Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2021 underway, here are the winners of the ninth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2020. 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 (2019 Winner: The Hideout)
Let’s get 2021 underway in the same fashion as I ended 2020, with Heartwork Coffee Bar. I really did leave the best until last as Heartwork, operating out of a horse box in a farmyard in the Surry Hills, was my find of the year. Heartwork was also shortlisted for three more Awards this year: Best Takeaway Coffee, Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Outdoor Seating.
Best Takeaway Coffee (2019 Winner: Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm)
Since I haven’t been travelling much, my hometown of Guildford has featured heavily in this year’s Coffee Spot Awards, with Canopy Coffee consistently serving me excellent coffee to go, having made the change from a sit-in coffee shop in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canopy Coffee is also on the shortlist for the Most Popular Coffee Spot and the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.
Coffee Spot with the Best Basement (2019 Winner: Society Café, The Corridor)
Our third winner is from Chester (Hoole to be precise). When I first wrote about Short + Stout, the basement wasn’t open, with only the small upstairs seating area available. Now it is open and it’s lovely, providing much-needed extra seating for the ever-popular Short + Stout.
Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2019 Winner: Lost Sheep Coffee)
Staying in Chester/Hoole, Little Yellow Pig is something of a local institution, making it an obvious choice as Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot, although, honestly, it could have won so many awards (it also made it onto the shortlists for this year’s Best Flat White and Best Breakfast Awards).
Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting (2019 Winner: Coffee Addict)
Moving on to Witney in Oxfordshire, where Ue Coffee Roasters has picked up the Best Lighting Award for it coffee shop in the delightful Old Smithy. The lights, specifically the copper pipe light fittings that run around the walls and ceilings both upstairs and down, are lovely, fitting in with the centuries-old building. Ue Coffee Roasters at the Old Smithy was also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.
Best Filter Coffee (2019 Winner: Tasting Flights at Glitch Coffee)
Pair Speciality Coffee & Tea is a roaster with a coffee bar inside the tap room at Cider Corps in Mesa, Arizona, where I had the (Coffee Spot) award-winning Colombian Geisha as a pour-over. A delicate coffee, it developed more body and flavour as it cooled. Pair is also on the Most Passionate About Coffee and Best Roaster/Retailer shortlists.
Runners-up: Jaunty Goat, recently taken to roasting its own coffee, producing a wonderful single-origin from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Verve Coffee Roasters, Kamakura, for its filter tasting flight.
I’m a fairly frequent visitor to Crewe station, changing trains there on a regular basis. As a result, I’ve been to Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen (always on Platform 5, never on Platform 6) many times for a flat white to go, making it the obvious winner of this year’s award. Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen also been shortlisted for the Best Takeaway Coffee Award.
Runners-up: Faculty, a regular haunt of mine over the years when changing trains at Birmingham‘s New Street Station, and Notes, King’s Cross, handy for King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston stations in London.
Best Saturday Supplement (2019 Winner: Coffee & Science with Bean Thinking)
This year the competition was tough, but really, it had to be my experience (with Amanda) of trying Eugenioides, a new species of coffee (in the same way that Arabica and Robusta are species of coffee) at Terremoto Coffee in New York City. To say that it was strange is an understatement. Indeed, it was a revelation that something that is coffee could actually taste like that!
Best Outdoor Seating (2019 Winner: Pavilion Café)
This year has been a good one for outdoor seating, and not just because of COVID-19. The runaway winner was Carbon Kopi which has not one, but two outdoor seating areas, either of which would be enough to get it onto this year’s shortlist. The smaller front seating area is nice enough, but it was the sheltered back yard that really stole my heart. Carbon Kopi is also on the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting and Best Espresso shortlists.
Best Espresso (2019 Winner: Blueprint Coffee & Books)
I had some outstanding espresso in 2020, which made judging this award really, really hard. Eventually, I gave it to Quarter Horse Coffee for its the Roan blend which 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.
Smallest Coffee Spot (2019 Winner: Alex Coffee)
Continuing my love affair with small coffee shops, Over Under Coffee, West Brompton, is effectively a cube with a door at the front and counter at the back. Despite this, it still manages to turn out excellent coffee and an impressive brunch menu. Over Under Coffee is also on the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station and Best Takeaway Coffee shortlists.
