2018 Awards – Smallest Coffee Spot

The Root & Branch sign, pointing the way to good coffee on Belfast's Jameson Street.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 Root & Branch.

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! To keep things manageable, I have excluded Coffee Spots that are no more than counters/carts/kiosks.

Even so, this is one of several Awards that I could have filled many times over, so much so that there are a total of 18 entries on this year’s shortlist and another 17 special mentions! And yes, I appreciate the irony that the Smallest Coffee Spot Award has the longest shortlist…

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2018 Awards – Best Espresso

My piccolo in a glass at Federation Coffee, Brixton, part of a split shot using the Curve house blend, Stardust Vol 2.We’re halfway through the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards with the shortlist for the “Best Espresso” Award, which was won in 2017 by Federation Coffee. 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. While I still like something full-bodied and robust, my palette has definitely evolved and expanded over time. When I started the Coffee Spot Awards, I tried to cap the shortlists at 12, to keep them manageable. Over time, I expanded them to 15. This year, I’ve had so much outstanding espresso that the shortlist now has 18 entries, making this being one of the most hotly contested of this year’s Awards.

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2018 Awards – Best Outdoor Seating

A lovely flat white made with the Friday Street Blend at St Martin's in Leicester.We kick off the third day of the 2018 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 St Martin’s.

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!). Fortunately, there are plenty of Coffee Spots which do exactly that and this is one award I could have filled many times over!

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2018 Awards – Best Saturday Supplement

The Flat Caps Coffee logo, taken from a bag of coffee roasted to mark Flat Caps' successful Kickstarter.The last of today’s 2018 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists is the “Best Saturday Supplement” Award, won in 2017 by Goodbye Ridley Place. 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 of this year’s Saturday Supplements.

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 reusable cups, coffee festivals, an espresso machine, a magazine, a podcast, a day at the cricket, airline coffee and a pour-over experience in Rome, all of which makes the comparison a little tricky, but that’s my problem!

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2018 Awards – Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station

Some beautiful latte art by Craft Coffee at King's Cross in my Therma Cup.Our third shortlist today is the shortlist for the “Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station”, although it should really be called “Best Coffee Spot at or near a Railway Station”, except that was a bit of a mouthful, even for me. This was won in 2017 by Craft Coffee, King’s Cross and rewards those Coffee Spots serving great coffee to travellers on Britain’s rail network and, increasingly, on rail networks around the world.

When you’re desperate for good coffee, railway stations are rarely the best places to be. But what if there was a great Coffee Spot just outside the station (or even in the concourse!) or a few minutes’ walk away and you didn’t know about it? Then this award is for you…

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2018 Awards – Best Filter Coffee

A cup of the Casablanca single-origin Nicaraguan by Cafe Integral, made with the Modbar pour-over module using a Chemex.We continue the second day with the next shortlist for the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards, the “Best Filter Coffee” Award, which was won last year by Café Integral, Chicago. A major revelation since starting the Coffee Spot is that filter coffee isn’t that over-brewed, stewed muck that bad coffee chains serve out of urns. It’s actually an amazing, delicate drink that has opened my eyes to a whole new world of coffee.

This award celebrates those Coffee Spots which continue to help me on my journey of discovery. To give you an idea of how far I have come since starting the Coffee Spot, I initially owned a cafetiere and an espresso machine and either drank my coffee at home with milk (cafetiere) or as espresso. Now I make the bulk of my coffee with my Aeropress and have a grinder dedicated to filter coffee. I always drink my filter coffee black and increasingly think that if I have to put milk in my coffee to make it drinkable, I’m drinking the wrong coffee!

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2018 Awards – Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting

The London Grind logo, taken from the wall outside.We kick off the second day with shortlist for the 2018 Coffee Spot Award for “Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting”. This was won last year by London Grind.

Lighting in coffee shops has long held a fascination for me, with most of the galleries containing a shot or two of an interesting light-fitting. This Award celebrates those Coffee Spots with particularly outstanding lighting.

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2018 Awards – Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot

A lovely Kokoa Collection hot chocolate served in a distinctive mug at The Moon & Sixpence in Cockermouth.The last of today’s 2018 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists is the “Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot”. In 2017 this went to The Moon & Sixpence and it celebrates those Coffee Spots which are firmly rooted in, and which serve, their local communities. Unsurprisingly, the shortlist contains some of my favourite Coffee Spots of the year, which are often slightly off the beaten track.

This Award has quite a wide geographical spread, with Coffee Spots from Miami, New Orleans, Montréal and Tokyo, and from across the UK from Bristol and Southsea in the south to Glasgow in the north.

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2018 Awards – Coffee Spot with the Best Basement

The original facade of Laynes Espresso on New Station Street, Leeds, before its expansion.Our third shortlist in the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Coffee Spot with the Best Basement” Award. As regular readers will know, I have a soft spot for Coffee Spots with good basements. In 2017 this went to Laynes Espresso.

To some, a basement is a dark, sometimes dingy, cramped space. However, when they are at their best, basements are cosy, welcoming spaces that provide the perfect spot to curl up with your coffee. This award celebrates those Coffee Spots with outstanding basements, the sort of places you want to go and spend all day in! It also includes those Coffee Spots which, while not technically basements, have that basement-like feel to them.

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2018 Awards – Best Takeaway Coffee

My flat white in my Ecoffee Cup on a lovely patterned tile at Lever & Bloom.Our second shortlist in the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards is the “Best Takeaway Coffee” Award, which was won last year by Lever & Bloom. It recognises those places which, braving the elements, still produce an excellent cup of coffee. This includes coffee carts, coffee stalls, those Coffee Spots which are so small that they only serve takeaway coffee and those Coffee Spots where I regularly get my takeaway coffee (even if they offer a regular sit-in option).

In fairness, I don’t feature a lot of takeaway places on the Coffee Spot, partly because, for me, a lot of what makes a good Coffee Spot is the atmosphere. This can be hard to achieve at a stall when you’re serving your coffee in a paper cup (another bugbear of mine; so these days I always take my own cup with me!). However, there are plenty of great takeaway places out there, serving excellent coffee, so don’t be afraid to give them a try.

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