Oxford’s cafe scene is popping. Looking for that perfect spot serving the best coffee in Oxford? Or just somewhere to chill out for a couple of hours with a good book? Either way, here are the best cafes in Oxford.
Oxford’s cafe culture has always been great, but it’s come on leaps and bounds in recent years. You’ll find independent coffee shops tucked amongst the gorgeous sandstone buildings and winding alleys of the city.
Lounging students supposedly studying for their next tutorial, locals taking a break from a busy day, friends meeting up for a quick chat – the cafes in Oxford sit at the heart of its social scene.
Don’t miss these cool Oxford cafes for your daily fix.
Best Coffee Shops in Oxford
Vaults & Garden
The Vaults has always been one of our favourite cafes in Oxford.
Tucked away in the vaults of St Mary’s Church on Radcliffe Square, this award-winning cafe ticks all the boxes – it’s cosy, friendly, serves a mean pot of tea and the food is absolutely delicious.
The Vaults was serving ethically sourced meals and drinks before it became the norm. Dishes for the daily changing menu are created using organic and locally sourced ingredients – hearty and full of flavour, they’re also reasonably priced too.
In the summer months, you should grab one of the outdoor tables, which look straight out to the Radcliffe Camera – arguably the most famous building in Oxford.
Where could be better to while away a couple of hours people-watching accompanied by their tasty afternoon tea?
Read more: 25+ Unmissable Places to See in Oxford
Colombia Coffee Roasters
Choosing the best coffee in Oxford is a really tough call. We remember ten years ago it used to be that nobody knew what a flat white was… but how things have changed.
Colombia Coffee Roasters is hidden in the Covered Market and stands unique among Oxford’s coffee shops in that it sources all of its coffee from its own farm and a few small neighbouring farms in Colombia.
They control every part of the process from tree to cup – and it shows in the final product.
You can choose from a number of single-origin coffees or the very popular Oxford Blend to have in or takeaway.
What’s more – because Colombia Coffee Roasters roast their own beans, you can buy packets of coffee (ground or beans) to bring home with you.
Read More: One Day in Oxford
Jericho Coffee Traders
Jericho Coffee Traders started 10 years ago with a coffee machine on the back of a Vespa Piaggio Ape and a wholehearted passion for creating the best coffee.
That Vespa and passion have taken them far – to a central Oxford coffee shop on the High Street and a separate roastery on the outskirts of the city (where you can also pop into to see the team at work and have a cuppa).
Both a micro-roastery and a coffee shop, Jericho Coffee Traders oversees the roasting process – to ensure that they make the perfect cup. Roasting is the most important part of the process in turning the beans into a delicious cup of coffee – and in this case, the end result is pretty spectacular.
Pop in for a cup in the airy cafe – the friendly baristas will talk you through the different flavour profiles of the coffees on offer to help you pick your perfect cup.
The Grand Cafe
The Grand Cafe sits on the site of the oldest coffee shop in England – this, friends, is where our obsession with coffee began. Over three centuries later, it’s still one of the places to kick back with a hot beverage and have a gossip over a steaming pile of cakes.
Grand by name, Grand by nature – the opulent decor adds to the experience. This isn’t the place where you pop in for a rushed coffee to take away, this is the kind of place you go to indulge yourself.
We’ll be honest – the coffee isn’t outstanding. Where The Grand Cafe really shows its skills is in brewing the perfect cup of tea. Choose your favourite blend and they’ll serve it in a steaming pot for you to pour at will.
Read More: The Best Cocktail Bars in Oxford
The Missing Bean
The Missing Bean feels like it’s been plucked out of Australia and set down in the heart of Oxford.
This cool little Oxford coffee shop has made a reputation for serving up flavourful coffee in its chilled-out premises on Turl Street. It’s no surprise that it has become a part of many an Oxford resident’s morning ritual.
There is seating, but not that much of it, so you might struggle to get a seat during peak times – it doesn’t seem to put many people off, judging from the number of folk who come through the door each time we visit.
The Ashmolean Museum is the leading museum in Oxford – famed for its expansive collection of international art and historical artefacts.
So it’s a bit weird that it’s managed to keep its stellar rooftop restaurant and cafe relatively under wraps. The views are fabulous – as is the food and drink.
It’s run by Benugo (another long-term favourite of ours) who dish up appetising meals and a ruddy good afternoon tea.
While Benugo’s house blend (90% Arabica, 10% Robusta) is good – it’s not the best coffee in Oxford. But the views and the atmosphere more than make up for it. What’s more – the profits from the cafe go towards keeping the museum free – a worthwhile cause.
