Like most festive traditions, the Christmas hamper has a rich history. In this case, it dates back to the days of William the Conqueror when hampers full of food, drink and clothing were given to poor families as a charitable offering.
These days, the focus is on luxury and Christmas hampers are filled with the kind of gastronomic treats the recipient wouldn’t normally splash out on.
Ranging from around £20 right up into the thousands of pounds, there’s something for every budget.
Think about whether your recipient would prefer sweet or savoury – or both – and whether they’ll prefer a more boozy offering or non-alcoholic.
Ideally, look for hampers which include some artisan foods and think about whether you want it to contain any fresh items.
Perhaps you’ll decide to focus on goodies from a particular area such as the West Country or Spain.
We tested hampers for aesthetics (especially important if they are a gift), taste, variety and value for money.
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Fortnum & Mason the Christmas celebration hamper
You can never have enough F&M embossed, hand-woven wicker baskets in our opinion – they’re almost a piece of furniture in their own right, especially at this size. As for the contents, top-drawer treats include reserve champers and cassis (great for a Kir Royale), red and white wine, teas, jam, a variety of posh biscuits and chocolates and – our favourite – mandarins and cranberries in vodka.
With three centuries of Christmas hamper selling behind them and a top name in quality foods, you can be sure you’re getting the best of the best. And with their hampers going for up to £6,000, it makes our favourite for this year look like the bargain of the century at a mere £250. Order by 22 December for Christmas delivery.
Macknade Kentish Christmas hamper
We love hampers that focus on a particular geographical area, in this case Kent, which produces some fabulous local fodder. There’s local marmalade or honey to spread on your toast and wash down with regional breakfast tea or orchard pressed apple juice.
The chutney and crackers will go down a treat with cheese (which you’ll need to buy separately) and some cider and festive beer to crack open at sundown. Plus, there are some delicious Christmas biscuits and mulling syrup. It’s great value too, although note that you get a ribbon tied branded box instead of a traditional wicker basket. Order by 18 December for Christmas delivery.
Sous Chef the best of Spain hamper
Add some Spanish flair to the festive season with this wicker basket packed with the likes of Perello Gordal olives (plump and crisp) and smoked Catalan almonds (crunchy and delicious), as well as all the staples you need to help you whip up a restaurant-worthy paella including olive oil, hot smoked paprika and paella rice from Valencia (the birthplace of paella).
The chocolate coated figs come from a family business in the Spanish village of Almoharin. It all comes from an independent family business that source products inspired by leading restaurant menus and chefs. Order by 23 December for Christmas delivery.
Abel & Cole the artisan Christmas hamper organic
The indulgent organic goodies in this box that’s packed to the brim all come from independent, artisan food producers. Most of this stuff, you can’t find in the shops and many have won prestigious awards.
Inside the traditional wicker basket is a fresh food bag (still nice and cold when it arrived with us) containing a couple of cheeses, as well as ham and smoked salmon – all a zillion times better than supermarket alternatives. Meanwhile, the longer life foods include champagne, wines, port, jam, shortbread, chocolates, tea and coffee and Christmas pud, none of which we could fault. Order by 18 December for Christmas delivery.
Farmison heritage breed beef Christmas hamper
Our top choice for carnivores, the wing rib of beef is the star of the show here. If you know anything about marbling, you’ll get the measure of the quality at first glance – otherwise, first mouthful will leave you in no doubt as to the succulence and flavour of this dry aged matured cut that is sourced from grass-fed, heritage breed herds reared in Yorkshire. Not sure how to cook it? There’s a recipe card included, along with a jolly good jar of mustard. Then for pud, it’s the award winning carved angel Christmas pud. Order by 22 December for Christmas delivery.
Hampers.com the white Christmas hamper
This non-alcoholic hamper is a real crowd-pleaser for those who like sweet treats. The hamper itself is more of a basket (no lid), but equally re-usable, inside which you’ll find melt-in-the-mouth mince pies, indulgent chocolate bars and biscuits, chocolate cake, fruit cake and chocolates.
The quality far exceeds other hampers we tried in this price bracket – and we thought the packaging was higher quality too – both of which can presumably be attributed to the fact that it comes from a brand that specialise exclusively in hampers. Order by 23 December for Christmas delivery.
Betty’s York hamper
We can’t get enough of this upscale Harrogate bakery that’s inspired by continental flavours – there’s practically nothing they produce that we don’t ooh and ahh about, especially when we’ve got a cup of tea to hand.
This is one of their more expensive, deluxe hampers and is deliverable throughout Europe. It was up there with the most beautifully presented hampers we tried and includes plenty of booze (champers, red and white wine), tea, coffee, truffles, cake, biscuits, jams, chutneys and the best florentines we’ve ever tasted. But don’t let your recipient hang around too long – some of this stuff is really fresh (and all the better for it). Order by 21 December for Christmas delivery.
Bolney Christmas wine and cheese lover’s hamper
English sparkling wine goes from strength to strength, with Bolney one of our personal faves. This hamper includes a bottle of their award winning blanc de blanc and pinot noir, plus a bottle of port, along with a trio of cheeses (English cheddar, Tunworth – England’s version of Camembert, and stilton) that pair beautifully with them.
