Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2023 underway, here are the winners of the 11th annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2022. The shortlists for all 20 Awards were announced on a rolling basis starting on Boxing Day 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.
And finally, please accept my apologies for the delays with this year’s Awards. There’s been a lot going on in my life, including moving house two days before Christmas, which has really slowed me down this year. Anyway, without further ado, let’s find out who won!
If you don’t like lists, you can see who won this year’s Awards in the gallery.
On the face of it, Marietta in Georgia is the sort of place where you might expect to find a top-notch speciality coffee shop, so it was something of a surprise to discover that Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe was the first when it opened just over a year ago. It was also an unexpected find which very much made my day when I stumbled across it this summer.
Best Takeaway Coffee (2021 Winner: Lily London, Guildford)
It was great to see the return of the coffee container in London Square in Guildford, which is now being operated by the team behind Canopy Coffee (itself under new management). You get the same great coffee, of course, made using the bespoke Canopy blend, roasted by Skylark Coffee, along with a single-origin batch brew, all served up from the cosy container.
Runners-up: Houndstooth Coffee, Downtown Austin, where I went for multiple coffees to go while I was working in downtown Austin and George Howell, Boston Public Market, where Amanda and I took our coffees over to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, to enjoy them while sitting in the sun.
A genuine coffee shop in a basement, Patent Coffee beat out a couple of mezzanines (new for this year) . Located below the Radio Wave building in the heart of Manhattan, this is a lovely spot, serving up some great coffee and all with a friendly welcome from barista Lorenzo and his colleagues. My only regret was that I didn’t go there more often while I was in New York City.
Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot (2021 Winner: Bank Street Social)
This is the original Café Grumpy, which has been in the Greenpoint neighbourhood of Brooklyn since 2005. Although I knew it from its Manhattan coffee shops, this is where it all began for Café Grumpy, with the roastery just down the street. The modest exterior hides an extensive interior, complete with spacious back room which acts as a real hub for the neighbourhood.
Runners-up: Smalls in Portland‘s West End is coffee shop, restaurant, bar and neighbourhood store all rolled into one, and Elements: Books Coffee Beer, doing exactly what the name suggests in Biddeford, Maine, making this a clean sweep for the USA this year.
Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting (2021 Winner: Taylor’s Coffee House)
This Award is very much one of personal taste, but as soon as I saw the light fitting in the shape of the Flight Coffee rocket ship (see the picture to the left), I knew I had my winner. Of course, Flight Coffee is a wonderful coffee shop in its own right, serving up espresso-based drinks and outstanding filter coffee, plus some great food, to the folks of Dover, New Hampshire.
Runners-up: Elephant Coffee, a classic coffee shop with some classic lighting in Neston on The Wirral and Voyager Craft Coffee, Santa Clara University, with some lovely light fittings, even if the installers did try to “fix” them.
Best Filter Coffee (2021 Winner: Freak & Unique (and Other Coffees))
I long ago learnt not to argue with my baristas, so even though I wanted a pour-over, when my barista at The Crown steered my in the direction of the light-roast batch brew option, the Kenya Mumwe Mahiga Double Fermented Double Washed I didn’t say no. One of the best filter coffees I’ve had in a very long time this was rich, fruity and incredibly sweet. True coffee royalty!
Regular followers of my Twitter feed will know that I’m not a huge fan of Euston station and even less of a fan of Avanti West Coast, but I will put up with them both for the prospect of coffee from the wonderful For the Good of the People, part of the Real Food Market that brightens up the station forecourt. Come rain or shine, For the Good of the People is there, serving up excellent espresso-based drinks.
Runners-up: Saint Frank Coffee, Menlo Park opposite the Caltrain station of the same name, and Bellwood Coffee – Peachtree, a warm post-arrival welcome on the one train a day at Atlanta’s Peachtree station.
Best Saturday Supplement (2021 Winner: Frozen Solid Coffee Project)
A restored vintage lever espresso machine and a bespoke espresso blend (Il Grifone) that you can try side-by-side with a shot of Red Brick pulled on an ultra-modern Victoria Arduino Black Eagle? Sign me up! This is exactly the sort of coffee experience that is going to appeal to me and I was not disappointed when I visited Prufrock to try it out at the end of the summer.
Runners-up: Bonanza Coffee and more coffee comparisons, this time with an excellent filter tasting flight, and Making Coffee at Home: Cloth Filters where I learnt to love the coffee sock reuasble cloth filters.
Best Outdoor Seating (2021 Winner: Caffi Caban)
High up in the hills of Northeast Wales, Betty Berkins has extensive outdoor seating, including a large, partially-covered terrace, which enjoys some great views across the Dee Estuary. If that doesn’t appeal, you can sit in front of Betty Berkins itself, plus there are plans for another terrace at the rear (with more excellent views). Oh, and there’s speciality coffee, fabulous food and amazing cakes too!
