Coffee Spot Awards 2021: Winners

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2022 underway, here are the winners of the tenth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2021. 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.

  • Garden Social Coffee House, the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot.
  • Lily London, Guildford, serving up this year's Best Takeaway Coffee.
  • Java Roastery, Moseley Village, winner of the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
  • Bank Street Social, the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot.
  • Taylor's Coffee House, the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting.
  • Hundred House Coffee, which provided me with this year's best filter coffee.
  • Over Under Coffee, Wandsworth Town, the Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station.
  • Frozen Solid Coffee Project, the Best Saturday Supplement.
  • Caffi Caban, winner of the Best Outdoor Seating Award.
  • Nostos Coffee, serving up this year's Best Espresso.
  • Tintico, Greek Street, this year's Smallest Coffee Spot.
  • Kookaburra Bakehouse, where I had this year's Best Cake.
  • Hundred House Coffee, winner of the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.
  • Speckled Ax, Thames, which provided me with this year's Best Flat White (cappuccino).
  • Medicine New Street, winner of the Best Physical Space Award.
  • Coffee Notes, the Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff (well, owner).
  • Little Yellow Pig, Nantwich, which provided me with this year's Best Breakfast.
  • Sam's Coffee,  the Most Passionate About Coffee.
  • The Hideaway, recipient of the Brian's Coffee Spot Special Award.
  • Lily London, Guildford, this year's Most Popular Coffee Spot.
Garden Social Coffee House, the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot.1 Lily London, Guildford, serving up this year's Best Takeaway Coffee.2 Java Roastery, Moseley Village, winner of the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.3 Bank Street Social, the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot.4 Taylor's Coffee House, the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting.5 Hundred House Coffee, which provided me with this year's best filter coffee.6 Over Under Coffee, Wandsworth Town, the Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station.7 Frozen Solid Coffee Project, the Best Saturday Supplement.8 Caffi Caban, winner of the Best Outdoor Seating Award.9 Nostos Coffee, serving up this year's Best Espresso.10 Tintico, Greek Street, this year's Smallest Coffee Spot.11 Kookaburra Bakehouse, where I had this year's Best Cake.12 Hundred House Coffee, winner of the Best Roaster/Retailer Award.13 Speckled Ax, Thames, which provided me with this year's Best Flat White (cappuccino).14 Medicine New Street, winner of the Best Physical Space Award.15 Coffee Notes, the Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff (well, owner).16 Little Yellow Pig, Nantwich, which provided me with this year's Best Breakfast.17 Sam's Coffee,  the Most Passionate About Coffee.18 The Hideaway, recipient of the Brian's Coffee Spot Special Award.19 Lily London, Guildford, this year's Most Popular Coffee Spot.20
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So, without further ado, let’s see who won.

Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot (2020 Winner: Heartwork Coffee Bar)

The front of Garden Social Coffee House on the corner of Catherine and Charlotte Streets, the open door showing no favouritism to either!Garden Social Coffee House

This was a really tough one to judge, but in the end the award goes to Garden Social Coffee House, a chance discovery I made while wandering along the canal in Chester. It’s great to see speciality coffee shops appearing in residential areas, particularly when it’s as lovely as Garden Social Coffee House. Garden Social Coffee House is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Outdoor Seating Awards.

Runners-up: Caffeina Coffi, bringing speciality coffee to Prestatyn (never a sentence I thought I’d write) and Frontside Coffee Roasters, a chance discovery in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

Best Takeaway Coffee (2020 Winner: Canopy Coffee)

A lovely flat white, made with a naturally-processed Brazilian single-origin and served in my HuskeeCup at Lily London in Guildford.Lily London, Guildford

In some ways, Lily London, the speciality coffee shop in a telephone box in Guildford, won by shear volume, since it’s become one of my go-to places for a flat white when I’m in town doing my shopping. It helps that the coffee is consistently excellent, no small acheivement when you are effectively operating outdoors. Lily London is shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award and won the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

Runners-up: Cable Co., The Aircraft Factory for a wonderful decaf flat white, and Hatch @ Hazel & Haydn, operating from a window in a hairdresser’s in Birmingham.

