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Best alternative Advent calendars for adults in 2021: gin, tea, chocolate and more

Published: October 19, 2021 at 3:20 pm
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Read our round-up of the best alternative Advent calendars, including gin, coffee and beer, plus the best chocolate Advent calendars for traditionalists.

There's no better way to get the Christmas season started than with a festive Advent calendar. Count down to the big day with a classic chocolate version, or discover one of our favourite alternatives.

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Advent calendars are becoming more inventive than ever, and we tested more than 50 alternative buys for foodies to find our favourites. We tested the calendars based on taste, look, innovation, practicality and cost.

We've split our round up into categories: classic chocolate picks (with everything from budget-friendly options to luxurious truffles), tea, coffee and hot chocolate, sweet alternatives (think popcorn, jam and more), savoury calendars (daily pork scratchings anyone?), alcohol calendars and a luxury selection for anyone wanting to push the boat out this festive season.

For more than 400 buyer's guides, visit our reviews section to find our ultimate foodie gift guide, spirits reviews and the results of our 2020 Christmas Taste Awards. Discover more Christmas gifting inspiration with our best Christmas hampers, gin gifts or best baking gifts.

Best alternative and unusual Advent calendars for Christmas 2021

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Tea, coffee and hot chocolate Advent calendars

Whittard coffee Advent calendar for two, £60

Whittards coffee calendar

If you can’t start the day without a cup of coffee, get this calendar in your kitchen to keep you going through a hectic December. Double doors decorated with festive baubles open to reveal 24 bright drawers, each containing two coffee bags. Try 12 different coffees across the month to find a new favourite brew.

Whittard tea Advent calendar, £60

Whittards tea calendar

Forget just one chocolate per day: this decadent tea Advent calendar from Whittard comes packed with four teabags each day, with 2 and a teabag rest on day one: adding up to a generous 94 cups of tea total! The plastic-free calendar has a striking double door design and three columns of ribbon-pull drawers, containing 18 different teas from across the Whittard range. Our favourite is the Christmas tea, an appropriately festive black tea blend to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Whittard hot chocolate Advent calendar for two, £60

Whittards hot chocolate advent calendar

Dedicate December to hot chocolate. We love the grand double door design of this weighty calendar, with 24 starry drawers that can be refilled and reused each year. The calendar contains 12 flavours of hot chocolate to try, split across dark, milk and white hot chocolate, from raspberry ripple to peanut butter. Best of all, each drawer has two sachets so you can share – or drink two cups yourself!

Fortnum & Mason tea lovers Advent calendar, £25

Fortnum tea lovers

Two key things impressed us about this calendar: the sleek packaging and good value price point for a Fortnum’s product. While some calendars go supersized, this minimalist but highly festive calendar will sit happily on the mantelpiece all month. It’s filled with 24 different flavours of tea (so no repeats), from classic Earl Grey, Chai and Darjeeling to quirky Gin and Tonic green tea or, for a festive break with a mince pie, the Christmas Spiced Green Tea.

Mariage Frères Haute Couture Tea Advent Calendar, £44.95

Mariage Freres

For a choice with a distinctly luxe feel, this calendar from French tea house Marriage Frères ticks the boxes. The bold green box is tied with an elegant black satin ribbon and contains 25 teas - taking you all the way up to Christmas Day. The cotton tea bags contain a wide range of top quality flavours to try from all across the world to mix it up for the whole month and find a new favourite morning cup.

Bird & Blend tea advent calendar, £38

Bird and Blend

Make a tea break more interesting for December with this calendar packed with fun unusual teas – plus, every colourful drawer contains two teabags, so you can share the fun. We loved that there were a whopping 24 flavours of tea within the calendar, so no repeats, with quirky flavours ranging from Panettone to Buck’s Fizz (with sprinkles!). The calendar is 100% plastic free and vegan, and there’s a caffeine-free option, too.

VAHDAM Christmas tea advent calendar, £39.99

Vadham tea

For fans of loose leaf tea, the VAHDAM advent '24 teas of Christmas' calendar is perfect festive induglence. The beautiful deep green and red box contains 24 boxes of loose leaf tea, including blends of chai, green, black and herbal teas. It's a brilliant way to explore new styles of tea and embrace the moment of making the perfect cuppa each day during a busy December.

Sweet alternative advent calendars

Popcorn Shed gourmet popcorn Advent calendar £20, £18 vegan

Popcorn Shed

Not just for the cinema – treat yourself to popcorn every day with a popcorn advent calendar, available in classic or vegan versions from Popcorn Shed. Both calendars have six flavours and offer a small bag of popcorn each day – whilst the classic calendar has all sweet options, our team particularly loved the savoury ones included within the vegan calendar, including white truffle (a Great Taste Award winner) and moreish smoky maple.

