It’s easier than ever to buy for a foodie at Christmas, with the last few years having seen a huge growth in the number of food subscription gifts available. Our round-up brings you the very best of them so that your recipient can have the tastiest cured bacon, freshest ground spices, the most incredible teas or the most delectable chocolates delivered regularly to their door – and best of all, all you have to do is click on your mouse a few times to organise it.
We tested a three-month supply of several food subscription services and only those using the very best ingredients and produce made the final cut – as well as those with the greatest flexibility and value for money.
1. The Cheese Society: from £35 per month, The Cheese Society
There are less than a handful of really good cheese subscription services in the UK, but this is one of them. We chose it not only because the cheeses all come from small producers, but because each pack changes at the beginning of the month and contains five different cheeses in a range of styles and strengths – usually a blue cheese, a hard cheese, goat’s cheese, a soft cheese and something out of the ordinary. There’s a generous weight of cheese, between 900g – 1kg in total, and delivery days are flexible. The tasting notes are a nice touch.
2. Piacha Tea: from £4.80 per week, Piacha
Piacha sells a selection of 26 special blends, based on quality whole-leaf tea and herbs, which are expertly infused with flowers, fruit and spices. Ranging from quality black and green teas to antioxidant-rich Matcha, there is something for everyone, with favourites including ginger chilli and Rooibos Choc Cinnamon. You can choose your tea options, allowing you to try out new flavours or repeat favourites. Deliveries can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly and the tea can come loose or in teabags.
3. Pomora Olive Oil: from £29 per quarter, Pomora
Each quarter, you’ll receive a shipment of three 250ml tins, full of fabulous Italian olive oil from your very own adopted tree. It alternates between a plain oil quarter and a flavoured oil quarter, which includes chilli, rosemary, basil and, our favourite, white truffle. You can choose from two award-winning growers – Carmelo from Sicily or Antonio from Campania, both of whose families have been producing award-winning olive oil for generations. And just so your recipient knows exactly what they’re getting, the initial gift pack includes a certificate detailing the farmer, location and tree number.
4. The Naked Marshmallow Company: from £30 for three months, Naked Marshmallow
If you like marshmallows – and we don’t mean those dry, spongy, flavourless things sold in bulk by supermarket tills – then you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted these fresh, natural offerings that are hand-cut and include innovative flavours such as vanilla bean, candy floss, salted caramel, choc orange and strawberry cream. You can get a three- or six-month subscription, with a personalised certificate for the recipient, plus you get to pick your own flavours. If you’re feeling generous, you can bung in a special marshmallow toaster, too.
5. Cure and Simple: from £5.95 per month, Cure and Simple
Morning fry-ups will never be the same again without these delicious rashers of bacon, bred from traditional Duroc and Large White pigs. All the water is removed, so you avoid the gunk that you get with supermarket varieties, and the rashers arrive vacuum-packed in the post, with dog repellent sprayed on so you won’t be left with just a few bits of plastic when you get home from work. New for this year is streaky bacon in smoked and unsmoked versions, as well as our favourite, black treacle bacon.
6. Hotel Chocolat’s Tasting Club: from £60 for three months, Hotel Chocolat
A lot of people would consider a year’s supply of chocolate as the best present ever, particularly when it’s from such a high quality chocolatier. Each monthly box contains new recipes that haven’t even hit the shops, and members also have exclusive access to manage their boxes online if they want to change themes from, say, milk chocolate to rare chocolate. There are plenty of other options too – our favourite flavours include choc chip cookies, treacle tarts, gin truffles and pistachio praline. Three- and six-month subscriptions also available.
7. Lick My Dip: from £12.99 per box, Cratejoy
This company (whose name it is not wise to try to say too quickly) curates a monthly box of small-batch British hot sauces, spicy foods and other chilli-related products that you can’t buy on the high street – with examples including fiery drinks, marinades, rubs and spicy snacks. Among the most popular for this year have been a one-off pumpkin jam that’s deceptively hot, thanks to the “Brainstrain 7 Pot” chillies; Hannibal’s Hot Sauce; and a chilli brownie. Some months are themed, such as October’s spooky box.
8. Borough Olives: from £24.90 for two months, Borough Olives
Give someone a regular supply of delectable marinated olives, choosing from two-, three- or six-month subscription packages of Mediterranean goodies. We found the olives plump, fresh and flavoursome, helped by the fact that they are freshly made to order. They’re letterbox friendly and you can store them in the fridge until you want to eat them – although we defy anyone to leave them hanging around for long. Lots of variety means there are always new flavours to try.