Coffee Spot with the Best Basement (2020 Winner: Short + Stout)

Ignite your passion: detail from the wall in the back corner of Java Roastery in Moseley.Java Roastery, Moseley Village

Although there weren’t that many entries on this year’s shortlist, the quality was high, but in the end, it had to be the wonderful, cosy basement in Java Roastery, which offers such a contrast to the bright, bustling upstairs. It’s the sort of place you could accidentally spend all afternoon and not notice! Java Roastery has also been shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting and Best Physical Space Awards.

Runners-up: Tilt, with its multi-part basement and pinball machines, and Bean & Leaf Coffee House, another cosy basement where you could lose an afternoon.

Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2020 Winner: Little Yellow Pig)

The latte art in my flat white at Bank Street Social in Wrexham.Bank Street Social

Wrexham’s Bank Street Social more than lived up to its name when Amanda and I visited. By the time we left, everyone was chatting away like they’d known each other for ages! It helps that it’s a small spot, but even so, Andy and the team have created a real community spirit. Bank Street Social is also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting and Smallest Coffee Spot Awards.

Runners-up: Communion Coffee, another small spot with a big heart, and Nikki’s, serving good coffee and great food in Weybridge.

Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting (2020 Winner: Ue Coffee Roasters at The Old Smithy)

The front of Taylor's Coffee House, seen from Station Approach, with the vines growing across the edge of the roof and tables either side of the recessed, central door.Taylor’s Coffee House

Taylor’s Coffee House is a lovely spot, like a collection of sitting rooms, each with its own unique set of light fittings, any one of which would have made it onto the shortlist on its own. Taylor’s Coffee House is also on the shortlists for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station and Best Physical Space Awards.

Runners-up: FLTR Coffee, where the lighting really adds to a potential bare space, and Mikki Refur, with its collection of light fittings, including one made of snow shoes.

Best Filter Coffee (2020 Winner: Pair Specialty Coffee & Tea)

The words Hundred House Coffee, surrounded by an irregular hexagon, carved in black on wood.Freak & Unique (and Other Coffees)

I usually give this award to a coffee shop, but this year’s winner is Hundred House Coffee. Despite the title, the award is not for the Freak & Unique range, but rather the Fazenda Recanto from Brazil, which was processed using a 64-hour fermentation technique and was the standout filter coffee of the year.  Freak & Unique (and Other Coffees) is also on the Best Saturday Supplement shortlist.

Runners-up: Reykjavik Roasters, Brautarholt, for the El Volcan, a washed coffee produced by Chalo Fernandez in Colombia and Rosslyn Off Menu Coffees, for the Uraga Gomoro (a naturally-processed Ethiopian coffee) roasted by Toby’s Estate in Sydney.

Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station (2020 Winner: Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen, Crewe)

A lovely flat white with an abstract latte art pattern in it, made with the Over Under house blend and served in my HuskeeCup at Over Under Coffee, Wandsworth Town.Over Under Coffee, Wandsworth Town

Currently there are five Over Unders, all associated with stations, so it seems fitting that this year’s award goes to Over Under Coffee at Wandsworth Town. Serving not just coffee, but more impressively, brunches, from a kiosk opposite the station, Over Under Coffee has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

Runners-up: MONIES, located between Putney train station and East Putney tube station, and Lily London, Shard, at the back of London Bridge station.

Best Saturday Supplement (2020 Winner: Trying Eugenioides at Terremoto)

My coffee, the Nano Lot N14, a Gesha grown by Creativa Coffee District in Panama, roasted by The Hub in Malaysia and served in a carafe, with a lovely ceramic cup on the side, all presented on a wooden tray, part of the Frozen Solid Coffee Project at Tilt in Birmingham.Frozen Solid Coffee Project

One of my highlights of the year was discovering the The Frozen Solid Coffee Project from Tilt. By freezing individual doses, then grinding/brewing direct from the freezer, Tilt offers an extremely wide range of single-origin pour-overs (between 20 and 30) from farms/roasters around the world. The Frozen Solid Coffee Project is also on this year’s shortlists for the Most Passionate About Coffee and Best Filter Coffee Awards.

