Oxford is a relatively small city, yet it manages to continually punch above its weight in so many ways. Oxford’s standing as a seat of learning is universally known and the city is well recognised for its healthy music scene, but not many know about the strong coffee scene that exists. This is starting to change though, with the city having been recently featured amongst the pages of Caffeine magazine which is to the coffee world what Vogue is to fashion, so yeah, a pretty big deal. The aim of the Definitive Oxford Coffee Guide is to provide a one-stop shop for all things coffee in Oxford that will grow over time so make sure you keep coming back!
Situated in the north of the city along the foodie hotspot of North Parade, this opulent jewel of a place may be compact and bijou with only a handful of tables but don’t let that put you off as it is well worth a visit. Offering all the usual milk-based favourites, a range of teas and soft drinks. the speciality here is brewed coffee (the name kinda gives it away really). If you are looking to expand your coffee horizons head in, speak to the barista and they will help you decide on the coffee that suits you – take the chance to discover how good black coffee can be! Beans come courtesy of Oxfordshire’s very own Ue Coffee and the seasonal single origin selections ensure that there is always something fresh on offer. Look out for the most amazing espresso machine you will have ever seen, imagine a steampunk R2-D2 and you will be on the right track.
Nestled down a side street in the centre of the city you will find Zappi’s bike shop, and within, up a flight of stairs, is Zappi’s Cafe. Coffee and cycling have always had a close affinity and you will often find Lycra clad enthusiasts enjoying an espresso after a ride. Offering a good selection of teas, coffees and delicious cakes makes Zappi’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Ue Coffee Roasters are the supplier for Zappi’s and they have their very own blend on offer, both in store or to enjoy at home. Look out for the occasional guest coffee on offer, be brave and try an espresso – you will be amazed at the depth of flavour.
Family owned and run Combibos Coffee is a located in Gloucester Green, just a stones throw from the city centre and all the major transport links. A mix of tables and sofas so comfy you almost disappear into them makes it a popular meeting place for students, visitors and locals alike. The coffee is superb but they also do great food, the breakfasts being a particular highlight. Coffee comes from the Union Roasters of London and along with the staple espresso roasts you can expect to find some very good microlot guest beans on offer. My top tip if you visit is to sample the fab Peanut Butter Stack from the cake selection, just don’t think about the calories! Oh, and that door with the Manager sign on is the toilet 😉
Situated on Turl Street, just off the High Street in the city centre, The Missing Bean sits on the frontier line of where town meets gown and shops give way to many of the colleges in Oxford. The fact that this place is always so busy is testament to how good the coffee and cakes are, well worth a visit to soak up the atmosphere of the city. The Missing Bean currently use a London-based roastery, but stay tuned – they are set to open their own Roastery & Espresso Bar on Magdalen Road soon!
With three branches spread across the city, G&Ds blend of fabulous homemade ice-cream, great coffee and bagels have seen them become something of an institution in the city. It all started with George & Davis located on the bohemian Little Clarendon Street in Jericho. George & Danver followed with its centrally based location in the shadow of Christchurch college on the High Street. Last but no means least came George & Delila in the east of the city, situated along the bustling Cowley Road. The really great thing about G&Ds is their opening hours, 8am till Midnight in all branches, providing a place to go in the evenings that isn’t a pub. The coffee is ethically sourced and, as well as the usuals, they offer some ice-cream/coffee crossovers which while they won’t be winning any barista championship awards are very tasty. Look out for the ‘Icespresso’, which is a combination of a double espresso, two scoops of ice cream (one of these is blended with some milk), whipped cream, and some M&Ms for good measure.
The popularity of street food is on the rise and Pukeko have been serving awesome coffee from the back of their little Vespa tricycle for 2 years now. They are usually found parked outside the Radcliffe Camera and are also regulars at a number of the great local markets around the area. In case you were wondering, a Pukeko is a bird from New Zealand more commonly known as the Purple Swamphen. No guesses where the two guys who run Pukeko are from! As well as offering fab coffee they also do a mean hot chocolate and a small but perfectly formed selection of cakes.
