Britain’s cafes and coffee houses reach ‘amazing’ standards

Habitat_Cafe(2)

Mike Haggerton, winner of the Best Overall Café Experience

Seven cafes have qualified to win ‘Five Cup’ status in the Beverage Standards Association’s annual accreditations, which seek to find the venues serving the best coffee and tea in the UK. The right to display a ‘Five Cup’ window sticker signifies that a venue makes all its hot beverages perfectly, in accordance with the industry’s best practice.
It is already reckoned that the top British cafes serve the best coffee in the world, and according to the BSA, the standard of all hot beverages served in cafes across the UK has now reached an extremely high standard.
“The UK beverage industry is one of the finest in the world,” says the BSA’s executive director, Martyn Herriott. “The venues that have achieved success in this year’s programme have done so because they have excelled in every area – outstanding customer satisfaction and service, the finest equipment and ingredients, and dedicated staff.”
The top individual prize in the annual awards is the Best Overall Experience title, which has been won by Mike and Jan Haggerton of the Habitat café in Aberfeldy.
“Their tea offering is meticulous, their espresso is delivered with precision, and their attention to detail is breathtaking,” says the BSA. “And this is done not in the bright lights of a major city or a large town, but in a small town in Perthshire. They have showcased the best our industry has to offer, and achieved testament to what can be done wherever you choose to do it, if you believe in it enough.”
The Bean and Bud café of Harrogate won the Raising Standards award, which signifies significant progress for a café – they won a Four Cup award last year, and made the difficult jump to Five Cups this year.
“They work tirelessly to create a little mecca to serving the perfect beverage,” said the BSA judges. “Their Best Tea award is testament to that – they are focused on a level of preparation that is meticulous, weighing the tea to 0.1 of a gramme, using filtered water at the correct temperature for every brew, using exactly the right level of water, and timing the brew.
“The last ten per cent in the pursuit of excellence is the hardest, and Ruth and Hayden have gone from a four-cup venue last year to a five-cupper in true style, built on determination to be the best they can.”
The Best Newcomer award was won by Cotswold Artisan of Cirencester. Barry and Mandy Cook’s café is a new business, although the couple used to run a successful coffee shop in Swindon.
“It takes a lot of guts to up-sticks, re-invest, re-focus and re-brand a business, come back stronger and more determined to succeed the way they have. They have also been through the mill in the initial resistance to their business (there was the usual local reaction to ‘another coffee shop’).”
The BSA offers individual prizes for various ‘best drinks’ – what is it that lifts one cafe’s cappuccino and latte above the rest of the entire country?
“Our findings this year are that amazing standards are being achieved on high streets all over the UK every day. An outstanding drink is a sensory experience which is based on the product used and a technical ability to get the very best out of it in taste and texture.
“The two winners of ‘best espresso’ (Timberyard of London and Cotswold Artisan) both delivered a challenging and stunning espresso where they had clearly demonstrated they were in control of the sum of the parts.
The ‘best flat white’ award went jointly to Kaffeine of London and Taylor St Baristas of Brighton; the best latte was by Rhode island Coffee of Stockport, and the best cappuccino by Pumphreys of Newcastle. Perhaps unexpectedly, the best filter prize went to an exceptionally busy café – Taylor St Baristas’ Monument branch in London. The best hot chocolate was served by Googies Art Café, of Folkestone.
In spite of the high standards shown by these winners, says the BSA, there are still gaps in the British tea and coffee industry – there are still some who are not trying for the best. To the dismay of the judges, no café at all was nominated this year from Wales.
“The accreditation process has grown in stature, but we all know that sometimes people and businesses do not ‘get it’,” says the BSA. “One aim now is to promote the venues that are delivering exceptional standards, to show what a good job looks like and how to aspire to it. There are now a tremendous number of businesses creating brilliant drinks around the country every day – every café should be inspired to raise their standards to that level.”
In the general section of the BSA accreditations, seven cafes have qualified to display the ‘Five Cup’ status, signifying that they make all drinks according to the industry’s best practice. These were Bean & Bud of Harrogate, Cotswold Artisan Coffee of Cirencester, Habitat Café of Aberfeldy, Timberyard of Seven Dials, London, Pumphreys Brewing Emporium of Newcastle, the Apple Tree of Barton-under-Needwood and Taylor St Baristas, Brighton.
All the top cafes had four features in common – some of their drinks were good enough to be nominated for a ‘best drink’ award, each of them offered a choice of at least two coffee blends or single origin coffees, each offered a choice of two or three different hot chocolates, and each offered a wide range of loose leaf teas, well described in carefully-written menus.
Many other cafes qualified for the one-to-four cup ratings, showing various degrees of success in meeting the main requirements of the industry’s highest standards.

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Boughton’s Coffee House is the main news source for the coffee-house trade.

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