Runners-up: Three Micro-lots from Crankhouse, where I tried three different coffee processed with various fermentation techniques, and Taylors Discovery: As One Washed & Natural, comparing the same coffee processed two different ways.

Best Outdoor Seating (2020 Winner: Carbon Kopi)

One of the cabins, known as Cwch Gwenyn (The Hive), in the garden at the back of Caffi Caban.Caffi Caban

Caffi Caban, surrounded by the Snowdonia countryside, takes this year’s award on account of its large, multi-level terrace which overlooks a lovely, sheltered garden. There’s a range of tables, plus individual open-fronted cabins, all beneath several towering trees. Caffi Caban is also on the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot and Coffee Spot with the Best Basement shortlists.

Runners-up: Riverbanc, with its amazing terrace overlooking the River Dee, and Espresso Farm, with seating throughout Umberslade Farm Park.

Best Espresso (2020 Winner: Quarter Horse Coffee)

An espresso, made with Kiss the Hippo’s Bensa from Ethiopia, an anaerobic natural with tasting notes of blackberry, pineapple and strawberry jam, served at Nostos in a classic blue cup.Nostos Coffee

Nostos Coffee is one of this year’s standouts, shortlisted for four Awards (the others being the Smallest Coffee SpotBest Coffee Spot near a Railway Station and Happiest Staff Awards). However, it was the Bensa from Ethiopia, an anaerobic natural roasted by Kiss the Hippo, which won Best Espresso, producing a well-balanced shot with a mix of interesting flavours.

Runners-up: Freak & Unique and Saucer & Cup

Smallest Coffee Spot (2020 Winner: Over Under Coffee, West Brompton)

An espresso, made with the guest coffee, the Los Ancestros, a washed coffee with an extended fermentation stage from Guatemala and roasted by 39 Steps Coffee, served in a classic black cup at Tintico on Greek Street.Tintico, Greek Street

Continuing my love affair with small coffee shops, Tintico, in the heart of Soho, follows in the best traditions of that area’s small coffee shops. Despite its small size Tintico produces some excellent coffee and a tapas inspired brunch menu. Tintico is also shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso Award.

 

Runners-up: Rumdoodles, effectively a coffee kiosk inside an outdoor shop, and Espresso Quarter, putting an old jeweller’s shop to good use.

Best Cake (2020 Winner: Bean & Cole)

A lovely piccolo, served in a glass and topped with some intricate latte art at Kookaburra Bakehouse in Chester.Kookaburra Bakehouse

This year’s Best Cake competition was particularly fierce, but the winner had to be Kookaburra Bakehouse if only because Amanda would have never forgiven me for giving it to someone else. That said, the Nutella cruffin, made with the perfect croissant dough, filled with Nutella and baked in a muffin tin, was absolutely amazing. Kookaburra is also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

Runners-up: Medicine Codsall, another coffee shop/bakery with awesome cakes, and Lockdown Bakehouse, home of the perfect cinnamon roll.

Best Roaster/Retailer (2020 Winner: Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters)

The words Hundred House Coffee, surrounded by an irregular hexagon, carved in black on wood.Hundred House Coffee

2021 was the year I finally visited the Hundred House Coffee roastery in its converted barn, deep in the Shropshire countryside. Hundred House have roasted some of the best coffee I’ve had over the last few years, and richly deserve this award. Hundred House is also on this year’s shortlist for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.

Runners-up: Heartland Coffee Roasters, pioneering speciality coffee in North Wales, and Chimney Fire Coffee, a local roaster with an enviable record for great coffee.

Best Flat White (2020 Winner: The Flower Cup)

A lovely cappuccino, made with the Honduras El Cedro, a honey processed coffee, served in a classic white cup at Speckled Ax, Thames Street in Portland, Main.Speckled Ax, Thames

This year’s winner is actually for a cappuccino, although when it comes to American speciality coffee shops, I’ve never been able to tell the difference a cappuccino and a flat white. Made with the honey-processed El Cedro from Honduras, it was smooth and sweet, coffee and milk in perfect harmony, producing classic chocolate notes. Speckled Ax has also been shortlisted for the Best Cake and Happiest Staff Awards.

