Are café drinks more expensive than 100 years ago?

Putting the finishing polish on the revised Persistent Spirit (novel), I needed to confirm the price of a cup of chocolate in 1902.

The nearest I could get with any certainty was 1912, at which time you could acquire a cup of  tea, coffee or cocoa for 2d (equivalent to under 1p at the time) and a cup of chocolate for 3d (1¼p), from W. Sandrock & Nordheim Ltd., 280 Bishopsgate, London (it looks a little different now).

An interesting online tool helped me to work back to discover the likely prices ten years earlier – a little under 3d as it turned out.

Using this tool to compare 1912 and 2010 (the most recent year available), based on the comparative inflation indexes, a 2010 cup of coffee should cost around £1.10. You may find a filter coffee (or, like our local greasy-spoon, an instant!) for that price, but a cup of cocoa?

The 1912 prices for the above hot drinks are interesting when comparing against food prices. In 1909, Harris’s Restaurant in Aldgate (admittedly a lower class of dining compared to the Metropole Hotel restaurant right next door), offered sausage, bread, potatoes and onions (classic British fare, eh?) for 4d ( around 1⅔p at the time and £1.40 in today’s money), and a 10oz steak with onions for 6d (around 2½p, now about £2.10). Food seems now to be a great deal more expensive.

Try it yourself:

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