Best Espresso (2021 Winner: Nostos Coffee)
I was once again served some wonderful espresso this year, but the clear winner was the Baroida Estate, a naturally-processed coffee from Papua New Guinea. Roasted by CoRo in the roastery behind the glass windows at the back of the Coffee Room, this was a well-rounded, well-balanced espresso that was both smooth and complex.
Runners-up: Bonanza Gendarmenmarkt for its Sasaba, a naturally-processed coffee from Ethiopia, which was fruity and complex, and Kaffeekommune for the lightly-roasted, naturally-processed Ethiopia Bombe G1: sweet, complex and well-balanced.
Smallest Coffee Spot (2021 Winner: Tintico, Greek Street)
Hands down winner this year is Shrewsbury’s The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters. A very small coffee shop in its own right, The Colonel’s Son (whose name is Patch, by the way) also manages to fit a roastery into the space behind the counter! I really don’t know how he manages it. The coffee, by the way, is lovely, as is Patch himself, making for a wonderfully cosy and welcoming coffee shop.
Best Cake (2021 Winner: Kookaburra Bakehouse)
This year’s shortlist was packed with excellent places producing some excellent cakes and buns, making it very hard to choose in a winner. In the end I went for the Jaunty Goat Bakery in Chester, where I had an excellent morning bun, made with a rich pastry and with just a hint of stickiness. It was a bonus (for me at least) that it was baked on the premises.
Best Roaster/Retailer (2021 Winner: Hundred House Coffee)
I’ve known Speckled Ax since my first visit to Portland in 2015. However, it took me almost seven years before I visited the roastery, home to Speckled Ax’s wood-fired roaster. In my defence, it’s only been in Portland proper for the last couple of years, having found a new home on Walton Street. As a regular visitor to Portland, I’ve enjoyed Speckled Ax’s coffee both in its three coffee shops and at home, where it is Amanda’s favourite roaster.
Runners-up: Adams + Russell, taking a traditional old-school roaster from Birkenhead and transforming it into a speciality coffee power house without forgetting its roots, and Time & Tide Coffee Roastery, bringing better coffee for everyone to Biddeford in Maine.
Best Flat White (2021 Winner: Speckled Ax, Thames)
Over the last year in Guildford, Canopy Coffee was very much my go-to spot for coffee in town, so this Award is perhaps more accurately the “Best Flat Whites” Award for all the wonderful coffees I’ve had there. Although under new management, Canopy Coffee has maintained the same high standards, turning out consistently fine flat whites using its bespoke house-blend roasted by Skylark Coffee.
Best Physical Space (2021 Winner: Medicine New Street)
CSONS in Shrewsbury was this year’s clear winner. Spread out through a wonderful old building, with multiple rooms and a large, sheltered courtyard at the back, it has something for everyone. My favourite was undoubtably the cosy back room with its stained glass windows and with a table in an old fireplace, although I would have been equally happy sitting anywhere.
Happiest Staff (2021 Winner: Coffee Notes)
This was another award where I was blessed with many worthy entries. Crossby Coffee on Lark Lane in Aigburth, just south of Liverpool city centre, is an excellent coffee shop. It’s a lovely setting, with some outstanding coffee and very fine cakes, but what really made it stand out for me were the fabulous baristas, Ben and Bex, who looked after me during my visit.
Best Breakfast (2021 Winner: Little Yellow Pig, Nantwich)
Beans on toast sounds fairly plain, but the House-made Smokey Maple Beans on Toast with added cheese which I had at Lateral in West Kirby on The Wirral elevates the humble beans on toast to a whole new level. So much better than any baked beans from a tin, these were a worthy winner of this year’s Award.
Most Passionate About Coffee (2021 Winner: Sam’s Coffee)
Another Award which is always hard to judge is the Most Passionate About Coffee Award. However, Shrewsbury’s Nomad Coffee Co. is a multi-roaster which puts the coffee front and centre. In this case, owners Vladimir and Raúl (who is also head barista) only serve single-origin on espresso, a bold move in a relatively small coffee market like Shrewsbury.
Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award (2021 Winner: The Hideaway)
Bloom Building and Coffee is in an industrial estate in Birkenhead on The Wirral, which, I must confess, is not the most promising of starts. However, Bloom Building and Coffee is a gem which does so much more than just coffee, combining café, bar and venue space with hosting the Open Door Charity. This supports the mental wellbeing of young people across Merseyside and is funded, in part, by Bloom Building’s profits.
Most Popular Coffee Spot (2021 Winner: Lily London, Guildford)
By far the most popular of this year’s Coffee Spots was my piece on the budget Coffee Gator espresso machine. It was even more popular if you include the two follow-up pieces, where I wrote about my various attempts to improve the Coffee Gator. A surprisingly good home espresso machine for the price, the Coffee Gator has changed my opinion about low-cost home espresso machines.
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