101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 61: Indie Coffee Shops and their Fucking Lovely Cupcakes

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Bone-idle Brummies have been loitering in coffee shops since way before the likes of Starbucks came over here with their 87,000 different drink combinations; getting our names wrong and shirking their corporation tax.

There were several coffee shops in Brum as far back as the ‘50s, with exotic-sounding names such as The Kardomah, El Torro, The Mexicana, The Gi-Gi, and The (um) Scorpion. The only decision to be made was “one lump or two”, and everyone’s name was bab.

Ginuwine Bohemian and adopted Brummie, Andre Drucker, opened La Boheme coffee shop in Aston Street, which presumably kept neighbouring firefighters’ caffeine levels topped up so that they were alert and ready to deal with any impending emergency. He managed to prevent Aston uni students from getting their caffeine fix by playing only classical music on the jukebox.

Drucker had a sweet tooth and was a bit miffed that he couldn’t buy any decent cakes in Brum. In those days it wasn’t commonplace for amateur bakers to battle it out to knock up a show-stopping Schwarzwalderkirschtorte on your telly box.

To satisfy his sugar cravings, he opened a combination coffee shop and cake shop in fashionable Moseley (natch), but it nearly went tits-up as hipsters of yore had not yet developed their culture-vulture tendencies. They were more used to iced buns than pricey fancy-pants Viennese patisserie, but they were soon hooked on the new high-quality European sugar-rush. Drucker went on to open many more branches, starting the trend for coffee shop chains.

Photo CC By: Elliott Brown

By Julia Gilbert

Part-time misanthrope; human 1st, female 2nd. Multifaceted.

Part-time misanthrope; human 1st, female 2nd. Multifaceted.

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  • The Ajanta on Bristol Road, Selly Oak used to be opposite where Lidl is now. But, in about 1956 I had my first real coffee there. It was a bit weak and frothy but to this 17 year old it was a taste of sophistication. Until then, ‘coffee’ came in a bottle labelled ‘Camp’ and was a gravy-like mixture that contained something called chicory and tasted like – gravy. Instant coffee had not yet reached our home.