Selfridges festive mini mince pie Advent calendar, £34.99

SELFRIDGES SELECTION Festive Mini Mince Pie advent calendar £34.99 2

This is the perfect Advent calendar for the person who starts buying mince pies in September. This luxurious red chest is filled with drawers (with signature Selfridges yellow ribbon) hiding four different types of adorably miniature mince pies, from classic to chocolate or citrus. As an extra treat, day 25 is a miniature Christmas cake, so the treats don’t stop on Christmas Day.

Ladurée Advent calendar, £32

Laduree

Be transported to a Parisian sweet shop with this sweet pastel-hued calendar from Ladurée. Rather than being filled with classic Ladurée macarons, each door hides a delicious sweet – from nougat and caramels to orangettes and fruit jellies.

Candy Kittens Advent calendar tree, £12

Candy Kittens2

An Advent calendar and a mini DIY project in one: the Candy Kittens calendar comes flat-packed, ready for assembly. While folding and filling 25 individual boxes is a tad fiddly, the Candy Kittens sweets are as good as always, plus you get at least two per day and a selection of different flavours – the wild strawberry is our favourite. Plus, for every Advent calendar tree bought, Candy Kittens have paired up with TreeSisters to plant one, too.

Bonne Maman Advent calendar, £23.99 + delivery

Bonne Maman

Make breakfast extra special throughout December with the Bonne Maman calendar, filled with 23 mini glass jars of jam and marmalade, plus two secret gifts. The flavours go beyond what you’ll usually find in stores, from White Nectarine, Peach and Lemon Verbena to Cherry with Hibiscus. Plus, on day one, you'll get a tiny silver spoon with the jam to get started!

Walker's shortbread calendar, £17.99

Walkers

Open a door of this shortbread-stuffed calendar every afternoon to accompany a tea break. The double door calendar, decorated with classic Scottish tartan, is filled with different shortbread shapes (including chocolate chip and salted caramel flavours), with a giant shortbread star for Christmas Eve.

Swizzels sweets Advent calendar, £5

Swizzels

Not everyone wants chocolate! We love this sweets-filled calendar from Swizzels as an alternative option for those with a sweet tooth. The chunky box is decorated like a sweets factory, with a variety of sweets hidden behind the doors (each with a joke inside, too) – from Parma Violets to Refreshers, Love Hearts and Drumstick Squashies.

Naked Marshmallow gourmet marshmallow Advent calendar, £15

Naked Marshmallow

For the person who can’t get enough of s’mores on the barbecue all summer – this Naked Marshmallow calendar is sure to please. The 12 different flavours of generously sized gourmet marshmallows hide behind each door, from classic vanilla and salted caramel to quirky fizzy watermelon or cinnamon churro. There’s also a boozy version with six gin, fizz and cocktail-inspired flavours. For £4 extra, you can get either calendar complete with a mini marshmallow toaster burner so you can get building s’mores every day.

Joe & Seph’s gourmet popcorn Advent calendar, £30

Joe & Seph's popcorn

Discover something new with the 19 flavours of popcorn inside this luxurious popcorn calendar. All the flavours are sweet, from brandy butter to tiramisu, plus one bag of milk chocolate popcorn bites. Our team noted that this was the freshest popcorn Advent calendar we tried, with each bag still crisp inside, although would have loved even more in each 7g bag!

Savoury alternative Advent calendars

Sous Chef x Flying Goose sriracha calendar, £39.99

Sous Chef sriracha

This ’12 days of sriracha’ calendar is a must for anyone who can’t resist adding hot sauce to everything. Try wacky new flavours from tikka to wasabi. Although there are only 12 days, each bottle is a generous 200ml so there’s plenty to keep you going to all month.

Snaffling Pig classic pork crackling Advent calendar, £20

Snaffling pig

Satisfy a salt craving with this calendar filled with 6 different flavours of Snaffling Pig’s traditional pork crackling, including tangy salt and vinegar, and festive pigs-in-blankets. We loved the packaging of this super tall (54cm!), colourful calendar – plus it is entirely plastic-free, with the inner tray even being compostable.

Cheesies Advent calendar, £29.99

Cheesies_Calendar_3

24 bags of cheesy snacks? That's the offering from the Cheesies Advent calendar, filled with surprisingly generous 20g bags of their signature baked cheese snacks in six different flavours. Covering cheddar, gouda, emmental, goat's cheese and red leicester, you'll be well stocked for long car journeys and afternoon snacks for the whole of December.

