Caterers in London and the South-east have again missed out in the Beverage Service Association's Bev-e awards, with none of the capital's outlets judged worthy of nomination for the title of Best Beverage Experience of 2009.
There has always been a Midland or Northern dominance in this competition, in which cafés, hotels and restaurants are judged on their preparation of espresso-based coffees and their teas.
The most southerly company to have won the Independent Caterer award is Sadliers café of Tettenhall in the Midlands, which has won the top prize twice.
The names of those who have won through to the second round of Bev-e have now been announced, and the only independent caterer to have won through this year is Bizzie Lizzie's café in Basingstoke.
In the ‘small cafe chain' section, the prize is now certain to be between the Loungers group of ‘neighbourhood café-bars', which has sites from South Wales to Reading, and the Coffee # 1 group, which has cafés in South Wales and the Bristol area, and has come close to the award on several occasions.
The Bev-e awards also feature a mobile or cart section in recognition of the fastest-growing sector of the espresso market. The Cafe2U business has had this category more or less to itself for a couple of years, but this year there is competition from Coolaboola, the chic cart on a Newcastle metro station, where the staff are very active in barista championships..
The usual dominance of northern names is largely because the Beverage Service Association itself has a fairly large Northern population, and many of its committee members have always been from the North.
However, it is noticeable this year that there are more South-western names, probably because a supplier of espresso machines in Devon has just become a BSA committee member. With cafes in Newton Abbott, Dawlish and Penzance making it through to the second round, it is possible that the title may come South for the first time.
Sponsors of the contest are Monin, the flavours company; Rombouts coffee, and Huhtamaki, which makes takeaway beverage cups.
We expect to know the results of the second-round judging at the end of July.
Second-round contenders include:
Bizzy Lizzy's Coffee Shop (Basingstoke)
Bottle Kiln (Ilkeston)
Café Harlequin (York)
Café Licious (Swindon)
Chocoholics Tea & Coffee Lounge (Bury)
Coffee Aroma (Lincoln)
Coopers Tea Rooms & Coffee House (Darlington)
Courtyard Café (Preston)
Mackerel Sky Café (Penzance)
Muffins Coffee Shop (Laurencekirk)
No 1 Café Bar (Dawlish)
Sadlier's Coffee Lounge (Tettenhall)
The Apple Tree (Staffs)
The Coffee House (Skipton)
The Pharmacy Café (Newton Abbott)
Waterloo Tea Gardens (Cardiff)
Mobiles or carts Café 2U Barnsley
Café 2U Nottingham South
Café 2U Yeadon & Guiseley
Coolaboola Coffee (Newcastle)
Coffee#1 Group (Bristol and South-west)
The Loungers Group (Bristol and South-west)
By Ian Boughton