Runners-up: Jaunty Goat, Northgate Street, for an awesome decaf, oat milk flat white, and Kaffi Ó-le, for a lovely flat white made with the Benti Nenqa, a washed Ethiopian.

Best Physical Space (2020 Winner: Obscure Coffee)

A classic decaf flat white served in a classic white cup at Medicine New Street in BirminghamMedicine New Street

There are very few places that I can honestly say took my breath away when I first walked in. That alone is enough to give this year’s Award to Medicine on Birmingham‘s New Street. Once home to the Royal Society of Birmingham Artists and used as an art gallery, Medicine’s main space has a soaring curved roof with five central skylights running its full length. Medicine New Street was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Cake Award.

Runners-up: The Eclectic Collection, a wonderful collection of rooms in Earlsfield, and WatchHouse Roastery & Café, for its stunning roastery café and its island counter.

Happiest Staff (2020 Winner: Party on Pavilion)

A single-origin Guatemalan espresso extracting from a Fracino lever espresso machine and into my Kaffeeform cup at Coffee Notes in Hammersmith.Coffee Notes

A pedant might say that if I’m giving the Award to Coffee Notes on account of the infectiously cheerful Harry, then it’s technically the Happiest Owner Award rather than Happiest Staff. I, however, have no truck with such arguments and, if you’d met Harry, neither would you. Coffee Notes is also shortlisted for the Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award and Best Espresso Awards.

Runners-up: Knead a Little Love, where sisters Jess and Becca provide love, happiness and smiles, and Liar Liar, where a warm welcome is always assured.

Best Breakfast (2020 Winner: Catalyst)

My awesome veggie breakfast which I had at Little Yellow Pig in Nantwich. Arranged around a pot of baked beans in the centre are avocado, halloumu, a pair of fried eggs, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and two slices of toast!Little Yellow Pig, Nantwich

This was one of the hardest Awards to judge this year, on account of all fabulous breakfasts out there. However, Little Yellow Pig in Nantwich was on top form with its veggie breakfast when I visited. Little Yellow Pig is also on the Smallest Coffee Spot and Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot shortlists.

Runners-up: Green Monkey London, with its wonderful corn fritters, and The Green Wood Café, with the Lodge Brunch.

Most Passionate About Coffee (2020 Winner: Whaletown Coffee Co.)

A flat white, with some lovely latte art, served in a classic white cup at Sam's Coffee in Llangollen.Sam’s Coffee

Another highlight of 2021 was catching up with Sam Towil in his new home of Llangollen, where he runs Sam’s Coffee with a passion undimmed by over 15 years in the business. As well as great coffee, there’s some pretty amazing food too, all in the most wonderful setting, a 17th century townhouse. Sam’s Coffee is also shortlisted for this year’s Best Outdoor Seating and Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Awards.

Runners-up: The Table, Walsall’s first speciality coffee shop, and Bruin Café, where Louis’ passion shines through everything he does.

Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award (2020 Winner: Kaffeine)

A classic espresso in a handmade cup from Surrey Ceramics, served at The Hideaway in Guildford.The Hideaway

2021 has been a year of openings in my home town of Guildford, with social enterprise, The Hideaway, leading the way. Not only is it a great cafe in its own right, helping provide employment and training for young people, but it’s also in a great setting, tucked away inside the walled gardens of Guildford’s Allen House Grounds. The Hideaway is also shortlisted for the Best Outdoor Seating and Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.

Runners-up: Heartland Coffee Bar, an amazing coffee bar inside the Heartland Coffee Roastery and Little Woodfords, successfully downsizing and moving premises during the pandemic.

Most Popular Coffee Spot (2020 Winner: Peak Water)

A lovely flat white, made with a naturally-processed Brazilian single-origin and served in my HuskeeCup at Lily London in Guildford.Lily London, Guildford

Five of the last six winners of this Award have been posts about coffee equipement, inclduding last year’s winner, Peak Water, so it’s nice that this year an actual coffee shop came top. Interestingly, the top three this year were all Guildford coffee shops which opened in the last 12 months! Lily London was also shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award and won this year’s Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

Runners-up: The Old Roastery Coffee Shop, Rodbur Coffee’s new coffee shop in Merrow, and Open Grounds Café, which is part of Guildford Baptist Church.


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