There’s not an awful lot of coffee in Bal-Ham


When I was a teenager, growing up in the 70s, coffee was still regarded as relatively exotic; but it was just called “coffee”. In the Wimpy on Balham High Road one of the two hot beverages on offer was coffee; it cost 8p.  And tasted as such.

We rarely had it at home; we drank tea. I insisted on PG Tips being bought for the cards you got inside enabling me to learn about “British Butterflies”, “Adventures and Explorers” and “Notorious Nazis”.  I would force-drink my mother until I owned an entire set.

One day, my nan introduced me to coffee: frothy, hot, milky coffee. Although it smelled fantastic, it was far too hot to drink immediately – you’d needed it to cool down.  Because my nan had made the coffee by boiling milk in a saucepan (oddly enough she didn’t own a Gaggia machine) the moment it started to cool, a layer of skin would develop. This could be removed with a spoon although, hanging off the spoon, it looked like something out of the Quatermass Experiment!  It was enough to put you off coffee for life and why, I believe, lids are put on take-away coffee cups nowadays.

Today, courtesy of Messrs Costa, Starbuck and the Roman Emperor Nerro, there are copious amounts of choice of coffee, size of cup and type of milk. However, you’ll have needed to have attended several terms of conversational Italian evening classes to be able to pronounce cappuccino and latte correctly and a good grade at A-Level to order Caramel Macchiato. (It becomes easier – the more you have, the more your teeth have rotted away)

Still, in 1972, it was worth paying 8p for a cup of coffee, if only to dip your Wimpy Frankfurter into.

Arrivederci, Balham.

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