Friday, 13 January 2017

Grahamstown Gazette: the Cafe Edition

Every month I write a local heritage-themed column, on behalf of The Treasury, for the Grahamstown Gazette. Here's my piece for the January edition.

From The Treasury:

Cafe culture as we know it today was a late arrival to Thames, although coffee was a popular addition to many grocery lists in the late nineteenth century. J. E Hansen, Grocer, in Shortland was selling coffee and milk for one shilling and sixpence in 1878 (cocoa and milk was a shilling and three pence). Instant coffee was invented in Invercargill by David Strang in 1889, revolutionising New Zealand’s relationship with store-bought coffee. ‘Strang's soluble coffee powder requires no boiling, but is made instantly with boiling water,’ reported the Otago Daily Times. ‘Then... it can be made in a breakfast cup and requires neither the use of pots nor the employment of experienced cooks.’ In the early decades of the twentieth century, you would still be hard-pressed to find anything resembling a cappuccino in Thames, but instant coffee was easy to find at Wood’s Grocers in Grahamstown.

Mrs. Beaton’s Dominion Cafe, on Pollen Street, was a popular local spot in 1909, and potentially one of the first establishments in Thames to style itself as a ‘cafe.’ According to her advertisements in the Thames Star, Mrs. Beaton sold afternoon tea, bacon and eggs, fish, pies, coffee, and oysters in season.

If you were walking down Pollen Street a hundred years ago, looking for a place to relax over a hot drink, you would have far more luck finding a tea room or refreshment lounge than a cafe. In 1913, The King’s Theatre in Grahamstown had refreshment rooms run by Miss Elsie Price, serving confectionary and hot and cold drinks. Next door at Halligan’s tea rooms and small goods bakery, one could expect ‘prompt attention, cleanliness and civility’ while ordering a fruit pie for three pence or birthday cake for two shillings and sixpence. Further up the road, Lewis’ Central Tea Rooms (telephone 29) also sold ‘high class confectionary,’ as well as ‘a dainty cup of tea.’ 

By 1920, you could find the Huia Tea Rooms, run by Mrs. Morrow, opposite the Brian Boru Hotel. Mrs. Morrow’s establishment was popular for its morning and afternoon teas, as well as sandwiches, soft drinks, pies and cakes.

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