Cowley Road boasts a number of coffee shops and while you might think they would suffer from saturation the great thing is they all offer something different. They all do great coffee but each has its own character and highlight. Rick’s biggest selling point is the amazing selection of cakes and pastries from their sister shop Chateau Gateau. Actually calling them cakes doesn’t do them justice as they are fine patisserie and in particular the macarons, they are just perfect. Look out for some snazzy latte art if you order a drink with milk, my tip would be to grab a selection of macarons and a cappuccino to go with them.
Another of the Cowley Road selection The Keen Bean is to be found inside Truck Record Store. This might sound like a strange place for a coffee shop but it works a treat and ensures that you always have a fantastic musical accompaniment to your coffee. If you are a regular you can hang your mug on a hook behind the counter, and this combined with the eclectic crockery and furniture gives the place a real homely feel. They are serious about their coffee as well, sourcing their beans from Ue Coffee and often having a selection of beans on offer to try. The place works SO well as a cafe in its own right but throw in the location and a Flat White in a cute tea cup and you have a winning combination.
They keep things simple at Quarter Horse and let the quality of the coffee do the talking. They source their beans from Square Mile of London, rotating the offerings on a regular basis to make the most of the seasonal coffees on offer. They serve all the usual milk based offerings along with a choice of filtered coffees and a range of teas. A great selection of cakes from Oxford’s own Barefoot Bakery and sandwiches at lunchtime this is a ‘must visit’ for any coffee lover. If you are adventurous then ask for an Aeropress of their guest bean, you will be amazed how such a simple device can produce such good coffee. Also look out for the Espresso Flight which is actually two drinks; a single shot espresso and a single shot cappuccino – best of both worlds!
A new addition to Little Clarendon Street, this lovely little cafe from The Natural Bread Company not only offers a dazzling array of sourdough breads, a choice of sandwiches and cakes that has to be seen to be believed, but also does a mean breakfast. They also do really great coffee, featuring two options from Birmingham based roasters Has Bean Coffee all made on a La Marzocco espresso machine, the coffee world equivalent of a Ferrari. Head in at the weekend, bag a table, order yourself a filter coffee and settle back with the paper while you decide what to order for breakfast!
The Magdalen Road area in East Oxford is rapidly becoming a culinary hotspot with a concentration of fab restaurants, pubs and cafes in a small area. Oxfork grew from a series of pop-up events until it set down roots and became the quirky place it is today serving great coffee, wide selection of teas and stunning cakes as well as a great breakfast and lunch menu. The breakfast bap is a real winner, partner up with a Flat White and you have the perfect start to the day – just grab a cake to go for later on the way out.
Hidden away at the top of Cowley Road the Garden Cafe is run by the good folk at Restore, an Oxford based charity who work to help those with mental health issues through support and recovery programmes. Set in the tranquil therapeutic gardens the cafe offers a range of seasonal, organic and local products with the chance to buy some of the craft products made by Restore’s therapeutic services. This place is a great place to escape the bustle of the city, support a local charity and have a great cuppa while you are there.
You have browsed the galleries, admired the exhibitions of modern and contemporary art on show so what better than to relax in a cool space with a coffee and a slice of cake? Situated in the outside courtyard area in the warmer months and moving inside during the winter the cafe offers a great range of drinks, cakes and light bites perfect for lunch. Serving coffee from local distributor Beanbag, the DaVinci blend made especially for them has a full bodied, slightly nutty flavour working perfectly with milk or on its own as an espresso. With free Wi-Fi, family friendly and away from the crowds of the city this place comfortably stands on its own, the fab art being an added bonus!
A few miles from the city centre you will find Headington and at the heart of this community sits Jacob’s and Field. A deli-cum-grocers-cum-cafe this place has a lovely atmosphere and with a great selection of food and drinks on offer is always busy. The coffee beans they serve come from Smiths of London and if you like what you try you can buy from the deli to enjoy at home. Bag yourself a table, order some food, sit back and soak it all in!