Long gone are the days when all you’d find packed into advent calendars was cheap chocolates, moulded into tenuously festive shapes.
We’ve already rounded up the big players in the alternative market – from those choc-full of beauty products to ones that will keep you well stocked of merriment-inducing booze – but here we’ve picked out the best of the rest, and there’s not a piece of chocolate in sight.
So whether you fancy some luxurious Scandi liquorice, aromatic candles or something else entirely, read through our round-up below to find something to add a twist to your Christmas countdown this December.
1. Bluebird Tea Advent Calendar: £35, Bluebird Tea Co.
There are a few tea-focussed advent calendars around but Bluebird’s one, new for this year, is our pick of the bunch. Coming in an understated parcel-brown card box with silver and blue etching (all very hygge), you get 24 tea-themed gifts including the Brighton-based company’s award-winning blends. Flavours range from Mojitea, a green tea perked up with peppermint and lime, to Christmassy varieties. Look out for the Gingerbread Chai, an energising mix of rooibos and cardamom with sweet mallow flavours and a cinnamon and ginger kick. If it’s not a bag behind the door, other gifts include tea-scented candles, mini matcha pots and little intricately decorated – and delicious – vegan chocolates. There is also a fully vegan calendar available.
2. Snaffling Pig Pork Crackling Advent Calendar: £12.50, Snaffling Pig
The run up to Christmas is a traditionally boozy time of the year, and what snack traditionally goes with booze? That’s right, pork crackling. Behind each door of this A3-sized calendar is a small pack of pork crackling, with six different flavour variations: pigs in blankets, low and slow BBQ, maple, black pepper and sea salt, salt and vinegar and perfectly salted. They’re delicious, but we’re not sure we could quite face it in the morning, so probably one to save for the evenings. An interesting aside – Snaffling Pig, which specialises in all things porky snack-based, appeared on Dragons’ Den – and got backing from one of the Dragons, Nick Jenkins.
3. Lakrids Liquorice Advent Calendar: £34.95, Sous Chef
If you’re avoiding bog-standard chocolate advent calendars, but still want something sweet to perk you up in the mornings, try this luxurious Scandinavian offering. Everything is done in Copenhagen – from the slow cooking of the liquorice to the packaging of the 24 goodies – and we think it’s one of the best looking calendars on our list, with its black and silver stylings. There are a range of different flavours encasing the liquorice: from dark mint and salted caramel and to cherry chocolate and blackcurrant, with a full liquorice bar as a treat on Christmas Eve. They’re all so tasty that we managed to convert even the most ardent liquorice haters in the office.
4. Biscuiteers Advent Calendar: from £48, Biscuiteers
It’s a cliché, but these exquisitely decorated biscuits look almost too good to eat. Almost. When you do finally stop admiring the circus-themed selection and tuck in, the vanilla flavourings and biscuit crunch are fantastic. If you already own a fill-your-own calendar, just buy the tin 24 biscuits. If not, there’s an accompanying cloth calendar available, courtesy of UK interior designer Susie Watson, which hangs on the wall and has little pockets for the biscuits.
5. The Bearded Man Company Beard Oil Advent Calendar: £29.99, Amazon
Yes, this is probably the most frivolous calendar on our list, but if you’re buying for the follicly-endowed man, it may well go down a treat. Behind each door is a 2ml vial of beard oil – it looks tiny, but you only need a few drops for each application. There’s a different scent to each one, which veer all the way from Sicilian lemon and sandalwood to Irish moss and black coffee – perhaps not all of them are to everyone’s taste, but they certainly received good reviews from our bearded testers.
6. Perkulatte Coffee Advent Calendar: £35, Not On The High Street
It has to be said that all that festivity over the Christmas period can get rather tiring, which means this advent calendar from the coffee subscription service Perkulatte could come in handy every morning. Featuring a 20g bag of fresh, roasted, single-origin coffee for every day leading up to the 25th, it’ll perk you up on those groggy mornings – and with delicious coffees from El Salvador to Tanzania, the taste is certainly an upgrade from its instant counterparts. The coffee sachets themselves aren’t actually housed within a calendar, but would fit nicely into a fill-your-own calendar.
7. Sweet Treats Christmas Advent Box: £24, Sweet Memory Lane
Just looking at the bright blue polka-dot paper bags full of retro treats that come in this advent box makes us nostalgic for more innocent times. You get 24 numbered bags filled with Christmassy goodies from Sweet Memory Lane’s Leicestershire shop. There is a mix of sweets and chocolate, from cola-flavoured reindeers, jelly snowmen and toffee bonbons to chocolate coins and raisins. You get up to 50g in each bag so some days you will be able to share your haul (we’d keep the sugared mouse and Lindt reindeer to ourselves, though). The whole lot comes in a ribbon-tied box, or you could pop the bags into a fill-your-own calendar.
The Verdict: Alternative advent calendars for adults
One thing’s for certain: you're certainly not lacking options if chocolate isn't for your thing. We loved the Lakrids offering, especially for its power to convert the liquorice refuseniks, but for its variety and value for money, our vote goes to the Bluebird Tea Advent Calendar.
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