Wednesday 27 October 2010

Carry On Camping!

I can remember exactly when I had my first cup of ‘real’ coffee – in January 1963 – I was 7, and we had a minor car accident on the icy road. A lady [wearing a fur coat] in a big car stopped to help. Whilst her chauffeur, my dad and others got the car towed out of the ditch, Mum and I sat in her luxurious vehicle and she poured us hot coffee from a Thermos. [My brother was only two months old- he just had milk]I didn’t taste coffee like that again for about 10 years!

1960s coffee

We were a household of tea drinkers. There was, lurking in a cupboard in the kitchen, a sinister tin of brown powder, looking like the Bisto used for Sunday’s gravy – which was fished out when inconsiderate visitors said “Oh, I'd rather have coffee, please” but as a family we never touched it!

Then came the advent of “coffee granules” and I started drinking that as a teenager because it was somehow ‘cool’. But what we never had in the house was “Camp Coffee”. Somehow Mum viewed this stuff with suspicion. First up there was the matter of the label

camp old 1

Dad had a ‘thing’ about this picture on the label of the Sikh Servant waiting on the kilted Scottish officer [Camp was manufactured by Paterson's of Glasgow] He felt that it was wrong to celebrate the British Raj because of the way that many Indians were badly treated by the Army and others. [and this was back in the 60s – before ‘political correctness’ came upon us]

Then of course it contained chicory which my mother greatly distrusted.

Chicory was something [like garlic] which came into the category of ‘foreign food, eaten by Frenchmen’ [Mum – like Dad – believed God created all men and women equal, whatever their race – but she definitely didn’t want to eat their food, thank you very much!]

Our next door neighbour had a bottle of Camp Coffee in her kitchen. I was fascinated by it! Like any ‘forbidden fruit’ it was strange and mysterious to me.

Somewhere along the way I developed a taste for ‘proper coffee’ [I am married to the worst coffee snob in this village] but when I did finally taste Camp Coffee, I thought it was awful! [most forbidden fruit is never quite so good when you actually get to try it, is it?]

camp new

But now Paterson's have a new, politically correct label, and the guy in the turban is now sitting alongside the guy in the kilt, as his equal – they are sharing a coffee break together

The banner still says “Ready, Aye, Ready” to show that it is easy to make coffee instantly with this product.

I do not think I have ever purchased a bottle – but then Jamie Oliver flourished his on TV this week. He was using it to add flavour to his banoffee pie.

Well, if Jamie uses it – perhaps I too should get some as a cooking ingredient [but never as a drink!]

Two questions remain

1; For Elizabeth - who is teaching out in Ooty – that part of India where the Ladies Of The Raj went to be cool in the blistering heat of the summer – do they still have Camp Coffee in your neck of the woods?

2; If I buy a bottle and keep it in Norfolk, for when I am cooking at Cornerstones, would that be classed as my “Holiday Camp”?


  1. How funny that they have bowed to political correctness and re made the label! I've never drunk Camp but I believe it is good for flavouring coffee cakes etc. We do have a huge choice of good coffee in our shops here..but one can also buy Maxwell House etc. Should one want to.

  2. What a memory that brought, my granpa used to make coffee cake with camp. Thank you

  3. Hi Angela,
    First of all just because the Indian is wearing a turban doesn't make him a Sikh, a lot of men in certain parts of North India wear turbans regardless of religion and a turban is often part of a ceremonial uniform too.
    Secondly to answer your question I have never heard of camp coffee so I guess we don't get it here! Is it a liquid? Coffee is a particually South Indian drink and they like it weak with chickory, milk and lots of sugar. I don't drink coffee but I quite enjoy it like this.

  4. I grew up in a tea drinking household, although I haven't touched the stuff since I was 11. "Proper" coffee was saved for Christmas when Mum would use her best coffee set. Here in Canada it is "proper" coffee all the time, woe betide any one who serves instant!

  5. Thanks for all the comments - especially all the Indian Info from ElizabethT.
    Camp Coffee is a liquid, made of coffee, chicory and sugar, which is diluted with boiling water - so that sounds like what you are describing.
    Now I shall have to check out coffee cake recipes!

  6. Your post brought back memories of my first taste of coffee which er, yes was Camp. It would have been around 1954 when I was very little and was home from school with a cold. I remember sitting by the fire at my own little table and chair with my own china and was drinking a cup of 'coffee-made-with-milk'. I don't remember coffee powder being used in our home until some years later - tea was the mainstay in our home in those days too. I also remember having my own little teapot, too. I wonder what happened to that?

  7. Excelent page and comments.
    My father introduced a bottle of this 'Camp Coffee' into our house one Christmas and we had no knowledge of why, where, when or what it was.
    At the time he used to go around the farms odd-jobbing to try and boost his meagre income.
    30 years after my Father passed away I was digging a field shelter into a slope for Sully our family pony (at one of the farms my father used to work on) and I discovered a glass bottle. I took it home and washed it out and it has the logo 'ESS "Camp" Coffee & Chicory' on one side.
    I think I might just have solved a mystery.
    My brother and I still buy a bottle of 'Camp' at Christmas in memory but I can't see my girls doing the same in 30 years time :]


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