18 July 2016

15 Great Places for Speciality Coffee in Oxford

I compiled this guide in 2016 but I update it regularly as Oxford welcomes new speciality coffee shops and bids farewell to some of those featured in my original post. Last updated: September 2023.

Regular readers will know that I grew up in Oxford before defecting to The Other Place for university. I still go back several times a year to visit my parents and eventually, I realised that Oxford had more than enough speciality coffee spots for me to put together a guide and map. But first, a brief 'origin' story...

When I was at school, it was hard to find good coffee in the city but it didn't matter to me because I used to hate coffee. (Yes, I'm sorry.) It was only when I started working long weekend shifts at a popular Oxford sandwich shop and had full access to the espresso machine that I started to drink the stuff — first out of necessity and then because I liked it. This was back at the turn of the millennium — some years before the third wave rolled into the city (Oxford is quite far inland) — and although latte art wasn't part of my training, I could make a mean cappuccino at the perfect weight and temperature. To my shame, as recently as 2002, I had to apologise to a customer for not knowing what a macchiato was (eek!). However, I soon achieved the status of coffee lover and never looked back.

Starting with the arrival of The Missing Bean in 2009, Oxford has also been on a coffee journey ever since. Here are my recommendations for speciality coffee shops to visit (my very favourites have purple icons in the map and asterisks in the list below):

City centre

A cosy coffee shop in the historic Golden Gross, just off Cornmarket, Coffeesmith serves coffee from Origin, brewed with a particularly gorgeous custom La Marzocco. There are seats outside in the courtyard as well as in the cafe.

Coffeesmith Cafe is located at 14–15 Golden Cross, Oxford, OX1 3EU. Instagram.

Colombia Coffee Roasters
In late 2016, Colombia Coffee Roasters opened a cafe in the Covered Market, specialising in Colombian speciality coffee (of course!) and hot chocolate. I first visited in early 2017 and it's since become one of my go-to coffee spots in the city centre. They sell retail bags of coffee beans and various pieces of coffee kit too, and they also have a coffee bar in Summertown, in North Oxford.

Colombia Coffee Roasters is located at Oxford Covered Market, Market Street, Oxford, OX1 3DZ. WebsiteTwitterInstagramMy review.

The Handle Bar
Just along the road from Society Café is Oxford city centre's premier cycling café, but although I've been several times with the Brompton, you don't have to bring your bike to enjoy the espresso here.

The Handle Bar is located at 28-32 St Michael's St, Oxford OX1 2EB. Facebook.

Jericho Coffee Traders, a local roaster, has a cosy coffee bar in a pastel-hued building on the High. Since my first visit in 2017, it's been a regular haunt for me whenever I'm back in town and seeking a perfect piccolo in the city centre. As of 2023, they also have a lovely, airy café at Oxford Castle.

Jericho Coffee Traders is located at 105 High Street, Oxford, OX1 4BW, and 45 Oxford Castle, Oxford OX1 1AY. WebsiteTwitterInstagram. My review.

The Missing Bean
You'll notice that The Missing Bean comes up a few times in this post and that's because it is — rightly — credited with kickstarting Oxford's speciality coffee scene. The first Missing Bean café is located in the historic Turl Street, opposite the alma maters of Tolkien and Dr Seuss, among many others. The café is often busy and has a vibrant, bustling atmosphere thanks to the combination of students and locals who form its customer base. They now roast their own coffee (see the East Oxford section) and brew up very good espresso-based drinks. There is usually a good range of pastries, sweet treats and sandwiches on offer too. And if you're in Abingdon, Banbury or Botley, they have Missing Beans too!

The Missing Bean is located at 14 Turl Street, Oxford OX1 3DQ. WebsiteTwitterInstagramMy review.

NewGround's second coffee shop — and first in the city centre — opened on Ship Street in August 2023. Combining the excellent espresso-bassed drinks and hand-brewed filter coffee of the original NewGround with the added bonus of the wines that are also on offer, the new NewGround is breaking some excellent, er, new ground. The coffee is still roasted in Headington and there's usually a good selection available in the sleek and minimalist café.

NewGround Coffee is located at 6 St Michael's Mansion, Ship Street, Oxford, OX1 3DE. Website. Instagram. My review,

Society Café
A haven of calm, great design and even better coffee right in the heart of the city, Society Café is a very welcome addition to Oxford's coffee scene. They serve speciality coffee from roasters like Origin and Round Hill, with multiple single-origin coffees usually on offer, brewed to a high standard as espresso and filter coffee. The café itself is highly Instagrammable — the turquoise coffee machine and the wooden coffee bar are particularly beautiful — but crucially, this does not come at the expense of top-quality coffee.