9. Farmison Steak: from £70 for three months, Yumbles
This is one of the best butchers in the country for premium British meat, making their monthly steak box a real treat. You receive two different dry-aged steaks cuts every month for two people from grass-fed cows, with cuts ranging from fillet and flat iron to sirloin and Picanha – plus, our favourite, the ribeye. They send a varying selection of Aberdeen Angus, Galloway or Highland, which are all succulent and bursting with flavour, especially when served rare or medium rare.
10. Bakedin Baking Club: from £23.99 for three months, Bakedin
If you know someone that loves the fun bit of baking – that is, actually making and cooking – rather than having to find new recipes and weigh out all the ingredients, then this monthly baking club will make the perfect present. Each monthly box has a recipe approved by TV favourite Michel Roux, plus all the pre-measured dry ingredients you need to recreate a delicious masterpiece. There are no artificial nasties and the ingredients are top-notch, including local flour, Belgian chocolate and Madagascan vanilla. And it all fits nicely through the letterbox. We tried the blackberry muffins and rich chocolate cake – yum.
11. The Spicery: from £22 for three months, The Spicery
Have you checked the use-by dates of the spices gathering dust in your cupboard lately? Even if they are still in date, they will be nowhere near as fresh and flavoursome as the newly-ground and measured spices that arrive in this letterbox-sized package, complete with different authentic recipes to use them in. Spices include exotic blends, such as Ethiopian berbere and toasty Maharashtrian goda masala, and all are ground, mixed and packed literally just before they’re sent out.
12. Allotinabox: £24.99 for six months, Allotinabox
You can have your very own urban garden, with regular deliveries of seasonal seeds to plant, grow and eat with Allotinabox. Subscriptions are available in two types – either two or four boxes sent out over a 12-month period. Each comes with five packets of heritage British seeds, including veggies, herbs and salad leaves, plus lovely plant tags, 10 metres of pliable garden twine and other augmented growing goodies, such as books and hand-made soap.
13. Shortbread Gift Company Brownies Subscription: from £24.99 for three months, Not On The High Street
Why settle for one box of gooey homemade brownies when you could get them delivered in a letterbox-friendly package every month? You can choose from 12 varieties – including the traditional plain, chilli chocolate, banana nut, salted caramel, chocolate orange and gluten-free – and we can vouch for the fact that every one is of a consistency and flavour that would make Mary Berry proud. They don’t have a long shelf life as they’re free from any artificial nasties, but that’s not an issue as they taste too good to hang around for long. Choose from three, six or 12 months.
14. Black Mountains Smokery: from £40 per quarter, Smoked Foods
This family-run business has been producing multi-award winning, small-batch smoked meats and fish for 20 years from its smokehouse in Crickhowell, Wales. All the foods in the subscription packs – which range from oak roasted salmon to smoked duck breast – are freshly prepared, yet have a good shelf life and can be frozen. We used them for starters, blinis and main meals, and they went down a treat. Lucky recipients get their packs monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly.
15. Marley Spoon: from £29.80 per week, Marley Spoon
For as long as the subscription lasts (anything from a week upwards), the chefs at Marley Spoon dream up a menu for you to choose from – including up to three meals every seven days, with pre-measured ingredients and fool-proof recipe cards. The dishes are delicious and imaginative (for this December, they’re doing stuffing burgers with cranberry sauce and Christmas slaw, for example) which makes this a fabulous present for anyone who loves cooking, but hates shopping and the boring prep work.
16. The Little Pancake Company: from £36 for three months, Not On The High Street
This is a lot to fork out on pancake mix, but it does take pancakes to a whole new level, meaning that your recipient will be waiting with baited breath for their monthly mix to arrive. Sadly, you don’t get to choose the flavours, but they are all good – including rocky road with gooey marshmallow chunks, apple crumble and cinnamon, as well as cherry and dark chocolate. Each pack serves four people and contains all the dry ingredients you need.
The Verdict: Food subscription gifts
Cure and Simple makes some of the best bacon we’ve eaten, while Piacha has flavours you probably never even knew could be made into teas. For spicy food enthusiasts, Lick My Dip and The Spicery are both superb, while our overall favourites are The Cheese Society and Hotel Chocolat.
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