Ultra Swank - Retro Adventures

London Coffee Bars in the 50s and 60s

Written by Christopher Alm • April 30th, 2009

Before Starbucks, Espresso House, Nero and other major coffeehouse chains invaded every city on the western hemisphere there were thousands of smaller coffee houses or coffee bars as they were referred to back then. London, England saw a major expansion of these quaint places in the early 1950s, right about the same time as the first Espresso machine was introduced there.

The clip is taken from the DVD Look At Life – Swinging London, which features sixteen kitschy and fascinating short films about London life in the 1950s and 1960s. Groovy!

A joyous celebration of 1960s London from the colourful ‘Look At Life’ series, produced by the Rank Organisation every week for screening in Odeon cinemas. Explore London’s street markets with Sid James, browse the boutiques of Carnaby Street and dine at the top of the Post Office Tower. Welcome to Swingin’ London, home of ‘scooter boys’ and ‘it’ girls! Features sixteen short films: Report on the River, Shopping by the Ton, Rising to High Office, Coffee Bars, In Gear, Change at the Tower, Fire Over London, Goodbye, Piccadilly, Market Place, Members Only, Top People, On the Meter, Eating High, Down London River,

Christopher Alm

Christopher founded Ultra Swank in 2005. Has a crush on mid-century graphic design, defunct airlines, Disneyland and the Century 21 Exposition. Is a collector of easy listening music from the 60s and 70s and a Swedish expat living in Barcelona, Spain.

Find out more about Christopher Alm

  • Fhardyfan

    Great atmosphere!

  • I wish London still looked like this, although there are still some old double decker Routemaster buses in use which adds to the mid-century atmosphere there.

  • The blog is looking great. I love this clip. So cool and hip. Cheers!

  • A very interesting report for you to read

  • Cafe's before looks pretty great. Until now some cafe owners keep this kind of culture and ambiance in their cafe to attract customers.

  • The ambiance looks pretty great. I hope Starbucks and any coffee stores have some few 50's to 60's look cafes.

  • I just sent this post to a bunch of my friends as I agree with most of what you’re saying here and the way you’ve presented it is awesome.

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  • Pat Charman

    I tried to tell my son and his wife about “frothy” espresso coffee back in the 50’s and 60’s and the Espresso Coffee Bars, but they thought I was joking. Pat

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