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Food gift to ship from CA to London?

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A friend of mine is getting married in London, and since I can't make the wedding, I'd like to send a gift. She's Indian and therefore does not have a registry, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of sending money that far. Since we went to college together here in CA, I thought a set of California wines would be a nice gift. Problem is, none of the websites of the wineries I checked ship internationally.

As I see it, there are two options:
1) purchase wine on my own and ship it. Has anyone done this? Is there a lot of red tape with the postal service because I'm sending a food item?
or 2) purchase something from a London store, like Harrods or Harvey Nichols or ?... I've never been to London and have no clue what would be a good store to get food gifts from...?

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. My cousin lives in London, so I go through the what-to-send-and-how-to-send-it dance every year at the holidays. California olive oil and vinegar combinations have been a hit, and lots of kinds come in attractive bottles that make nice gifts. I have also sent June Taylor preserves, which are also from California and very delicious.

    Something to keep in mind is the duty your friend may have to pay upon receipt... My cousin has told me to keep the value of the gift under $50 and to make sure this value is clearly stated on the mailing documentation. She has also said it's better if the gift is sent from a person rather than a store. I love calling someplace like Sur La Table, selecting the oils or whatever and getting them to handle the whole packing and mailing thing, but apparently that presents problems for the recipient.

    Link: http://www.junetaylorjams.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: Millicent

      Thank you Millicent! Just what I needed to know...

    2. A couple of comments. You said she is Indian and therefore does not have a registry. I know many Indians here in California and they have no problem with registering for weddings. Why would she have a problem because she is Indian?

      Secondly if you want to send a cash gift, there are plenty of secure methods of sending cash overseas. Personally I would be feel much more secure sending a cash gift than a couple of bottles of wine.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Peter

        Oops, I never meant to imply that Indians have problems with wedding registries...as my friend told me, it's just more traditional to receive cash gifts and not have a registry, so that is what she and her fiance (also Indian, both raised in India until college-aged) are doing.

        1. re: sylmar

          We have been doing cash gifts to friends' children getting married, esp. since it seems everyone is living long distances away. We went to one wedding last year in Toronto where both the groom and the bride resides in HK. So a set of dishes would probably cause more problems for the couple to transport back to HK. Again we there are plenty of safe ways to send cash all over the world.

      2. I introduced one of my British authors to a Chinese friend of mine many years ago. They are now married and living in London. Just because I get a kick out of doing so, I send them a gift on the anniversary of the day they met. Each year I call Harrods (from New York City), tell them more or less what I have in mind and more or less what I want to spend. Often, it's wine or champagne, sometimes truffles or some other special splurge. If you decide you want to send a gift from London, Harrod's is an absolute pleasure to deal with. They're wonderfully patient and helpful and will arrange for the delivery at the recipients' convenience. I now look forward to the phone call to Harrod's each year as much as I do to my friends' excitement at the receipt of their gift.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JoanN
          p
          Professor Salt

          Way off topic, but can't resist the old joke about the happiest man on earth being married to a Japanese wife, making a British salary, living in an American home and eating Chinese cuisine.

          Change that around a little and you have the world's saddest man, earning a Chinese salary, living in a Japanese home, eating British cuisine and married to an American woman.

        2. Someone else mentioned it (Millicent?), but I think it's worth repeating that the duty on gifts sent to England is punishing. It's also COD, so recipients are stuck running around the house trying to scrounge up nearly half the value of the gift to pay the duty. It can be very awkward.

          I send gifts several times a year to relatives in England and invariably call a reliable purveyor in England, usually someone local to them, and pay over the phone by credit card. Harrods and Fortnums have only very limited merchandise available online. Best to ask a mutual friend for the name of a reputable wine shop and order a case from them. We've done that a lot. Another option is a selection of ports or champagnes.

          We also have successfully used a couple of the big English online retailers to order garden furnishings and stuff like that.

          Personally, though their quality is generally unimpeachable, I don't think you get much bang for the buck out of Harrods.

          1. Check this out, they were one of today's Google ads on the California board. Not necessarily food or wine oriented.

            Link: http://www.basketheaven.com/

            1. Go to www.selfridges.com and shop to your heart's content. I'm sure you can find something wonderful there.

              1. Here's a link that describes in detail the issues re. sending gifts to England, including the various duties and taxes that could apply. It appears there are special rules for shipping wine, which in some cases does not require a duty. Maybe that would be your best bet.

                Link: http://www.britainusa.com/faq/xq/asp/...

                1 Reply
                1. re: DanaB

                  Just a quick note--if something is sent to you worth over $50, You have to pay customs (3.5%) VAT (17.5%) AND a fee to Royal Mail for the priviedge of assessing your tax liability (I paid something like $10 for this--I don't know if it was a flat charge or a %age of the value.) Love living in Britain, but this bit sucks.

                  There are lots of smaller UK producers on the internet for this sort of thing, but it's a question of searching around). This might get you going:

                  http://www.tastesofanglia.com/

                  I usually get UK food advertising on the chowhound boards, will cut and paste these to you if you like via email.

                2. Thank you everyone! All this shipping info is new to me. To avoid making my friend pay to get her wedding present (how awful!), I'll purchase directly from a British store. Thanks again!