Apologies to anyone from Vienna, I’m sure coffee these days is nothing like what I’m about to describe! I have never been to Vienna, and when I think of the city, I think of Harry Lime and the Third Man set in the dismal days after the war. Philip Harben who was writing a little before Graham Greene wrote his novel, describes how to make coffee using powdered milk. It may sound disgusting to us, but in 1946 powdered milk was probably all that was available:
Mix 2 oz powdered milk with 1 pint if water ans heat it very hot. stirring well to prevent it catching – dried milk even more liable to catch than fresh milk. meanwhile mix 1½oz of freshly ground coffee with ½ pint of boiling water and allow to brew. Pour it through a strainer, and keep the grounds in the strainer. Now pour the milk through the same strainer with the coffee grounds still in it. These grounds act like a sort of gravel-bed filter and help to strain out any little lumps or particles of undissolved milk powder that there may be – and there will be.
You now have a quite good cup of coffee, but I lack something. By using powdered milk instead of fresh milk you are depriving the coffee of its cream, without which the coffee feels rough. So whip up a little condensed milk and float a spoonful of it on top of each cup of coffee.
What a performance! What a rigmarole! it must have been so important in those days to offer a decent cup of coffee; I’m sure Philip Harben’s guests were very grateful and appreciative of what he gave the, and we, looking back, shouldn’t sneer or deprecate what people in those more difficult circumstances did!