Merry Christmas to all my readers old and new! Once again, it’s time for the Coffee Spot Awards, now into their TENTH year! The Awards allow me to reflect on all the great places I’ve written about this year and to give them all some more well-deserved time in the limelight. As usual, there are 20 Awards, the shortlists being publishing between now and New Year’s Eve, with the winners announced on New Year’s Day.
Last year, I noted that 2020 had easily been the strangest year in the Coffee Spot’s history. In some ways, 2021 has topped that, although in other ways, having made it through 2020, I had some idea as to what to expect. Writing a blog about visiting coffee shops when you can’t visit any is always going to be tricky, although that’s nothing compared to trying to run a coffee shop in the middle of a pandemic. On the plus side, having spent 15 months hardly going any further than the hills behind my house, I did manage two big trips, one to Iceland in July and the other to America in November.
Thanks to everyone who’s shared some or all of the year with me by reading my posts on the Coffee Spot, following me on Twitter, liking my Facebook page, or looking at my Instagram pictures. While I do this for the love of coffee, it means a lot that you take the time to read and comment on my writing. Without you, it really would be pointless.
Before we go on, let’s check out who won what in last year’s Awards in the gallery.
This year I published Coffee Spots from just three countries (slightly down from last year’s four), although I did manage to add Iceland to the list, as well as exploring the North Wales speciality coffee scene in depth for the first time.
As I write, the Coffee Spot has just under 100,000 views this year, the first time the annual total has been below 100,000 since 2014. This might reflect that I’ve not been able to write about as many coffee shops as I normally do, publishing just 147 articles this year (down from 175 in 2020). That said, I have managed to write about 65 new (to me) coffee shops, up from just 38 in 2020.
Last year, I started the Coffee At Home series to take up the slack, and also launched a dedicated Travel Spot section, adding 10 Travel Spot pages, each covering a past trip. This year I’ve kept that up with another seven pages, as well as reliving the Grand Adventure (my 2017 Arizona-California road trip), recounting my first visit to the Grand Canyon in 2016, driving the Apache Trail in Arizona and retelling going to Amsterdam and back on the Eurostar in 2018.
Anyway, enough of past trips and numbers. It’s time to introduce this year’s Coffee Spot Award categories. Don’t forget that as the shortlists for each Award are published between now and New Year’s Eve, you will be able to click on the Award title to see who is in the running.
Let’s face it, go to big cities such as New York, Edinburgh or Manchester and you expect to find good Coffee Spots. However, good Coffee Spots are everywhere, and some of them are in very unexpected places… This can either be geographically or a result of the Coffee Spot’s setting. Either way, this award recognises them.
Takeaway coffee is tricky. Often the elements are against you and the surroundings might not be the nicest, so this award recognises those Coffee Spots who produce outstanding coffee against the odds.
Regular readers with know that I have a soft spot for Coffee Spots with great basements, and this award recognises them. A good basement can be a real boon, particularly in the winter months, where there’s nowhere better to wrap up warm and cosy!
A lot of the best Coffee Spots are those that are firmly rooted in their neighbourhoods, places that serve and reflect their local communities. This award is for them.
Regular readers will also be aware that I also have a soft spot for coffee shop lighting, so this award ensure that those Coffee Shops with wonderful lighting are properly recognised.
Writing the Coffee Spot has revolutionised the way I think of (and drink) filter coffee, introducing me to an amazing, delicate drink and opening my eyes to a whole new world of coffee. This award celebrates those Coffee Spots which have helped me on my journey.
When you’re desperate for good coffee, stuck in a railway station is rarely the best place to be. But what if there was a great Coffee Spot in the station, or just outside and you didn’t know about it? This award is for you…
The Saturday Supplement is the place where I write about coffee, coffee kit and events without writing about specific places. This award recognises the best of them (note that Saturday Supplements where it’s just me writing about stuff aren’t included; this award is for the things I am writing about, not me!).
This award focuses on those Coffee Spots which provide the best environment for sitting outside. The Coffee Spot itself doesn’t have to be outside; anything with a decent outside seating area qualifies!
Espresso is tricky. While my Sage Barista Express means I can now pull a reliable shot at home, I still admire those who can knock out shot after shot of high-quality espresso. This award is for those Coffee Spots which served me the best and most memorable espressos of the year.
I have a special place in my heart for small coffee spots and this year the Coffee Spot continued to be full of them. Note that this is all subjective – I did not get my tape measure out at any point!
It’s not all about the coffee you know (despite what the tag line says). What would a cup of coffee be without a decent slice of cake to go with it? So, cake plays a major part in the Coffee Spot and this award celebrates the Coffee Spots which excel in the cake department.
While the Coffee Spot is mostly about places to have coffee, I still drink a lot of coffee at home. This award recognises those wonderful who roast and sell me my coffee beans.
While I love my espresso and my (black) filter coffee, espresso with milk is very much its own thing, reaching a pinnacle (in my opinion) in the flat white (although, depending on the coffee, I will also go for a cortado). This award recognises those who have produced the perfect blend of coffee and milk with the smoothest, silkiest flat white.
For me, a Coffee Spot is as much about atmosphere, layout and overall feel as it is about the coffee. This award celebrates those Coffee Spots which there’s a pure joy in just sitting there, soaking it all in.
I think that 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.
Along with cake, breakfast has a special place in my heart, so-much-so that I started the Saturday Spot so that I could write about Coffee Spots where the coffee wasn’t up to much, but where the breakfasts were to die for! Of course, there are also plenty of places where both the coffee and the breakfasts are to die for!
It’s not just about the coffee, it’s also about people who love and care about coffee. In fact, everyone who has been covered in the Coffee Spot is passionate about coffee and one of the great things is how much love there is out there. However, those shortlisted for this award stand out from the crowd.
This is a special award for those Coffee Spots which don’t quite fit into the other categories, but which nonetheless I absolutely love…
Finally, this is the only award not decided by me. It’s given to the Coffee Spot which received the greatest number of views (according to JetPack) in this calendar year. Since the Awards are meant to recognise what’s happened on the Coffee Spot this year, I’ve decided to exclude Coffee Spots published in previous years.
Make sure you check back between now and New Year’s Eve to catch each shortlist as it’s published!
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