Society Café is located at 12–16 St Michael's Street, Oxford OX1 2DU. Website. Twitter. Instagram. My review.

North Oxford

This tiny and beautifully styled coffee shop has the honour of serving me my first ever Oxford pourover. BREW is located on North Parade (NB, this is south of South Parade!) in Parktown, a 15-minute walk from the city centre. You can't help but admire the gorgeous copper coffee machine on the bar or the quirky vintage décor, but the coffee is excellent too — both in espresso and pourover formats. If you head up here, Walton Street makes for a more interesting route than the Banbury Road.

BREW is located at 75B Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PE (enter on North Parade). Website. Twitter. My review.

East Oxford

The Missing Bean Roastery
The Missing Bean opened its Magdalen Road roastery in 2014 and you can now stop by from Tuesday to Saturday to buy beans, watch a roast or enjoy a cup of speciality coffee. They serve espresso-based drinks, pourovers, cold brew and espresso tonic, made using a dizzying array of single-origin varieties. Both the pourover and the V60 I tried were very good and I took home a bag of Rwandan beans, which have been tasting great in my Aeropress at home. It's a cosy, colourful spot and well worth the walk from the city centre.

The Missing Bean Roastery is located at 1 Newtec Place, Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RE. WebsiteTwitterInstagramMy review.

This minimalist coffee bar and roastery is located just off the London Road in Headington. The interiors and branding are gorgeous, as is the coffee. They serve pourovers and espresso-based drinks and, of course, you can buy some beans to enjoy at home.

New Ground Coffee is located at Simon House, Workshop R/O, 2 Windmill Road, Oxford OX3 7BU. Website. Instagram. My review.

Mostro Coffee
This is where things get a little complicated... The Keen Bean Coffee Club, which used to be based inside the indie music shop Truck Store, has now moved across the Cowley Road to The Bear & the Bean (now permanently closed). I reviewed the Keen Bean in its Truck Store home two years ago, but haven't had the chance to check out Mostro Coffee yet. I loved the ambiance in the Truck Store and the Keen Bean baristas made me a mean pourover.

Mostro Coffee is located at 101 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1HU. Website. Twitter. My (Keen Bean) review.

A cycling-themed coffee bar on the Cowley Road, Peloton serves coffee from local roaster Routes Coffee, with single-origin filter coffees available as well as espresso-based drinks.

Peloton Espresso is located at 76 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JB. Website. Twitter. Instagram.
Technically located in Wheatley, a village east of Oxford rather than in East Oxford itself, Bruin Cafe is close enough to the city that I figured it was worth including its newish (as of 2019) coffee shop here. It's also close to my heart because I grew up in the next village over and it is fantastic to have such a good coffee shop in the area. Louis and his lovely team serve coffee from Origin Coffee and a variety of other drinks and food (including Mexican food on Friday nights) in their cosy High Street cafe.

Bruin Cafe is located at 87A High Street, Wheatley, Oxford, OX33 1XP. WebsiteInstagram. My review.

West Oxford

After visiting Jericho Coffee Traders' espresso bar many times, I didn't make it to their roastery in Osney Mead until summer 2020, having relearned how to cycle during the pandemic and biking out there from my parents' house. The filter coffee and espresso were both great and I bought some fab beans too.

Jericho Coffee Traders Roastery is located at Oxford Eco Centre, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0ES. WebsiteTwitterInstagramMy review.

Gone, but not forgotten...

Joe Perks & Co (permanently closed — although you may spot Louis, the barista pouring my espresso tonic below, at Bruin in Wheatley!)
If you are on the hunt for the finest espresso martini in Oxford, look no further. Joe Perks is really a cocktail bar but they also serve fine coffee and brunch. During my visit, I talked the staff into making me an espresso tonic. Unfortunately, it didn't make it onto the menu but once you see the creative cocktails they serve, you probably won't mind. 

Quarter Horse Coffee (Update, Jan 2017: permanently closed. Now taken over by Peloton Espresso but you can still find Quarter Horse in Brum)
Based in one of the most interesting stretches of Oxford's vibrant Cowley Road, Quarter Horse opened up in 2012. When I visited last summer, the décor was cosy and rather rustic, but it has since had a bit of a revamp. I also enjoyed the Aeropress-brewed pourover and cold brew, as well as the bag of beans I took home with me. I've also had very good macchiatos there.

Ratio Café (permanently closed)

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