First up today, the 2021 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Roaster/Retailer”, which was won last year by Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. Initially, this award was only open to retailers, but in 2014, I expanded it to include roasters, who now dominate the award. Contenders have either appeared in the Meet the Roaster series or are cafe/roasters which I’ve visited during the year.
Although the Coffee Spot is mostly about places to have coffee, I still drink the majority of my coffee at home (actually, with the amount of travelling I now do, I’m not so sure this is true…), so those wonderful people who provide me with my coffee beans need a mention. The problem, as with all these awards, is knowing where to draw the line for the shortlist. I’ve visited lots of coffee shops/roasters this year, but I’ve made a decision, by-and-large, to stick to either roasters I’ve written about as roasters or coffee shops where the beans are roasted on site.
You can see the shortlist after the gallery.
There are 12 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.
Let’s start with one of my local roasters, Chimney Fire Coffee. Chminey Fire has gone from a garden shed in 2016 to its current home in Ranmore Manor in the Surrey Hills. Chimney Fire produces an espresso blend, a classic Peruvian espresso and a sugar cane decaf from Colombia, along with a handful of single-origins and its Discovery Range. Chimney Fire is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
Taylors Discovery is an independent micro-roastery operating within Taylors of Harrogate. I’ve yet to visit Taylors’ roastery, although I have enjoyed its coffee over the years. This year I was sent its As One coffee, the same microlot from Rwanda, but processed two different ways which has also been shortlisted for the Best Saturday Supplement Award.
I’ve been a fan of Hundred House Coffee since 2017 and have had a long-standing invitation to visit the roastery. The roastery is (for now) in an old farm building in rural Shropshire, literally miles from anywhere, including the nearest train station, making getting there the biggest challenge, but this year I finally managed it. Hundred House is also on the Most Passionate About Coffee Award shortlist.
Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar in Marlow is the first coffee shop/roastery on this year’s shortlist. It’s another that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time and is exactly what the name suggests, with the coffee roasters at the back of a large, open space, with the coffee bar on the left and the seating on the right. Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar is also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space and Best Breakfast Awards.
The Fazenda Recanto from Hundred House Coffee was a microlot bought with Crankhouse Coffee and Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. I’d planned to compare all three roasters, but Crankhouse had sold out, so it became a comparison between Hundred House and Quarter Horse, earning Quarter Horse a nod for the Best Roaster/Retailer. It’s also on the Best Saturday Supplement shortlist.
A second coffee shop/roastery is the new flagship WatchHouse Roastery & Café in Bermondsey in a railway arch on Maltby Street. All the coffee is roasted here on a re-built 1959 Probat UG22, which you can admire through the glass wall at the back of the café. WatchHouse is also on this year’s shortlists for the Best Flat White and Best Physical Space Awards.
While looking for the Fazenda Recanto on the Crankhouse Coffee website, I came across three coffees which were all processed, like the Fazenda Recanto, with various fermentation techniques, so I decided to buy them, earning Crankhouse a nod for the Best Roaster/Retailer as well as a place on the shortlist for this year’s Best Saturday Supplement Award.
Another roaster who has been on my radar for some time, Heartland Coffee Roasters has an industrial unit in Llandudno, where it roasts a range of blends and single-origins. These are mostlyfor the North Wales market, where Heartland is something of a pioneer, promoting relationships with customers on the ground and coffee farmers around the world. Heartland is also on the shortlist for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
Returning to the coffee shop/roasteries for the last four entries on the shortlist, we start with NewGround Coffee Roastery & Coffee Shop. A little off the beaten track in Headington, east of Oxford, NewGround has a minimalist coffee shop with the Loring roaster at the back, turning out an espresso blend (Big House) and a handful of single-origins. NewGround Coffee Roastery & Coffee Shop is on the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award shortlist.
Occupying one of several old barns at Bramley Hedge Farm, The Roastery at Cobham is both a roastery (as the name would suggest) and a cosy coffee shop (which was shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award). The roastery occupies the rear third of the buidling, with the bulk of the roasting being done on Monday’s, when you can see the electric-power 5 kg Toper in action.
The last two entries come from the USA, and were both chance discoveries. Alma Coffee Roastery is outside Atlanta in Georgia, a large warehouse structure with an attached coffee shop. What makes Alma stand out from the crowd is that it is a farm-to-cup operation, with several family farms in Honduras supplying the roastery. Alma Coffee Roastery has also been shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
The second chance discovery is Frontside Coffee Roasters, in the town of North Conway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, earning it a place on the shortlist for Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot. A lovely coffee shop with a large outdoor seating area (which is on the shortlist for the Best Outdoor Seating), all the coffee is roasted in the roastery at the back of the parking lot.
Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2021.
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