Read More: Must-Visit Museums in Oxford
We don’t know about you, but we can’t think of a much better pairing than coffee and wine.
Platform 5 has taken that and run with it – an adorable Oxford coffee shop by day, but a buzzy wine bar come evening.
The cafe is located in a corner of the old Railway Hotel, which was built in 1934 by Great Western Railways (the name makes sense now, eh?). The interior is a blend of art-deco quirkiness and traditional cosiness.
The coffee menu is stellar – a variety of classic drinks and some more unusual offerings including a coffee corretto (don’t worry, we had to google it: turns out, it’s alcoholic espresso). We’ll be ordering five of those next time.
Right around the corner from the Oxford University Press, Opera Cafe offers a slice of Morocco in the heart of Oxford – think the vibe of a Middle Eastern souk with exotic flavours and smells filling the air, except it’s full of students.
We recommend going a little off-piste here; ditch regular coffee for mint tea, and it would be criminal to not order a bowl red lentil soup (and a few Baklava to go, duh).
Black Sheep Coffee (& Cocktails)
It seems as if Oxford loves a hybrid cafe/bar combo. We’re not complaining – Black Sheep Coffee is one of our favourite coffee shops in the city.
You might worry that they spread themselves too thin. Surely nowhere can be brilliant and cocktails and coffee? Wrong. Just like an espresso martini, they’re excellent at both.
Their in-house blends couldn’t be more eclectic: Blue Volcano, a clean and smooth Columbian roast; Love Berries is a fruitier mix; or, our favourite, the chocolatey Bossa Nova.
The Handlebar Cafe & Kitchen
The Handlebar (cleverly situated above a Bicycle shop) has cosy written all over it. We love coming in here for a coffee and brunch. It truly has something for everyone, even serving hemp milk coffees! Not even London has fully caught up with the hemp craze yet.
The only negative is that the food won’t come out in a rush, and you might be waiting some time for your drinks. Yet, it’s worth the wait.
Quirky menu, quirky design with bikes hanging around the room, and some excellent coffee.
If you’re venturing slightly out of the centre, to Jericho, then this cafe is an absolute must. Rumour has it they sell the best cakes in Oxford and we would agree!
They even supply their delicious cakes to a bunch of Oxford’s top restaurants and pubs. So why not head down to the main headquarters and try the OG of all cakes?
The coffee is also delicious, visiting Barefoot is a must on your venture out of Oxford city centre.
Now Thirsty Meeples is a cafe unlike any other, and we love it. It’s a boardgame cafe!
And we’re not talking two or three board games tucked under a dusty table, we’re talking 2700 board games.
Do 2700 different board games even exist?! Yes, they do.
Open until midnight this is the perfect place to go for coffee and a good old board game. Please note that there is a cover charge to play whatever you want. If you aren’t eating then it’s £7.50 for three hours and if you are eating or drinking it’s £6.
And yes, they also serve alcohol.
Oxford Cafe Guide: Map
Hunting Out the Best Coffee in Oxford: Practical Tips for Finding Your Perfect Brew
The UK’s coffee culture has come on leaps and bounds in the past few decades – something that has translated to an ever-growing number of coffee shops across the country. Oxford is no exception.
But what should you be looking for in your hunt for the best coffee Oxford can provide?
Quality varies: just because someone has decided to charge £3 for a cup, doesn’t actually make it good. Here are a few pointers to turn you into a true connoisseur in no time.
- When you are tasting coffee, you should be thinking about the aroma, sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel, balance and overall flavour.
- Coffee is best when it’s been roasted recently – you should opt for places that buy freshly-roasted coffee and it shouldn’t be older than two weeks at the very most.
- Any coffee shop worth its salt should be able to tell you where its coffee comes from. Traceability is a very good thing, particularly for ensuring your coffee comes from ethical sources.
- We know that it looks a bit weird when you see baristas weighing out the components for your cuppa but it means a consistent (and generally better) cup as they can get the quantities just right.
- There’s a lot of debate about the perfect temperature for milk – what everyone agrees on is that boiled milk doesn’t make good coffee. Milk starts to degrade over 68 degrees celsius. This causes the flavours to change – and not for the better.
- It can be confusing to work out whether your coffee has been ethically-sourced but generally traceability is a positive sign. Look for either Fair Trade Certified or Rainforest Alliance coffee but know that just because a coffee doesn’t have either these doesn’t mean it’s been unfairly traded. It’s a murky subject – you’re best off asking the coffee shop or roaster directly.
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