & Wine, which serves coffee during the day and a wide selection of wine in the evening. My flat white, made using an El Mirador from Guatemala, roasted by Roasted Brown, was superb, the coffee and milk going extremely well together.
Best Physical Space (2018 Winner: Cottontree Coffee Roasters)
It’s fair to say that I fell in love with Pražírna Kavárna from the moment I walked down the steps and into the brick-vaulted interior in Prague. That it had another three rooms, each better than the one before, plus an awesome, secluded garden at the back, was just icing on the cake.
Happiest Staff (2018 Winner: Heart & Graft Coffee Shop)
It’s fair to say that Ngopi in Birmingham has been my find of 2019. Dealing exclusively in Indonesian single-origin coffee, it ended up shortlisted for four Awards this year, including this one, and could have won any and all of them. I’ve decided to give Ngopi the Happiest Staff Awards because they are simply that happy, and at the same time, excellent ambassadors for Indonesian coffee.
Best Breakfast (2018 Winner: Short + Stout)
In a packed field, SLOW Café in Prague drew me in with its brunch menu on display in the window. It looked awesome and I wasn’t disappointed, so much so that I went back the following week to try the new menu. And I wasn’t disappointed then either!
Most Passionate About Coffee (2018 Winner: Discourse Coffee)
Chase, the owner of Coffee Curiosity in Canterbury, would have won the Coffee Spot Alteration Award, except I don’t have one, so this will have to do. I’ve known Chase for a long time, working first as a barista, then as a manager, before creating his own coffee shop over many years. The result, Coffee Curiosity, is an absolute gem and his passion shines through in everything he does.
I looked at Kafi’s website before I visited. It was, I thought, either going to be smoke and mirrors marketing, or it was going to be very, very good. Fortunately, Kafi is very, very good, an amazing place of the sort you don’t see in London these days. In fact, it’s really very special and so was an obvious choice for the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.
Most Popular Coffee Spot (2018 Winner: Decent Espresso)
For the first time since 2014, the post that you have most wanted to read about has been an actual coffee shop! For the last four years, the winners have all been about home coffee equipment. However, with over 800 views this year, Omotesando Koffee, a small slice of Tokyo and Japanese third-wave coffee culture in London, was the clear winner.
Before you go, if you appreciate the Coffee Spot and what I do, then please consider voting for me in this year’s Sprudgie Awards. I’ve been nominated in the Best Coffee Writing category and while that in itself is a great honour, it would be fabulous if the Coffee Spot could win!
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