Camp Coffee is a concentrated coffee-flavoured syrup, which was first produced in 1876 by Paterson & Sons Ltd., in a plant on Charlotte Street, Glasgow. Almost one hundred years later, in 1974, businessman Dennis Jenks merged his business with Paterson to form Paterson Jenks plc. In 1984, Paterson Jenks plc was bought by McCormick & Company. McCormick UK Ltd. assimilated Paterson Jenks plc into the Schwartz brand.
Camp Coffee is a brown liquid, consisting of water, sugar, 4% caffeine-free coffee essence, and 26% chicory essence. It is generally used as a substitute for coffee, by mixing with hot water or with warm milk in much the same way as cocoa, or added to cold milk and ice to make an iced coffee. It is commonly found in the free-from or baking aisles of supermarkets because it is also used as an ingredient in coffee cake and other confectionery.
Legend has it that Camp Coffee was originally developed as a means of brewing coffee quickly for military purposes. The label is classical in tone, drawing on the romance of Empire. It includes a drawing of a Gordon Highlander (allegedly Major General Sir Hector MacDonald) and a Sikh soldier sitting together outside a tent, from which flies a flag bearing the drink's slogan, "Ready Aye Ready". That was also the motto of the Frontier Force Rifles of the old British Indian Army, and the Frontier Force Rifles, now part of the Pakistan Army, still use the motto. In this context, the Scots word "aye" has the meaning of "always" rather than "yes", and indicates, in the case of the drink, that it is "Ready Always Ready" to be made.
The original label, by William Victor Wrigglesworth, depicted a Sikh servant waiting on a kilted Scots soldier. The main feature of this label was that the server carried a tray on which there was a bottle of Camp Coffee, which carried the same label showing a bottle of Camp Coffee and so on into infinity. A later version of the label, introduced in the mid-20th century, removed the tray from the picture, thus removing the infinite bottles element, and was seen as an attempt to avoid the connotation that the Sikh was a servant, although he was still shown waiting at attention while the Scottish soldier sipped his coffee. The current version, introduced in 2006, depicts the Sikh as a soldier, now sitting beside his former boss, and with a cup and saucer of his own.
In late 1975, Camp Coffee became a popular alternative to instant coffee in the UK, after the price of coffee doubled due to shortages caused by heavy frosts in Brazil.
Today, Camp Coffee is an item of British nostalgia, because many remember it from their childhood. It is still a popular ingredient for home bakers making coffee-flavoured cake and coffee-flavoured buttercream.
Camp Coffee has a smooth flavour of chicory and coffee but with a very sweet, predominantly chicory aftertaste
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