This year’s edition of the STWFW Coffee Awards (formerly the Weimar Republic Coffee Awards) has many tempting potential subtitles: ‘the USA edition’, ‘the dairy-free edition’, ‘the macchiato edition’ or ‘the year I was briefly forced to give up coffee on medical grounds edition’ to name but a few strong contenders. But let’s not confuse things. Let’s stick to what we know. So here is 2017’s Coffee Awards run-down:
Cartwheel Cafe and Roastery, 16 Low Pavement, Nottingham
Cartwheel sort-of won last year’s Coffee Awards (there are no winners, it’s the taking part that counts) and here they are again in this year’s line up. I just love this place. Amazing food (you will basically die of smashed avo), excellent service and super coffee, all done by people who really know what they are doing. In my efforts to be a better vegan this year I drank a lot of black coffee, and you cannot get better black coffee than one of these beautiful, rich, velvety pour-overs. I love you, Cartwheel. Never leave me.
The Specialty Coffee Shop, 50 Friar Lane, Nottingham
Another returning star from last year’s awards, and pictured is a lovely, creamy flat white with oat milk. Oat milk is probably my favourite dairy alternative, and although I have grown to love the nuttiness of soy I will always take oat if it’s available. Specialty have introduced new menus this year and it’s a great place to drop into for a a light brunch or lunch.
Society Cafe, Narrow Quay, Bristol (also in Bath and Oxford)
Newsflash!!! Society is now in Bristol!!! The devoted followers of the Coffee Awards amongst you may recall that Society ‘won’ (there are no winners) the inaugural 2013 edition of the Coffee Awards, back when we were the Weimar Republic. Since then, Society has opened up in Bristol so you don’t even need to get a train to enjoy one of their beautiful, tangy coffees. This is an almond milk flat white. It may not be able to win the Coffee Awards, but it won at life.
Boston Tea Party, 293 Gloucester Road, Bristol (also multiple locations across Bristol and the West Country, with forays into the West Midlands)
Oh Boston Tea Party, one of my most long-standing cafe loves. You have been a teenage hangout (Park Street branch), the scene of many happy brunches with family and friends (Gloucester Road and Cheltenham Road branches), and a retreat when times were hard (Exeter branch, which provided an hour of comfort and familiarity after an arduous work trip, and Gloucester Road, again, where I sat alone and stared for two hours into an empty coffee cup on a Sunday morning, the day after Mark’s dad died). Every branch does a consistently good coffee, pictured is a soy flat white. Also some of the best brunches in the UK (objective fact) and top-notch lemonade and green smoothies. I also feel compelled to mention that Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians is probably one of the great works of modern literature. Probably the greatest modern novel there is. Read it now. If you can read it in a branch of Boston Tea Party, even better.
Toby’s Estate (West Village), 44 Charles Street, New York (other locations across New York)
Across the pond now. Toby’s Estate served us well as we marauded through New York. For some reason I started drinking a lot of soy macchiatos while we were away, and the above was our order for a Sunday afternoon in the West Village, after a lunch of Chinese pancakes at Smorgasburg Manhattan. After this we walked the High Line. The sun was shining and I was so happy I thought my heart might stop.
Blue Bottle, Westfield World Trade Centre, New York (other locations across New York)
Blue Bottle has a branch just by the 9/11 Memorial in downtown New York. At this point I need to give a huge shout out to the guy that served us soy macchiatos twice in this branch, for giving us all sorts of insider knowledge about how to best get free tickets for the MOMA and what to look for in the current exhibitions, and what day was best to go to the Frick collection. We followed all his advice and it was spot on. Also, the soy macchiatos were very welcome, particularly on our first visit on a bitterly cold day (hereafter known as ‘The Day it was Minus 3 Degrees Centigrade’), after an emotionally gruelling visit to the memorial.
Little Skips, 941 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn
And finally. If there were a winner of the Coffee Awards 2017 (there isn’t), this would perhaps be it. Little Skips was probably one of my favourite places in the whole of New York. Reached from our apartment in Bed-Stuy via a slightly mental bus ride and somewhat dubious walk into Bushwick (what my mother would refer to as a ‘slice of life’), Little Skips is like a creative mecca of brain-stimulating amazingness. Great coffee, great toasted sandwiches (I had a vegan BLT. YES, a VEGAN BLT. I know, I know. I might cry with joy), super-fun people watching (serious punks and hipster heaven) and generally just a total delight. If I was living my dream of living in a Brooklyn brownstone and being a writer, this is where the magic would happen.