Best Cake (2019 Winner: Donut Shop)
This year it was something of a tradition this year that I was given something to take home, which is what happed in Bean & Cole, where I was given what can best be described as a date-flavoured Chelsea bun. I had it with my afternoon coffee the following day and it was awesome, with a rich, chewy dough and a sweet, sticky topping. Bean & Cole is also on the Most Passionate About Coffee shortlist.
Best Roaster/Retailer (2019 Winner: Wood St Coffee Roastery)
Returning to in Birmingham and Quarter Horse Coffee, but this time in its capacity as a roasters. It’s long been a favourite, operating out of a dual unit south of the centre, with a coffee shop on one side and roaster on the other. During the COVID-19 shutdown, both the coffee shop and roastery have been remodelled, the roastery now totally enclosed in its own separate room. Quarter Horse is also on the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award shortlist.
Best Flat White (2019 Winner: First Draft Coffee & Wine)
The Flower Cup, in Chester, has made its name as a brunch spot, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook the coffee. I had a pair of excellent flat whites there this year, both with some lovely latte art (if I had a “Best Latte Art” Award, it would have won that too!). The Flower Cup is also on the Best Breakfast Award and Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award shortlists.
Best Physical Space (2019 Winner: Pražírna Kavárna)
Obscure Coffee is split over two rooms, neither of which is very big. If you are claustrophobic, you might want to stick to the bright, well-lit front room, where a makeover of the tables has led to a lot more seating. However, my favourite, by far, is the small, cosy, windowless back room, which I always make a beeline for. Honestly, I could spend hours in there! Obscure Coffee has also been shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.
Runners-up: Queens of Mayfair, a sumptuously fitted out space, which matches the excellence of the coffee, and, at the other end of the scale, Attendant Clerkenwell, a quirky, irregularly-shaped, high-ceilinged space spread over two rooms.
Happiest Staff (2019 Winner: Ngopi)
If there’s one place where you should be able to rely on happy staff and a warm welcome, it’s Party on Pavilion in London, which was exactly what happened when I caught up with them this summer. Making the most of the warm weather, the party spilled out onto the pavement of Pavilion Street this summer, but whether you were inside or out, the infectious Roasting Party attitude is always present.
Best Breakfast (2019 Winner: SLOW Café)
Although it has made its name as a coffee shop (which sees on the Best Filter Coffee shortlist) and roaster, Catalyst has an innovative brunch menu too. I had the pancakes, being rewarded with a single, thick, plate-sized pancake. Light and fluffy, it was drizzled with just enough maple syrup to make it sweet but not sickly and came with a variety of toppings. It was, quite simply, the best pancake I’ve had all year and a shoe-in for this award.
Runners-up: Brother Hubbard South, where I had a feast rather than a breakfast, and Meet Me in the Morning, completing a Dublin clean sweep of the runners-up spots, where my brunch was fit for a king.
Most Passionate About Coffee (2019 Winner: Coffee Curiosity)
Whaletown Coffee Co, in Crookes, in the hills to the west of Sheffield city centre offers the sort of a multi-roaster experience that you just don’t expect to find in places like Crookes! Honestly, Whaletown Coffee Co. could have won a hatful of awards, since it was also on the shortlists for the Best Cake, Best Filter Coffee and Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot!
Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award (2019 Winner: Kafi)
This year’s award has all been about how coffee shops have coped with COVID-19. If I had to pick one out of a very excellent crowd that I could point to and say “that’s how to do it”, then it would have to be Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street. From being greeted at the door through to the little details on the tables, it’s a masterclass of how to look after your customers. Kaffeine was also shortlisted for the Happiest Staff Award.
Most Popular Coffee Spot (2019 Winner: Omotesando Koffee, London)
Last year Omotesando Koffee, London broke run of four consecutive years when the Most Popular Coffee Spot was a post about home coffee equipment. That, however, was clearly a fluke as this year we’re back to home coffee kit with Peak Water, a home water filter designed specifically with brewing coffee in mind. With almost 1,500 views, it was the winner by a very large margin.
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