We’re halfway through the 2020 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Best Espresso” Award, which was won in 2019 by Blueprint Coffee & Books. When it comes down to it, I still tend to judge a Coffee Spot by the quality of its espresso. Of course, this is entirely subjective and down to taste. I would never knock a place that made a good espresso just because it wasn’t to my taste.
This award is for those Coffee Spots which served me the best and most memorable espressos of the year. I started the Coffee Spot as a confirmed Italian espresso drinker with my palette evolving and expanding over time. Over the last few years, I’ve had some truly sublime espresso, which has led to this being one of the most hotly contested Awards. This year is no different, with a host of excellent espressos, mostly naturally-processed ones, leading the way.
You can find out who is on the shortlist after the gallery.
There are ten Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
Let’s start in Arizona with Mythical Coffee, where I had a natural Ethiopian as a one-and-one. It went really well in milk (good enough for a spot on the Best Flat White shortlist), but for me, it was at its best on its own, a lovely, subtle, fruity, smooth coffee. Mythical Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.
Staying in America, but moving west to San Francisco, I had the house-blend as an espresso at Linea Caffe in the Mission. This was pulled commendably short and served in a cylindrical pottery cup, producing a nicely balanced, smooth and surprisingly dark coffee. Linea Caffe has also made it onto the shortlist for this year’s Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
Our first UK entry sees us in London with Coffeeology in Richmond, where I had the guest espresso, a sugar cane fermented single-origin from the Bynekere Estate in India, roasted by Gardelli. It had an interesting, rich, complex flavour, with plenty of acidity, which only got richer with each successive sip. Coffeeology has also been shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Smallest Coffee Spot Awards.
Back in the USA, but this time in Chicago, it’s Purple Llama, a fantastic multi-roaster coffee shop combined with a vinyl record store. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic forced its permanent closure shortly after my visit. I had the Colombian Martir, roasted by SEY, served in a classic grey cup. It was a lovely, sweet, well-balanced coffee with a touch of acidity that really livened it up.
Back in the UK, at Quarter Horse Coffee in Birmingham, I had an espresso flight made with the Roan blend (natural Ethiopian and natural Rwandan). The Roan achieved that rarest of things: being superb both in milk (earning it a spot on the shortlist for the Best Flat White Award) and on its own, where it expressed a real richness, but with the fruitiness of the naturals coming through for a really beautiful espresso. Quarter Horse Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.
Staying in Birmingham, I had another naturally-processed espresso, a single-origin Ethiopian Guji from Method Roastery. This was absolutely gorgeous, rich and fruity, but with a nicely-rounded mouthfeel, lacking the punchiness you sometimes get with naturals. Wayland’s Yard has also been shortlisted for the Best Physical Space and Best Breakfast Awards.
Moving up to Liverpool, Root Coffee served me a naturally-processed Hutwe from the Democratic Republic of Congo, roasted by Craft House Coffee, a fruity shot with an interesting kick to it. Root Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating Award.
Over in Chester, I had the guest espresso at Chalk Coffee. The Don Sabino, a naturally-processed coffee from Costa Rica, is part of Colonna’s Discovery range. What can I say? It was gorgeous, with a rich, syrupy sweetness. It was very fruity on the first couple of sips, after which a little more acidity came through. Chalk Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
Back in London, Carbon Kopi is flying the flag for washed coffees with a single-origin, the Red de Mujeres, from Guatemala, roasted by Square Mile. It was an excellent choice, sweet and well-rounded with classic chocolate notes. Carbon Kopi has also made it onto the shortlists for this year’s Best Outdoor Seating and Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Awards.
We bring the shortlist to a close by staying in London with Attendant Clerkenwell, where I had the house espresso, a naturally-processed Brazilian Esmeralda. Served in a classic, black cup, it had a full-bodied, classic nut profile, but with a surprising sweetness. Attendant Clerkenwell has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Physical Space and Happiest Staff Awards.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2020.
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