Marc West enjoys a cupping session in an Oxford cafe. Who knew?

OXFORDIANS have enjoyed a daily cup to galvanise us into action every morning since the opening of Europe’s first coffee house on the corner of Queen’s Lane in 1654.

Or was it just across The High (at the now Grand Café) in circa 1650?...according to Samuel Pepys’ diaries. It seems there’s been a dispute rolling for centuries and the black stuff is still dividing us in the city that so readily took it to its heart.

One thing at least we can all agree on is that the standard of the coffee we now enjoy has definitely improved – with more of us than ever becoming obsessive about the right way to prepare a cup.

Master roasters and talented baristas have elevated coffee from a mere commodity to an artisanal foodstuff, alongside craft beer and sourdough bread.

We may be known as a nation of tea drinkers (and I still love a cup of ‘builder’s’), but Oxford is now thankfully well and truly riding the crest of the third-wave of caffeine culture. With stripped wooden floors, exposed brickwork, blackboard menus and pendant lights, coffee shops are now cool the way teashops were quaint. And, caffeine addicts staunchly support their favourite haunts such as Jericho Coffee Traders, Society Cafe and The Missing Bean – pioneer of the city’s independent cafe revolution.

Having trained with Witney-based roasters Ue, Ori Halup brought the bean firstly to The Turl, then his own roastery in East Oxford – which now proudly supplies more than 50 of our city’s finest cafes and restaurants.

Visiting their Magdalen Road base, it’s clear this small-scale supplier cares deeply about the quality of its coffee – carefully chosen from around the world based on flavour, interest and sustainability. And, their regular Cupping Nights are a perfect opportunity for them to share this passion and for us to compare their range of single origin samples side by side.

Roastery Manager Oliver Wilkins expertly guides us through the various blends, discussing provenance and processing, to experience the subtle differences of each through smell and taste.

Much like fine wine, a multitude of factors can alter the profile of the drink and a good slurp is the best way to identify that complex combination of mouthfeel and olfactory aromas.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to personal taste and in my humble opinion The Missing Bean’s House Roast is one of the best all-rounders, combining the best of certified farms in Columbia, El Salvador and Rwanda, it’s a smooth and buttery blend with a biscuity chocolate body and flavours of plum and cherry.

It’s the perfect caffeine kick to get me going – and is available every day from 8am at 15 Turl Street.

Cupping Nights run regularly throughout the year, costing £20 including a 250g bag of your choice to enjoy at home.