Fodabox Advent calendar, £69.99

Savoury Snacks Advent Calendar

For those who crave salt over sugar, this calendar ticks the boxes. The basic cardboard packaging hides a variety of savoury snacks to unwrap over advent, from fiery black pepper cashews to melt in the mouth cheesy biscuits. There is some repetition of items, and more varieties of crackling than you could imagine, but it will keep you going in front of Christmas movies or on winter walks all month. If you do have a sweet tooth, there’s a sweet snacks version too.

Alcohol Advent calendars

That Boutique-y Gin Company Advent calendar, £49.95

Boutique-y gin

The colourful Christmas dinner design on this gin-filled calendar hides a whole range of gins for someone to find a new favourite tipple. The calendar contains 24 different flavoured gins, in 30ml wax-sealed drams. Our highlights were the novelty flavours that That Boutique-y Gin Company is known for, such as the Cherry or Spit-roasted Pineapple, but the bulk of the calendar is made up of ‘plain’ gins from a variety of distilleries around the world, so there’s something for everyone.

Laithwaites wine Advent calendar, £69.99

Laithwaites

Get ready for Christmas party season with this hefty calendar filled with 24 different wines. The generous 187ml bottles feel great value for money, and we loved the ornate Christmas mansion design. You can choose between calendars just of red or white wine, whilst the mixed calendar comes with a half bottle of champagne for Christmas Eve.

Looking for more ideas? See more alcohol Advent calendars from our sister title, olive magazine.

The best chocolate Advent calendars for 2021

Niederegger santa chocolate & marzipan Advent calendar, £35

Niederregger

This giant calendar had one of our favourite designs – a perfect mantelpiece centrepiece. It’s filled with a wide range of treats from across the Niederegger range, with pralines and chocolates along with different marzipans – including a traditional lucky marzipan pig.

Charbonnel et Walker Peter Rabbit Advent calendar, £20

Charbonnel et Walker

This calendar is beautiful inside and out: from the bright red packaging, double door opening and Peter Rabbit inside, to the chocolates themselves. Filled with 25 chocolates (not just 24!), although each chocolate is the same milk chocolate truffle, they're all decorated with a different colourful sugar illustration to feel extra special.

Chococo chocolate Advent selection box, £25

Chococo

Swap a calendar for an elegant Advent box with these beautiful handcrafted chocolates from Dorset – perfect as a gift, and brilliant value working out at £1 per chocolate. The chocolates are all cleverly labelled so that you eat them across the month in order of freshness, with an eclectic mix of Chococo classics and new festive chocolates within the box. Festive highlights include a speculoos caramel, chocolate covered marzipan and ‘fizzy pudding’ with popping candy.

Tony's Chocolonely countdown calendar, £12.99

Tony's chocolonely

Feel good about your chocolate choice with the first ever Tony’s Chocolonely calendar. The ethical principles stack up quickly: Tony’s is committed to reducing slavery in chocolate production, the cocoa used is all Fairtrade, it is free from palm oil and has no plastic packaging. The giant box is filled with 25 ‘Tiny Tony’s’ in 10 signature flavours and is printed with tiny missions on the inner door.

Fortnum’s chocolate truffle selection Advent calendar, £35

Fortnums chocolate

Add a touch of simple luxury to advent with this sleek and starry calendar from Fortnum’s. Enjoy a decadent daily truffle in flavours from smooth salted caramel to Christmas spice butter biscuit, each carefully packaged in cardboard with neat doors folding down to reveal the treat of the day.

Hotel Chocolat grand Advent calendar, £68

Hotel C grand calendar

For the chocoholic wanting to go all out this Christmas, Hotel Chocolat has you sorted. £68 may seem a lot to pay for a chocolate advent calendar, but this huge calendar offers a lot more than just a daily truffle. From mini bottles of cacao gin and chocolate liqueur to plenty of different flavours of chocolate batons, truffles, mini chocolate crackers and even a lip balm, this is tour de force of the entire Hotel Chocolat range, where everything has been supersized for festive decadence.

Hotel Chocolat milk chocolate Advent calendar, £12.50

Hotel Chocolat milk choc calendar

A classic chocolate advent calendar filled with mini chocolates in fun festive shapes. There’s a calendar for you whatever your chocolate preference: choose from milk, dark, white or even unique caramel chocolate or nutmilk (made with hazelnuts) for vegans.

Hotel Chocolat the Advent calendar for two, £26

Hotel C truffles calendar

One for the romantics: every door of this calendar contains two Hotel Chocolat truffles, so it’s made for sharing. The double-door design opens up wide and contains a range of flavours to try, from festive gingerbread praline to salted caramel cream or fruity raspberry rush.

