About Brian Williams

Author of Brian's Coffee Spot, you can read all about me in the "About Me" section of the blog (www.brian-coffee-spot)

2020 Awards – Best Breakfast

The SLOW Cafe logo hanging outside the coffee shop in Prague.We enter the final day of the 2020 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists with the “Best Breakfast” Award, which in 2019 went to SLOW Café. Along with cake, breakfast has a special place in my heart.

It used to be that I rarely got up and out of the house early enough to get to places before they stop serving breakfast. However, in recent years I’ve been travelling so much that this is usually a healthy shortlist.

This year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve had fewer breakfasts than usual, but, helped by those wonderful places that serve all-day breakfasts, I’ve managed to get a decent shortlist together. In fact, given how often I have things from the breakfast menu for lunch, I wonder if I should rename this award “Best Brunch”…

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2020 Awards – Happiest Staff

A Kopi Tubruk, a traditional Indonesian coffee, where hot water is poured directly on ground coffee, stirred and then left to stand, made with a naturally-processed Kerinci Kayu Aro from Ngopi in Birmingham.I present the final shortlist of the day, which is for another of my favourite Coffee Spot Awards, that of “Coffee Spot with the Happiest Staff”. Last year it was won by Ngopi. In my opinion, 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, with some infectiously happy staff. However, this award isn’t just for happy staff; it’s for any staff who go that extra mile to make their coffee shop a special place.

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2020 Awards – Best Physical Space

The Pražírna Kavárna logo, a black and white line drawing of a roaster. Am I the only one who thinks it looks like a steam train?Next up today, the 2020 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Physical Space”, which was won last year by Pražírna Kavárna. One of the most important things for me is how a Coffee Spot looks and feels. This, to me, is just as important as the coffee.

This award celebrates those Coffee Spots in which there’s a pure joy in just sitting there, soaking it all in. It’s not just about physical beauty and elegance. Instead, it’s as much about atmosphere, layout and overall feel.

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2020 Awards – Best Flat White

A lovely flat white in a class white cup on a black saucer, made with an El Mirador single-origin from Guatemala, roasted by Roasted Brown and served at First Draft Coffee & Wine in Dublin.The second of today’s 2020 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists is for the “Best Flat White” Award, which was won last year by First Draft Coffee & Wine.

Although I love black coffee, espresso with milk is very much its own thing. This award recognises those who have produced the perfect blend of coffee and milk with the smoothest, silkiest flat white (although awesome cortados, etc, also qualify).

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2020 Awards – Best Roaster/Retailer

The roaster, a 5 kg Probat, at Wood St Coffee in Walthamstow.First up today, the 2020 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Roaster/Retailer”, which was won last year by Wood St Coffee Roastery. 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, 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.

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2020 Awards – Best Cake

A glorious Boston Rhubarb doughtnut from the Donut ShopWelcome to the final 2020 Coffee Spot Awards shortlist of the day, the “Best Cake” Award, won in 2019 by Donut Shop. Despite what it says on the tag line, the Coffee Spot’s not all about the coffee. After all, 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.

This is another of my favourite Awards and while I haven’t had as much cake this year (in coffee shops, that is; I’ve had plenty at home), when I have, I’ve been treated to some absolutely fantastic cakes, buns, pies and slices.

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2020 Awards – Smallest Coffee Spot

The single-origin Brazilian espresso from Red Bank Coffee served in an over-sized, classic white cup at Alex Coffee.Coffee Spots come in all shapes and sizes, but for some reason I have a real soft spot for small Coffee Spots. Last year the “Smallest Coffee Spot” Award was won by Alex Coffee.

This year I have once again been blessed by some very small Coffee Spots serving some very fine coffee. As in previous years, this Award is entirely subjective: no Coffee Spots were measured during the judging process!

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2020 Awards – Best Espresso

The Blueprint Coffee & Books logo taken from a tote bag in the shop in Whitstable.We’re halfway through the 2020 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Best Espresso” Award, which was won in 2019 by Blueprint Coffee & Books. When it comes down to it, I still tend to judge a Coffee Spot by the quality of its espresso. Of course, this is entirely subjective and down to taste. I would never knock a place that made a good espresso just because it wasn’t to my taste.

This award is for those Coffee Spots which served me the best and most memorable espressos of the year. I started the Coffee Spot as a confirmed Italian espresso drinker with my palette evolving and expanding over time. Over the last few years, I’ve had some truly sublime espresso, which has led to this being one of the most hotly contested Awards. This year is no different, with a host of excellent espressos, mostly naturally-processed ones, leading the way.

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2020 Awards – Best Outdoor Seating

The word CAFE in white on the side wall of the Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park, glass dome soaring above.We kick off the third day of the 2020 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Coffee Spot with the Best Outdoor Seating” Award, celebrating all those wonderful Coffee Spots with excellent outdoor seating. This was won last year by Pavilion Café.

To qualify for this award, it’s not just a case of sticking a couple of tables or chairs on the pavement outside your coffee shop. Too often, what could be a lovely spot is marred by traffic noise, or cramped conditions, or just being in the wrong place. The best outside seating is often away from the road and passing pedestrians and offers shelter from the wind, rain and/or sun (although rarely all three at once!).

This is one shortlist which hasn’t been diminished by the COVID-19 pandemic. At first I thought that this was because lots of places had added outdoor seating, but actually all bar one of the Coffee Spots on the shortlist came into 2020 with some great outdoor seating!

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2020 Awards – Best Saturday Supplement

The Coffee & Science logo, a coffee cup with an equation written in a light-beam projecting from the cup.The last of today’s 2020 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists is the “Best Saturday Supplement” Award, won in 2019 by Coffee & Science with Bean Thinking. The Saturday Supplement is a place where I can write about coffee, coffee-related events, places which I liked but which didn’t really fit into the category of a Coffee Spot and frankly, anything else that takes my fancy! This Award recognises the best Saturday Supplements in 2020.

Just so we’re clear on this, the Award is not about my writing (that would be far too self-serving). It’s about the actual subjects that I’m writing about, which this year included a cat cafe, trying a new coffee species, a coffee festival, a YouTube Channel, and several other things besides, all of which makes the comparison a little tricky, but that’s my problem!

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