Oxford is the first place in England to record the brewing of coffee, by one Nathaniel Conopios, a Cretan cleric, in May 1637.
The Grand Café
In 1650/51 the first coffee house in England, The Angel (formerly The Tabard) Inn, was opened here by ‘one Jacob’, from Lebanon.
The Queen’s Lane Coffee House.
First opening its doors in 1654, and sat opposite the Angel across the High, this was Oxford’s second Coffee House. It has been serving coffee, continuously, ever since.
As purveyors of good food and coffee and of real historic interest, both coffee houses are worth catching.
However, for the true bean head, do not miss:
The Missing Bean on Turl Street
Set across from Lincoln College in the heart of the medieval town. Hip, friendly, vibrant, studenty (a plethora of Apple Macs), often crowded, this ‘antipodean style’ coffee bar is a ‘must visit’ for the Bean lover who wishes to get a little off the tourist trail and feel more part of the place.
Offers very good brews and a selection of wholesome snacks and pastries. They also grind and sell their own coffee.
For more info go to http://www.themissingbean.co.uk
Zappi’s Bike Café on St Michael’s Street
Just along from the Oxford Union, the Café’ is situated above the busy shop and showroom of Bike Zone. A bubbly, friendly coffee house and again, largely off the tourist trail and much frequented by students and locals, the coffee is truly worthwhile, plus a good range of healthy goodies to snack on. www.zappisbikecafe.co.uk
Café on Queen’s Street
A surprise outsider! The café décor is, as to be expected, laminate and plastic, the tone bright and bouncy – sort of faux ’60s perhaps – but the flat white was ab fab! and easily puts well-known coffee emporia corporates to shame! Snacks and food good too!
Other places for coffee, location and people watching
Nero Caffé, Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street opposite the original Ashmolean Museum
The coffee is standard to good, ditto the cakes and sandwiches, but what makes this busy first floor coffee house truly remarkable are its location and clientele. If you want to observe Oxford society at its convivial chatty best or just quietly engaged in paper, book or essay – in term time, tutorials have been known to take place here – then Blackwell’s is the place for you. Try for a window seat overlooking the Broad, Sheldonian Theatre and the original Ashmolean Museum. Take in the Norrington Room too, and buy a book from Blackwell’s amazing catalogue.
The Ashmolean Museum Dining Room on Beaumont Street
Offering roof terrace with rooftop views across Oxford, this modern, stylish and acclaimed restaurant – part of architect Rick Mather’s stunning redevelopment of the Museum – offers breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea plus excellent coffee for those who take such matters seriously. Closed Mondays, as are all University Museums (more on The Ashmolean Museum to come).
Do send in your coffee house recommendations.
Review by Chris Peters of Tours of Oxford.