The atmosphere of Missing Bean could be described as frantic, but really it reflects its popularity. The shop is buzzing, full of students returning to the hive to load up on energy before heading off in a hazy line to the library. It's a popular hangout for working, even though it doesn't have wifi, or stacking up books and getting distracted by a steady stream of friends, and is too cramped for a relaxing afternoon, but that's the charm. As the weather gets colder the windows steam up and it gets harder and harder to find a seat among the bristling hipsters and 'studious' workers, but it's always welcoming and the staff are warm and friendly.
The coffee, I reckon, is the best in Oxford. They prepare it themselves at their roastery on Magdalen Road - which often has tours and tastings, as well as its own café - and source it from very specific areas. The house roast is a sustainable blend of 3 South American beans, but they also offer single source choices that vary seasonally, both to buy as a drink and ground to make at home. The baristas really do know what they're doing; the standard range of coffees (as well as some teas and juices) are on offer but they taste amazing. With a flat white (maintaining the vibe), the richness and fragrance of the coffee came right through. The Bean's version really maximises on the quality of their coffee, and is really cheap too. For the sake of review-based variety, we also got an iced Chai latte. The warming spices against the ice were a bit confusing, but it was basically a nice, sweet drink, great for Christmas on the beach. As a tip though, I think their drinks might be a lot better when taken away, but that might just be hipster superstition.
The sandwiches are great, but on this particular mid-afternoon visit we made an unexpected venture into cake territory. The range is small, but with a homemade feel that complements the atmosphere. The apple and blackcurrant flapjack was good and balanced, excellent stodge for an afternoon snack. The brownie, on the other hand, was more dense than the Bean's clientele, but I felt the mix was a bit off; more like a grainy fudge paste than fluffier brownies. The lime and courgette cake saved the day with invention and zing: it was surprisingly light and refreshing and worked well with the coffee. They range between £2-3.50, so aren't excessively priced for a coffee shop.
What is the Bean missing? Well, a toilet, but otherwise there isn't much else you could ask for. It's a lovely little café. a really handy place to meet up, and most of all, they serve really great coffee.