RAWR Coffee Bar

The sign hanging outside RAWR Coffee Bar, part of Cat Town in Oakland, California.I must confess that I’ve never given much thought to visiting cat cafés, even though I really like cats. However, when my friend Richard suggested Cat Town in Oakland, which has the RAWR Coffee Bar attached, I was intrigued. Cat Town was America’s first cat café when it opened in 2014, while the RAWR Coffee Bar followed in 2017. Although linked (you enter Cat Town via the Coffee Bar, for example), they operate independently, so you’re free to pop into the coffee bar without any obligation to visit Cat Town.

What makes Cat Town stand out from the other cat cafés that I’ve previously been aware of is that all the cats in residence are up for adoption (which is why Richard was there). You can read more about Cat Town’s work in its own Saturday Supplement. Meanwhile, today’s Saturday Short focuses on the RAWR Coffee Bar, which serves espresso-based drinks and a batch brew filter option from local roasters Highwire. There’s also a small selection of pastries if you’re hungry.

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Chromatic Coffee Roastery Cafe

My flat white, in a glass, at the Chromatic Coffee Roastery Cafe in San Jose.Quite a lot has changed since I was last in San Jose in April. Back then, Chromatic Coffee had its original store in Santa Clara, along with a new location in downtown San Jose, while the roastery was on Lincoln Avenue, just around the corner from my friend Richard’s house. Fast forward just over seven months and, while the Santa Clara location is still going strong, everything else has changed.

The roastery, admittedly, is still on Lincoln Avenue, but it’s no longer around the corner from Richard’s house, since he’s moved to Willow Glen. The downtown coffee shop has gone, however, Chromatic deciding to relocate it to the roastery, where it now serves coffee to all-comers from a large space at the front of the roastery.

There’s a simple coffee menu, with the Gamut blend on espresso, although this is occasionally changed up. This is joined by a daily batch brew using the new Ground Control Cyclops, while if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of pastries from Manresa Bread. One thing to be aware of: the coffee shop is technically classified as a coffee truck, only able to serve coffee in takeaway cups, so  don’t forget to bring your own.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to San Jose

The nose of my British Airways Boeing 787-900 which flew me to San Jose.Welcome to the first Travel Spot of the new year, on my first trip of 2020, which means I’m starting the year much as I started 2019, when I flew to Phoenix on the 4th January, managing to get upgraded along the way from Club World to First Class. That was also on the first Friday of the year (I flew yesterday).

This time, I flew from Heathrow to San Jose, California, where I’ll be spending a week (for work). Then I’ll back be in Phoenix the following week (work again), before spending a week travelling around Arizona, enjoying the winter sun. Finally, I’m flying to Boston to see Amanda for the weekend, which will make an interest contrast (similar to last year, when I flew from Phoenix to Chicago). From Boston, I’m flying home at the end of January.

As usual, I’m flying with British Airways to and from the US, while, due to time constraints, I’m doing the internal travel by plane as well, flying from San Francisco to Phoenix with American and from Phoenix to Boston with Delta. I’d have loved to have done either (or both) of those legs by train, but it wasn’t feasible.

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Coffee Spot Awards 2019: 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 2020 underway, here are the winners of the eighth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2019. 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.

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2019 Awards – Most Popular Coffee Spot

The Decent Espresso machine, set up and ready to go at The Good Coffee Cartel in Glasgow.So, here it is, the final Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2019, the only one that you, my readers, decide. It’s the “Most Popular Coffee Spot” Award, which is based on the total number of views received by each Coffee Spot in 2019, although this year I’ve tweaked the rule slightly and included Coffee Spots published within the last two months of 2018.

Last year this was won last year by Decent Espresso with 1,109 views. This year, of the 15 most viewed, 14 are Coffee Spots, with 11 from the UK. There’s also just one Saturday Supplement. This is, in some ways, my favourite Award since I don’t have to make any decisions. After 19 shortlists, it’s quite a relief not to have to decide who’s in and who’s out!

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2019 Awards – Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award

The Sarah's Caring Coffee logo.Welcome to the penultimate Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2019, the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award, which was won last year by Sarah’s Caring Coffee & The Coffee Bean. This is a special award for those Coffee Spots which don’t quite fit into the other categories, but which nonetheless I absolutely love… It’s also a chance for me to recognise and reward those wonderful Coffee Spots that I come across during the year and which mean something special to me.

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2019 Awards – Most Passionate About Coffee

The sign hanging outside Discourse Coffee in Sister Bay, Door County.Welcome to the next Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2019, the “Most Passionate About Coffee” Award, which was won in 2018 by Discourse Coffee. For me, this is one of the most important awards, and also one of the hardest to judge, which is why I’ve left it to the last day.

It’s not just about the coffee, it’s also about people who love and care about coffee. Everyone who I’ve covered in the Coffee Spot is passionate about coffee and one of the great things is how much love there is out there, both for the coffee and for those who make it. However, those shortlisted for this award stand out from the crowd.

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2019 Awards – Best Breakfast

The Short + Stout logo from above the door of the shop in Hoole.We enter the final day of the 2019 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists with the “Best Breakfast” Award, which in 2018 went to Short + Stout. 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, I’ve been doing so much travelling over the last two years that I’m now able to generate a healthy shortlist this year, helped by those wonderful places that serve all-day breakfasts! 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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2019 Awards – Happiest Staff

Part of the upstairs seating at the Heart & Graft Coffee Shop in Salford.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 Heart & Graft Coffee Shop. 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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2019 Awards – Best Physical Space

The Cottontree Coffee Cafe logo, with a pour-over kettle on top and an espresso portafilter at the bottom.Next up today, the 2019 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Physical Space”, which was won last year by Cottontree Coffee Roasters. 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. It’s another where I could have made two or three different shortlists, all with worthy winners. However, I have managed to whittle it down to just a single list for this year’s Award.

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