Harry Specters chocolate Advent calendar, £36

Harry Specter

For a luxury chocolate advent calendar with a social cause, try Harry Specters. Harry Specters is committed to supporting those with autism and on average, for every £1 spent with them, 69p directly benefits the lives of young autistic people and their carers. The Advent calendar is filled with their signature quirky (and often fruity) chocolate truffle flavours, from strawberry cheesecake to mixed berry caramel, with the inside of each door helpfully labelling that day’s flavour.

Green & Blacks organic Advent calendar, £12

Green & Black's Organic Advent Calendar

Dedicated Green & Blacks fans can’t go wrong with this simply designed calendar. There’s only five different flavours of the mini bars included in the calendar across the 24 days, but they are the crowdpleasing favourites: two dark, milk, ginger and butterscotch.

Montezuma's milk and white Advent calendar, £9.99

Montezuma milk and white

Why choose between either milk or white chocolate? This simple calendar combines the best of both, with a sweet snowman design filled with different chocolate characters, all with Montezuma's organic melt in the mouth chocolate. There's also a purely dark chocolate option if that's more your bag, and even an Absolute Black 100% cocoa calendar if you're feeling brave.

Vegan chocolate Advent calendars

PLAYinCHOC Advent calendar, £55

Play in Choc advent calendar

This might seem pricey for an Advent calendar, but it has certain extras to justify the price tag. The chocolate is organic and vegan, perfect for kids with any allergies. As well as a piece of chocolate each day, each pretty drawer comes with a fun facts card and 3D puzzle cardboard toy to build. Once each drawer is opened, turn it round to reveal a hidden picture.

Discover more vegan Advent calendars from our sister title, olive magazine.

Luxury Advent calendars

Lola's Cupcakes chocolate brownie advent calendar, £59.99

Christmas brownie advent calendar 2

For something decadent this year, treat your family to the Lola’s chocolate brownie Advent calendar. Split over multiple deliveries for maximum freshness, you’ll receive a box of six brownies every six days for the Advent season. The brownies came securely packaged in plastic-free packaging, individually in numbered boxes (with top tips on the inside such as warming them briefly in the microwave for maximum fudginess) and each were very generously sized - easy to slice into quarters and share with the family. With different flavours arriving across the month, this is one way to guarantee a truly indulgent December.

Available from Lola's Cupcakes, £59.99 

Paxton & Whitfield artisan cheese Advent calendar, £150

Paxton and Whitfield

Blow the budget with this ultimate Advent calendar for cheese lovers. If all the sweet calendars don’t appeal, try this for a 75g wedge of artisan cheese every day throughout December. Arriving in three separate deliveries throughout December for maximum freshness, the cheese is sent fully insulated via a carbon-neutral delivery service. From classic festive stilton and gruyere to unique British and European finds, make December the ultimate cheese discovery journey.

The Cartwright and Butler Advent calendar, £200

Advent Calendar Open 300dpi

Instead of a Christmas hamper, splash out on this truly decadent Advent calendar to make all of December feel special. You’ll need plenty of space for this extra-large festive red box (54 x 43 x 23cm), with double doors opening to reveal 24 sliding drawers filled with indulgent treats from across the Cartwright & Butler range. It is shortbread heavy – with everything from oaty crumbles to lemon zest or choc chip rounds – but there’s plenty more to discover too, with hot chocolate, sweets, jam, cheesy crackers and fudge all involved. An exceptional gift for someone who deserves a treat, or just enjoy with your family all month long. The struggle will be resisting opening all the drawers on day one!

Biscuiteers Advent calendar tin, £58

Biscuiteers

While it's not strictly an Advent calendar, this luxurious Advent-themed tin makes an extra special gift this Christmas. The beautifully decorated metal tin can be kept and reused year after year, whilst inside are layers of 24 intricately decorated iced vanilla biscuits in a range of Antarctica themes, from adorable penguins and polar bears to igloos and snowy trees.

Honeywell Biscuit Co jar of Advent biscuits, £40

Honeywell Jar of Advent Biscuits

Another baked alternative to a classic Advent calendar, this jar is filled with buttery biscuits that are each intricately iced and numbered in festive designs, including penguins and baubles. Pricey, but a sweet Christmas gift.

More Christmas gift guides

Our ultimate Christmas gift guide 2021
The best whisky to buy as a gift
The best gifts for bakers
The best chocolate subscriptions and clubs
The best letterbox gifts
The best gifts for coffee lovers
The best boozy gifts
The best gins to give as gifts

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This review was last updated in October 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk

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