There is some (new to market) Bolney bacchus chutney to complement the cheeses, and pudding is covered too – a half-kilo Christmas pud, cocoa dusted almonds and mint thins. If cheese and wine is your thing, this is a corker. Order by 21 December for Christmas delivery.
Morrisons the best medium Christmas hamper
This is the cheapest hamper (well, strictly speaking, box – but a very nice, re-giftable box, at that) in our round-up. While usually you don’t get much to write home about in this price range, we were suitably impressed with the six culinary goodies inside – crumbly fudge, tasty chocolate mints, festive spiced chutney, buttery cheese and poppy twists, chewy florentines dipped in chocolate and a decent bottle of rioja.
It’s versatile too – great for anyone on their own, or equally a couple or family. But we’d have liked nicer presentation in the box – the items are all loose. Order by 21 December for Christmas delivery.
Hotel Chocolat The eat, drink and be merry hamper
Chocaholics, this will be your dream come true. Buried inside this chic black rattan basket is a mountain of some of the tastiest chocolates around, and much more besides. Our favourite has to be the award winning chocolate cream liqueur, with other boozy delights including top-notch prosecco, which goes a treat with milk or white chocolate, of which you’ll find plenty here including milk chocolate puddles, chocolate batons, chocolate macarons and two fabulous selection boxes plus a box of chocolate biccies.
There’s also a box of hot chocolate, with grated flakes of the real deal ready to mix with hot milk. Order by 23 December for Christmas delivery.
Virginia Hayward deck the halls
There’s a good balance of sweet and savoury with this good value gold themed (there’s also a white themed, at a similar price point) hamper that’s presented in a kubu storage basket. Our favourites include the chocolate covered marshmallows, salted caramel shortbread, salted pretzels and gouda and herb cheese trees.
There are plenty of other goodies that will go down well too, including the Butlers chocolate truffles and pralines, and we like the fact that all packaging materials are recyclable or biodegradable. There’s a good bottle of Italian white – and a red – and it comes from a brand that has specialised in hampers for over 35 years. Order by 22 December for Christmas delivery.
Hay Hampers ginthusiast’s Christmas food hamper
Gin lovers, rejoice. This beautiful white-washed wicker basket is packed tight with two bottles of stand-out gin and tonic, along with all the nibbles, dips and snacks you need to make an evening of it with friends or relatives. Our favourite is the Manchester gin signature blend and for something more festive there’s the Grantham gin spiced with apple and gingerbread.
The tonics come from Polara – among the best we’ve tried. Then there’s brie, cheddar, fish paté, relish, olives, nuts, crisps and more – all with a good long shelf life and a cut above what you’d find in supermarkets. Order by 18 for Christmas delivery.
Jeroboams the Hampstead
This eminent London wine merchant has produced a whole range of hampers for this Christmas, each named after an upscale area of England’s capital. The Hampstead features a wide variety of classic Italian foods with an elegant balance of sweet and savoury, accompanied by a delicious prosecco from Della Vite and a rich Tuscan red from Podere Le Ripi.
Presentation gets extra brownie points – not just the obligatory wicker basket, but a luscious green ribbon and sticker, all making for a deluxe feel. Especially well suited to wine enthusiasts. Order by 17 December for Christmas delivery (21st for inside M25).
Meg Rivers classic Christmas hamper
This family owned bakers has come up with an ethical hamper for this year, with £5 donated from each hamper to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Inside the bright blue box (note, not wicker basket) is a range of sweet treats including a fabulous Christmas cake, a melt-in-the-mouth chocolate brownie, mini frangipane mince pies (kind of a mix between cake and mince pie) and some wonderfully crumbly shortbread shapes. All made with traditional recipes, as good as your grandmother would have made. Order by 18 December for Christmas delivery.
The Wolseley Christmas hamper
Anyone who’s been to the award winning The Wolseley will know what a treat their fodder is and with this hamper, you can bring a bit of it home. We love the large chic black hamper topped off with the logo and it’s packed really tight with all manner of luxuries including biscuits, florentines, truffles, hot chocolate, tea, champers, red and white wine and a Christmas pud.
The shortbread is the clear winner for us on the food front – handmade in-house by The Wolseley pastry chefs, while the fizz is next level. Order by 21 December for Christmas Delivery.
Claridge’s mews hamper
This is one of the classiest hampers we’ve come across. From the red cardboard box it arrived in to the attractive wicker basket with black branded card and gold shredded tissue paper, it feels like no expense has been spared. The range of products is well thought out too – the Sancerre is really special, the champagne truffles are among the best we’ve had and the jam and tea (housed in a lovely tin) are the same as the ones served at the hotel’s afternoon tea. Nobody could blame you for wanting to scoff the shortbread and chocolate covered hazelnuts (another nice tin) in a quiet moment alone – they are far too good to share. Order by 22 December for Christmas delivery.
The verdict: Christmas hampers
Fortnum & Mason’s the Christmas celebration hamper is one of the nicest Christmas presents to receive, to our mind, and the sprayed wicker basket is a keeper. There wasn’t one item that didn’t have the wow factor for us.
If your budget won’t stretch that far, we think the Macknade Kentish Christmas hamper deserves top spot on your hamper shortlist – it’s great value and contains some of the best Kent (increasingly renowned for its produce) has to offer.
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