12 July 2016

The Oxford Caffeine Chronicles: Society Café

I grew up in Oxford and as my parents still live just outside the historic city, I often get to go back but I don't always have a lot of time to visit new coffee shops and old favourites. Last weekend, though, I had a whole afternoon free and made it to three new-to-me coffee spots. I will review two of them this week and will then be posting an updated guide to Oxford's rapidly changing speciality coffee scene in the near future.

First, though, I'm going to talk about Society Café, which is one of the few good speciality coffee bars in the city centre, thus making it one of the most accessible to casual visitors. There are two sister Society Cafés in Bath and the Oxford location has sprung up since my last visit home at the start of the year. Society Café is located on quiet St Michael's Street, which is also home to a cycle café, a good lunch spot, a second-hand book shop and the Oxford Union. It is also a one-minute walk from Cornmarket Street, infamous for its unloveliness, but once you are inside Society, you feel a world away from the hustle and bustle.

Late on a Saturday afternoon, Society was still bustling. There is a large, attractive seating area upstairs and more tables in the basement. Upstairs, there is plenty of natural light and nice design touches: copper pendant lamps, local art, a living wall, a geometric coffee bar and the pièce de résistance, the sleek turquoise espresso machine that reminds its customers to "keep it sassy." You can also sit at the brew bar if you would like to chat to the barista or admire the copper grinder.

But Society Café is by no means all style and no substance. The coffee menu is substantial and impressive with two single-origin espressos and two single-origin filters, supplied by Bath-based Round Hill Roastery and the always excellent Origin. They also have an impressive tea and gourmet hot chocolate menu. The bar was also stocked with plenty of tempting sweet treats, although I was still stuffed from brunch at GÄF.

I had also already had plenty of coffee that day, but I wanted to try both the espresso and the filter coffee, so I ordered a piccolo (£2.40) and an Aeopress-brewed filter coffee (£3). I tackled the former first, while the barista was working on my Aeropress, and it was beautifully made. The El Salvador Origin coffee was chocolatey and nutty and worked very well as a longer piccolo. The Aeropress, also an Origin coffee although this time from Colombia, was excellent too, the variety's subtler, fruity notes coming through very nicely.

The staff were very friendly and Society Café is a lovely place to hang out and savour a well-brewed brew. It ranks up there with another Oxford favourite of mine, BREW, but the latter is a bit of a jaunt from the city centre, making Society a much-needed addition to the central coffee scene.

Society Café. 12–16 St Michael's Street, Oxford, OX1 2DU. Website. Twitter. Instagram.


  1. I love Society Cafe - I have to physically restrain myself when I'm in there to not take 100000 pictures for my blog! Love your post :) I've just graduated from St.Hilda's College Oxford (and recently done a blogpost on my bizarre graduation ceremony from Oxford on my blog). So sad to be leaving but so lucky to have spent such a long time in this beautiful city! www.theyoproedit.com

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Lauren! Oxford is a hard city to leave; luckily, my parents still live there so I have a good excuse to return regularly. I didn't think it was possible but the Oxford graduation ceremony sounds even more bizarre than the Cambridge one (which also featured lots of Latin and some holding of the Praelector's fingers!) :)