Count down to Christmas a little differently this year with an alternative foodie Advent calendar. We've rounded up the best, including options for gin and popcorn lovers.
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Advent calendars are becoming more inventive than ever, and we tested more than 30 alternative buys for foodies – including everything from tea and coffee to fudge, popcorn and even cheese – to find our favourites. We tested the calendars based on taste, look, innovation, practicality and cost – these are the foodie countdowns that came out on top for Christmas 2019.
PlayinChoc Advent calendar
*Star buy* Best overall Advent calendar
Unanimously loved by the whole team, this is as much a gift for families as it is an Advent calendar. Inside each of the 24 colourful drawers (which could be reused afterwards for storing trinkets or small toys) is an organic, dairy-free chocolate; a 3D puzzle toy for kids to build and fun fact card, so there's something to keep everyone entertained through the holidays. Plus, the whole calendar is made from recycled, recyclable and compostable materials – hats off, PlayinChoc!
Not on the High Street (£65)
Joe & Seph’s gourmet popcorn Advent calendar
Best for sweet snackers
Popcorn pros Joe & Seph’s pulled out all the stops with this festive countdown. The fold-out calendar depicts a snow-dappled popcorn shopfront – complete with festive wreath – and inside, there are 24 doors to open, each revealing a small packet of super-crunchy flavoured popcorn. Our favourite is the brand-new speculoos flavour, but there are plenty of others to suit different tastes, including salted caramel, banoffee pie and white chocolate & strawberry.
Joe and Seph's (£25)
Bonne Maman Advent calendar
Best for breakfast
As Advent calendars are usually opened in the morning, a jam-filled one makes total sense. Behind each door of this festive red-and-white freestanding calendar is a generous-sized pot of jam – you'll get a different flavour every day, from a range including purple fig & cinnamon, grapefruit & dragonfruit and white nectarine & peach. Spread your Advent treat on toast, crumpets or swirled through your breakfast porridge.
Cambridge Distillery 12 days of outstanding gin
Best for gin lovers
The design of this gin-filled calendar might look less obviously festive, but it stands out among the boozy calendars on offer this year. The turquoise box with ribbon-handled drawers is beautiful (so much so, we'd consider reusing it afterwards as a jewellery box), and the gins inside are excellent. Each drawer contains a different 5cl bottle of Cambridge Distillery gin, from their classic gin to unique flavoured varieties such as smoked and truffle gins. It also comes with a gin glass, and each type of gin comes with an included serving suggestion so you can fully enjoy your drink.
The Spicery 12 curries of Christmas
Best for chefs
The festive period is often heavy on sweet flavours – whether it's chocolate, mince pies or mulled wine – so this spice-filled calendar brings a welcome change. Not only is it eye-catching in a green-and-gold embroidery-style design, but the idea is novel: each of the 12 doors open to reveal a different spice blend and corresponding curry recipe. There’s Indian takeaway favourites such as creamy korma and fiery madras as well as global options such as Japanese katsu and Jamaican curry goat. It's the perfect tool for breaking out of a cooking rut over the holiday season.
The Spicery (£29.95)
Newby Tea Advent calendar
Best for tea lovers
This beautiful fold-out calendar is designed to look like a Japanese tea house. Inside, the theme continues, with watercolour illustrations inspired by Mount Fuji decorating the 24 drawers that house 96 individually wrapped teabags. The teas include classic flavours such as assam black tea, Earl Grey, English breakfast, jasmine and mint as well as more unusual brews such as rosehip & hibiscus, summer berries and lemon verbena. This is a real treat for any tea lover, and it's one that will look classy on your kitchen counter.
Niederegger Santa Advent calendar
Most festive Advent calendar
If you want to feel truly festive in the run up to the big day, it doesn’t get much more so than this colourful calendar from German marzipan specialists Niederegger. The Advent treats inside – including truffles, pralines and classic marzipan offerings – converted even some of the self-professed marzipan haters on our team. There’s something for everyone in this ultra-Christmassy countdown.
Gourmet Marshmallow Advent calendar
Best for someone with a sweet tooth
Although the design of this calendar is lacklustre on the festive front, this was forgiven once we tried its contents. Following the sell-out success of last year’s calendar, The Naked Marshmallow has added two new flavours – milk & cookies and butterscotch – to its existing range of gourmet flavoured marshmallows, which also include salted caramel, s’mores, mint choc chip and a deliciously festive gingerbread. Not only are the marshmallows extremely soft and fluffy, they’re also a generous size and well-flavoured. Plus, Christmas Day has an extra special surprise behind it’s door…
Best for beer lovers
More of an impressive gift than an advent calendar, this huge, decorated box from Beer Hawk houses 24 different beers from 14 different countries around the world, hence its clever ‘ADVENTure calendar’ title. It contains a wide range of different styles, including lagers, IPAs, pale ales and flavoured varieties and they come in full sized bottles or cans (330ml). Although the calendar lacks a Christmassy look, the design is fun and the range of beers so varied and generous that it's sure to excite any beer fanatic. Plus, the beers included are worth around £80 in total, so this is great value at £59.99.
Fortnum’s Feasting Advent calendar
Best for gourmet foodies
This is the first time that Fortnum & Mason have made a food Advent calendar and it’s clear that the team have decided to ‘go big or go home’. While the price tag of this mammoth calendar is eye-watering, once you start opening its doors, you can see why. The large fold-out calendar in striking festive red and Fortnum’s signature Eau de Nil colour features 25 numbered drawers of differing sizes, each filled with a carefully chosen gourmet item from Fortnum’s celebrated food range. This includes generous pots of marmalade, jam, relish, honey, mustard, tins of hot chocolate, coffee and dinky bottles of booze, as well as biscuits, fruitcake and more. And for the big day? A little bottle of champagne, of course!
How to cater for everyone...
Lily's Kitchen pet Advent calendars
Why should furry companions miss out on the fun of the festive countdown? These calendars look traditional, but behind each window is a Christmas-themed animal-friendly biscuit, with versions available for cats or dogs. Just don't get it mixed up with your own chocolate calendar on those dark winter mornings.
How to give back...
Reverse Advent calendar
Try a ‘reverse Advent calendar’ by providing a donation to a local food bank for each day of December. So, instead of opening a window every morning, collect an item of food or toiletries – by the time Christmas comes around, you'll have a full parcel to drop off. Read more about reverse Advent calendars here and contact your local food bank to find out how to donate and what supplies are needed most.
This review was last updated in November 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.