The first shortlist for the 2021 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot” Award, won in 2020 by Heartwork Coffee Bar. 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.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 12 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
Lily London is the first coffee shop that I wrote about this year, so it’s fitting that Lily London gets the 2021 Coffee Spot Awards underway. Although there have been speciality coffee shops in telephone boxes before, it’s always a pleasant surprise when a new one comes along, particularly when it’s in my home town of Guildford. Lily London is also on the shortlist for the Best Takeaway Coffee and the Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.
The Espresso Farm, part of the Espresso Station group, a regional chain of five coffee shops is in an old building on Umberslade Farm Park, surrounded by the Warwickshire countryside. If you don’t fancy sitting in the garden (good enough for a spot on the Best Outdoor Seating shortlist), you can always take your coffee for a stroll to visit the pigs, goats, hens and other livestock! Espresso Farm is also shortlisted for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.
Llangollen, on the banks of the River Dee, is a beautiful town but not where I’d look for great coffee. Not, that is, until the legendary Sam Towil (founder of Bold Street Coffee) opened Sam’s Coffee, part of Gales of Llangollen, a family-run wine bar, restaurant and 15-room hotel, housed in a 17th century townhouse. Sam’s Coffee is also on the Best Outdoor Seating, Most Popular Coffee Spot and Most Passionate About Coffee shortlists.
Staying in Llangollen, Riverbanc is just across the street from Sam’s Coffee. Occupying the old Midland Bank building, it’s a speciality coffee shop, small hotel and outdoor activity centre. Perhaps the best part is the terrace at the back (which got it on the Best Outdoor Seating shortlist), where you can sip your coffee overlooking the roaring River Dee. Riverbanc is also on the Best Breakfast shortlist.
Garden Social Coffee House was a chance find, tucked away in a dense network of residential streets, lined with tightly-packed terrace houses, between the River Dee and the canal in Chester. Newly opened this year, I knew I’d come to the right place when I saw a Kalita Wave filter stencilled on the window! Garden Social Coffee House is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Outdoor Seating Awards.
Staying with coffee shops that have opened this year, The Table is Walsall’s first speciality coffee shop. Established as a community hub (which resulted in a place on the shortlist for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot), it occupies part of a lovely, old building that used to be a pub. There is some great coffee, wonderful food and an amazing community spirit. The Table is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
We’re back in North Wales for the next four entries on this year’s shortlist. Caffi Caban has been around for over 10 years, but, like Espresso Farm, has made it onto this year’s shortlist thanks to its location, deep in the magnificent Snowdonia countryside north of Llanberis, where it makes the most of its amazing settting. Caffi Caban is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement and Best Outdoor Seating Awards.
Staying in North Wales, Caffeina Coffi opened this summer, bringing speciality coffee, North Wales’ first Victoria Arduino Eagle One espresso machine (pulling a shot good enough for the Best Espresso shortlist), and a beautiful, minimalist interior (good enough for the Best Physical Space shortlist) to the seaside town of Prestatyn, not far from where I grew up. It’s already a big hit with the locals! Caffeina Coffi is also on the Best Cake shortlist.
The Jester’s Tower Coffee House
The Jester’s Tower Coffee House, owned by the town jester, is located inside a 13th century postern tower, part of Conwy’s town walls. If that’s not an unlikely place for a coffee shop, then I don’t know what is! However, the Jester’s Tower is a lot more than that, with some great coffee and plenty of plans for the future. The Jester’s Tower has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement and Best Physical Space Awards.
Our final North Wales entry on this year’s shortlist is Marmalade. I never thought I would see the day when a speciality coffee shop opened in Holywell, the town where I was born and grew up, but then along came Marmalade, a delightful coffee shop, opposite the old town hall on Holywell Hight Street, serving Dark Woods coffee. Marmalade is also on the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Smallest Coffee Spot Award shortlists.
Although Crewe has some pretty good coffee inside the railway station, the town has not been known for its speciality coffee. However, Mini Beans Coffee, which opened this summer in the newly refurbished Crewe Market Hall, is set to change that. One of several food outlets in the shared space of the old Victoria structure, Mini Beans is another with grand plans! Mini Beans is also shortlisted for the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.
The last entry was a surprise find in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Frontside Coffee Roasters has been around for over 20 years, roasting some amazing coffee in its roastery behind the parking lot (hence its place on this year’s Best Roaster/Retailer shortlist). This is served in the lovely coffee shop, with its awesome coffee garden (hence its shortlisting for Best Outdoor Seating).
A special mention needs to go to the following:
Lily London, Shard, a second speciality coffee shop in a telephone box!
And the winner is Garden Social Coffee House
Runners-up: Caffeina Coffi and Frontside Coffee Roasters
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2021.
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Caffeina gets my vote – the coffee is so good!
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