WHEN a caffeine craving hits in Oxford city centre, it only takes a few paces for even the fussiest of coffee lovers to find a fix.

Aside from the bigger chains around Cornmarket, Queen Street and the Westgate Centre, there is a healthy smattering of home-grown independents - the likes of the Missing Bean, Jericho Coffee Traders and Colombia Coffee Roasters to name a few.

Capitalising on the nation's quest for the perfect cup of steaming caffeine is Black Sheep Coffee, which - according to Forbes in 2018 - was among the top 10 fastest-growing companies in the UK.

It opened a branch in Oxford's George Street in December, filling a unit vacated months before by the short-lived Ratio Cafe.

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The chain now has a slew of sites in London and four in Manchester, almost seven years since its inception, and Oxford became the third city it now has a presence in.

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It also runs two branches in Manila in the Philippines, and has plans to expand further.

According to the company's website, its aims are to source the 'best beans in the world', get rid of plastic, support the homeless community and 'never fear competition' from neighbouring coffee shops.

We visited the George Street branch after-hours for a coffee masterclass, imparting secrets of how to brew like a barista.

The cool design inside features graffiti art including an Albert Einstein mural, especially for Oxford.

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The cafe can also be hired out for private events and parties.

We started with a drink in the cosy bar area downstairs, offering wine, craft ales and a selection of cocktails - including an excellent espresso Martini (£8).

Next was a thorough tasting session, where we were taught to smell the ground beans for different notes, douse them in hot water and ceremoniously slurp the liquid as loudly as possible to get a full punch of flavour.

We then moved stations to learn how to make the perfect filter coffee, weighing out the grounds and brewing it to exacting standards.

The result was a coffee that was so light and drinkable it was almost like sipping tea.

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There are three coffees 'on tap' that customers can help themselves to after paying at the counter - the Blue Volcano bean was a favourite, with a richer, earthier flavour compared to the lighter and fruitier Love Berries.

These filter coffees are the cheapest option for customers, starting at just £1.50 for a small.

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Prices start at £2.50 for an americano, £2.80 for a latte or cappuccino or - if you're really splashing out - £4 for a speciality 'Black Hoof', which is an indulgent latte with coconut oil and cinnamon.

Our final lesson allowed us to get behind the counter and figure out how to use the sleek coffee machine, frothing and warming the milk while extracting a shot of espresso from another nozzle.

The experience gave me more appreciation of the skills baristas have, particularly when it came to my pathetic attempt at latte art.

Drinking it afterwards was a happy reward, however - they clearly know their coffee here.

The masterclass spanned about two hours in total and more are expected to run in future, roughly on a quarterly basis.

I suggest not drinking everything in sight like I did, unless you want to head home feeling caffeine-drunk and a bit wobbly.

You can find Black Sheep Coffee at number 4 George Street, just next to Debenhams.