Welcome to the annual Coffee Spot Christmas gift guide. This is my sixth guide and, much to my surprise, it’s the earliest (two whole weeks before Christmas!) that I’ve published it. So, if, like me, you leave present-buying to the last minute, here are some suggestions for gifts for your coffee-loving friends and relatives. Whether you’re a novice, looking for pointers for buying for your coffee-obsessed friend/relative, or if you’re that coffee-obsessive, looking for a handy guide to point your friends/relatives towards, the Coffee Spot is here to help.
As with all things Coffee Spot, this guide’s not definitive, nor is it a “best-of” list. Instead, my suggestions are all things which I’ve come across this last year and which I’ve thought “that would make a good addition to the guide”, which I’ve split into three categories, one of which is new this time around.
I say this every year, but it is worth repeating: while this is a Christmas gift guide, it serves just as well as a birthday/anniversary gift guide, so don’t forget to bookmark it and return to it throughout the year…
You can find the first of my categories after the gallery.
Let’s start with the obvious: coffee. This year, more than any in recent times, roasters and coffee shops need your support. If you like having gifts to wrap up, then I suggest buying your coffee in person, ideally at your local coffee shop: that way you’re supporting them and the roaster. Alternatively, almost all roasters will sell direct to consumers on-line, either with a one-off purchase or subscription, where coffee is sent out every month.
Rather than buying from a single roaster, an alternative is a multi-roaster subscription. Here companies curate coffee from various roasters, sometimes providing access to roasters you rarely see in the UK. Although there are plenty to choose from, a couple jumped out at me this year (for a wider selection, check out this review by Izzy of Caffeine Galore).
Let’s start with Dog and Hat Coffee, which has been around for a while now, offering a variety of subscriptions, including ones dedicated to filter coffee, espresso roasts and (a subject close to my heart) decaf! Better still, you can mix and match between the different sets, with a massive range of roasters from across the UK and around the world on offer. Finally, with Christmas in mind, Dog and Hat has a range of gift boxes too.
In comparison, Batch Coffee is a relative newcomer, starting out earlier this year with a simple offering: each fortnight/month, Batch posts out a pair of coffees, drawing on a wide selection of roasters from the UK and beyond. The folk at Batch very kindly sent me one of the boxes (Box 12, to be precise), which had the Guayacan, a washed coffee from Peru, roasted by Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters, and the Ywangan, another washed coffee, this time from Myanmar and roasted by ManCoCo. I enjoyed both my coffees, particularly the Ywangan, since Myanmar coffee is still very rare in the UK. In a neat feature, each bag has a QR Code, which takes you to a very detailed review page for that coffee, with notes about both the roaster and the farmer/producer.
I also want to give my annual shout-out to Sarah’s Caring Coffee. Sarah is from Holywell in North Wales, the town where I was born and grew up. More to the point, Sarah’s coffee business supports her charity, The Cariad Project, which helps people with disabilities living in Africa, while Sarah is building direct links with coffee farmers in Uganda. You can read more about Sarah and her bricks-and-mortar store, The Coffee Bean.
I’ll close with some general advice on buying coffee. If you’re already well versed in the art (or if you read it last year!), feel free to skip on to the next section. However, if you’re thinking of give coffee as a gift, then there’s one key rule: if in doubt, buy whole beans, not ground coffee. Once ground, coffee starts to lose its freshness, no matter how well packed (although pods seem to be the exception to this rule). On top of that, there is no method known to mankind that can turn ground coffee back into beans. Whole beans, on the other hand, can always be ground; worst-case scenario, most speciality coffee shops will happily grind beans for you if you ask them nicely enough. Of course, if your friend really wants ground coffee, perhaps you should consider the gift of a grinder instead.
My second category is coffee-related gifts, which you can read about after the gallery.
This section is new this year, and features just two entries, although I hope to expand this in future years. Both entries are micro-businesses with on-line stores run by baristas I know.
Let’s start with Izzy and Fuelled by Caffeine. The store has a large selection of t-shirts (and a smaller selection of sweatshirts) printed with various coffee-related phrases (“Coffee Is Like a Hug in a Mug” and “It’s Always Coffee Time” jumped out at me), plus a similar range of white coffee mugs. Izzy also has a range of coffee-themed pins (including a portafilter, moka pot and pouring kettle) and perhaps best of all, a coffee shop colouring-in book, featuring a range of London coffee shops which you can colour in yourself. It’s available as either a physical book or a download.
The second entry is from Jass, who I met when I visited Lemana Coffee and Kitchen a couple of years ago. Jass’s shop, The Coffee Life Co, is very different, offering a range of coffee-scented candles. These range in size from tealights, through a selection of candles in espresso and tea cups, all the way up to a candle in a can. Alongside these are an exfoliating coffee soap and an exfoliating coffee scrub. Finally, there’s a range of made-to-order Coffee Life sweaters, hoodies and t-shirts, plus a Coffee Life mug.
As well as working as baristas and running their stores, both Izzy and Jass also have blogs. Izzy’s is called Caffeine Galore, while Jass keeps things simple by calling her blog The Coffee Life. Is there no end to their talents?
My third and final category is a bit of blatant self-promotion, which you can read about after the gallery.
Normally this section is about coffee-related publications, but I largely come across these when I am out and about visiting coffee shops and shows, which I haven’t done very much of this year. I could just gather together all the books that I’ve recommended in previous years, but that feels a little like cheating (although arguably less like cheating than promoting my own stuff!). Instead, I will save that for a dedicated page (like my Reusable Cups page).
This year I have a range of things to promote, starting with the 2021 Coffee Spot Calendar. This comes in A4 and desktop sizes, is professionally printed and features 13 of my favourite pictures from the last year (one for each month and one more for the cover). It’s only available from my online shop and is a perennial favourite.
Next comes my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, a short but entertaining history of coffee from its origins in Ethiopia to the present day. Published by the British Library, it’s available around the world on-line (in hardback and eBook form), in all UK and US bookshops, plus you can order signed copies direct from me!
However, this year there’s more than just The Philosophy of Coffee. My book is part of a range from the British Library which includes a selection of food and drink related titles: The Philosophy of Tea, The Philosophy of Wine, The Philosophy of Gin and (because I promised food as well), The Philosophy of Cheese. These are, of course, available from all good bookshops, but I also have copies available in my online shop if you want a companion for The Philosophy of Coffee. I’ll even sign these as well if you like!
For more ideas, check out these gift guides from Double Skinny Macchiato and Brewing Coffee Manually (particularly for US readers). In related news, Best Coffee has been looking at this year’s crop of (UK) Christmas coffees.
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