Camp Coffee, Glasgow
Those who are less than kind may say that one of the reasons Britain has taken so long to become a nation of coffee drinkers is the flavour of Camp Coffee, the original instant. Made into a drink with sterilized milk as it often would have been a gourmet experience was not the result.
Making proper coffee is time-consuming, so over the years different approaches to shortening the process, and approximating the delicious taste of real coffee, have been devised: these days freeze-dried predominates; it used to be coffee powder; and way back in 1876 Camp Coffee, a syrupy and concentrated coffee and chicory essence (the latter ingredient predominating) was invented in Scotland by a businessman called Paterson.
It is said that the product was devised to make military campaigning – thus Camp – more comfortable, and the well-known label featuring a Scots soldier and a Sikh reflects this martial origin – legend has it the product was made after a request by the Gordon Highlanders, seeking to make their service in India more pleasant.
The product, still made in Paisley , is traditionally made into a drink with some of the essence let down with boiling water or hot milk, to give a caffeine hit with a real bitter punch from the chicory. Only the very generous would say that Mr Paterson succeeded in bottling coffee flavour, though he did certainly produce a very particular and strong alternative.
In the days when few households had real coffee in their stores Camp Coffee often served as the flavouring of home-baked coffee cakes and creams, the readily-recognised bottle only brought out for such treats.
It is a strange quirk of fate that the alternative meaning of camp and the Scottish soldier thought to be the one depicted on the original label should come together, and tragically at that: he is thought to be Sir Hector Macdonald, who rose through the ranks to become a general and a hero of several wars, but when faced with the disgrace of a trial for homosexual acts with boys shot himself.
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