2020 Awards – Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot

Details taken from the menu board at The Hideout, where it proudly claims "No Takeaway Cups".The first shortlist for the 2020 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot” Award, won in 2019 by The Hideout. Finding Coffee Spots in cities such as New York, Edinburgh or Manchester is to be expected. However, while 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. This year, for example, there are quite a few Coffee Spots inside other places/shops in the shortlist.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • RAWR Coffee Bar, a speciality coffee shop inside a cat cafe in Oakland, California.
  • One of several Verve Coffee Roasters in Japan, this is in the city of Kamakura.
  • Giant Coffee, Phoenix Sky Harbor, an unexpected find in the new Terminal 3.
  • 139 Coffee, tucked away in a bike shop in Kingston Upon Thames.
  • Reference Coffee, a standalone coffee bar, part of Dublin's Meet Me in the Morning.
  • Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office, at the entrance to Kanazawa Castle, Japan.
  • Firelight Coffee Roasters, tucked away at the back of Atlanta's Strongbox West.
  • Anonymous Coffee Co., just inside the door of Reading's Tasting House.
  • Queens of Mayfair, pleasingly in the heart of London's Mayfair.
  • Heartwork Coffee Bar, at the back of the farm in the heart of the Surrey Hills.
RAWR Coffee Bar, a speciality coffee shop inside a cat cafe in Oakland, California.1 One of several Verve Coffee Roasters in Japan, this is in the city of Kamakura.2 Giant Coffee, Phoenix Sky Harbor, an unexpected find in the new Terminal 3.3 139 Coffee, tucked away in a bike shop in Kingston Upon Thames.4 Reference Coffee, a standalone coffee bar, part of Dublin's Meet Me in the Morning.5 Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office, at the entrance to Kanazawa Castle, Japan.6 Firelight Coffee Roasters, tucked away at the back of Atlanta's Strongbox West.7 Anonymous Coffee Co., just inside the door of Reading's Tasting House.8 Queens of Mayfair, pleasingly in the heart of London's Mayfair.9 Heartwork Coffee Bar, at the back of the farm in the heart of the Surrey Hills.10
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There are ten Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

The sign hanging outside RAWR Coffee Bar, part of Cat Town in Oakland, California.RAWR Coffee Bar

Our first entry is the RAWR Coffee Bar, a speciality coffee shop inside a cat cafe in Oakland, California. While cat cafes are increasingly common, it’s still very rare to find one serving speciality coffee. Not so Cat Town, which has a fully fledged speciality coffee shop attached. You are welcome to just visit the RAWR Coffee Bar by the way, where you can see the cats through a window, or you can combine it with a pre-booked visit to the Cat Town (if you want to go in with the cats).

The window at the side of Verve Coffee Roasters in Kamakura Japan, which proudly states Verve's roots in Santa Cruz, California.Verve Coffee Roasters, Kamakura

Verve, from Santa Cruz in California, has several Japanese coffee shops, but rather than Tokyo, this lovely coffee shop is in the city of Kamakura, an hour by train from the capital. It’s also shortlisted for the Best Filter Coffee Award.

The sign on the wall at Giant Coffee in Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor.Giant Coffee, Phoenix Sky Harbor

Phoenix Sky Harbor airport has an outstanding coffee shop, Cartel Coffee Lab, but it’s in Terminal 4 and, at the start of the year, I was flying from the Terminal 3. Cursing my luck, I stumbled on Giant Coffee and all was well in the world! Giant Coffee is also on the shortlist for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award (expanded this year to include airports!).

A classic espresso (Ground Coffee Society's Caveman blend) in a classic cup, served at 139 Coffee.139 Coffee

139 Coffee continues the combination of coffee and cycling from inside Cycle Exchange in Kingston Upon Thames. Just off Richmond Road, north of the centre, it’s an unlikely location at first sight, so much so that I was double-checking Google Maps before I found it. It was definitely worth it though, with 139 Coffee serving a traditional espresso-based menu from Ground Coffee Society, backed up by a small brunch menu and plenty of cakes.

My espresso, a Colombian single-origin from Carlos Alberto Ulchur, roasted by Colonna Coffee and served in a classic white cup at Reference Coffee in Dublin.Reference Coffee

Plenty of brunch spots serve great coffee (particularly, it seems, in Dublin) but what makes Reference Coffee stand out from the crowd is that while it is part of the excellent Meet Me in the Morning, supplying all the coffee to the diners there, it’s also a standalone coffee shop in its own right, so you can just pop into Reference for your coffee if you like. Reference Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office, a welcome sight on a rainy day, just outside the northern entrance to Kanazawa Castle.Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office

Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office is a lovely coffee shop/roastery spread over two floors in Kanazawa, Japan. It earned a spot on this shortlist thanks to its unusual location by one of the gates to the ruined Kanazawa Castle, making it an ideal spot for pre- or post-sightseeing coffee. If only all tourist locations had such excellent coffee! Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office is also on the shortlists for Best Outdoor Seating and Best Roaster/Retailer.

The Firelight Coffee Roasters logo from the back wall of the coffee shop/roastery in Strongbox West, Atlanta.Firelight Coffee Roasters

Slowly but surely, coworking spaces are cottoning onto the fact that having good coffee on-site is a major selling point. Sometimes these are in-house coffee bars, but in the case of Atlanta’s Strongbox West, the coffee bar, Firelight Coffee Roasters, is not only open to the public, but it’s also home to the roastery as well! Firelight is also on the shortlist for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.

The "Adventure" espresso at Anonymous Coffee Co. seen from above, with notes about the coffee from the roaster, Wood St Coffee.Anonymous Coffee Co.

The last places-within-a-place entries, Anonymous Coffee Co is tucked inside Reading’s Tasting House, a wine bar/merchant. Occupying a small counter inside the door, there are two espresso and two pour-over options, plus excellent cake. Anonymous is also shortlisted for the on the Best Cake and Most Passionate About Coffee Awards.

The unassuming façade of Queens of Mayfair, the central door flanked by two tall, square-paned bay windows. There's also a table on the pavement in front of the window to the left of the door.Queens of Mayfair

Queens of Mayfair opened this year, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only that, it’s right in the heart of Mayfair, one of London’s most expensive districts which was crying out for some good coffee! And what a gem Queens is, offering some of the best coffee and coffee experiences around. Queens of Mayfair is also on the shortlists for the Best Physical Space and Most Passionate About Coffee Awards.

The Heartwork Coffee Bar logo from the side of the horsebox which acts as the coffee bar.Heartwork Coffee Bar

This year’s final entry, Heartwork Coffee Bar, also opened this year, back in January. Operating from  a horsebox in a farm yard in the heart of the Surrey Hills, Heartwork Coffee Bar was definitely one of my unexpected finds of the year! Heartwork Coffee Bar has also made it onto the shortlists for the Best Takeaway Coffee, Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Outdoor Seating Awards!


And the winner is Heartwork Coffee Bar
Runners-up: RAWR Coffee Bar and Firelight Coffee Roasters

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2020.


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8 thoughts on “2020 Awards – Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot

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