For the United States, the period after the Second World War was extraordinary for the explosion of consumerism as the country looked to rebuild quickly.

While Britain struggled for years with rationing, our cousins ‘Across the Pond’ were scrabbling to snap up the latest technology, from washing machines to television sets.

The 1950s was also a period of radical design, for example, with cars sprouting fins, mimicking the new generation of jet aircraft which were helping the country reposition itself as a superpower.

Back in Britain, life was a great deal more austere, with people still struggling with ration books and rebuilding shattered cities.

But as the Teddy Boys greased their quiffs, the popularity of coffee soared and a little machine known as the Atomic was born.

Legend has it that this futuristically-shaped coffee maker was designed in the UK in the late 1940s but the first Atomics were made in Italy with Giordano Robbiati of Milan being the primary patent holder.

Now it has found its way back to the UK and is being distributed by Richard and Lisa Schnellmann, who are based in Cumnor. But their Atomic connection stretches back decades, to 1962 to be precise.

Australian Mrs Schnellmann explained: “My Dad had one — it was in the family and I grew up with it.”

She and Mr Schnellmann inherited the Atomic and brought it with them to the UK three years ago, but it was only when they started making coffee for friends that they realised their rarity.

It emerged that production of the original had ceased in 1986, after a fire at the factory, so the story goes.

Mrs Schnellmann explained: “We told people we would try and get hold of one for them but then we could not find them here at all. So we started searching around the Internet and, about a year ago, came across someone who had just started reproducing them.”

That person was Jack Grieves, an Australian, who was looking to tap into his home market, which had been dominated by a single shop owner in Sydney who had kept her supplier a close secret for years.

He agreed to let the Schnellmanns take on the distribution for Europe and America and now Added Ingredients in Stert Street, Abingdon, and Goring Hardware in Goring are the first shops in Europe to stock a reproduction Atomic. So exactly how does it work?

Made of solid aluminium, it is powered by steam as it sits on top of the stove, much like a traditional Italian espresso maker.

Mr Schnellmann explained: “Most coffee machines you see now have all sorts of bells and whistles on them but this is easy to use and clean and will last several lifetimes, as our own model is proving.”

Such is the quality and simplicity of the engineering, a model now sits in the Science Museum in London, and entire books have been written on the little machine.

The Schnellmanns admit they know little about being sole distributors of classic coffee machines.

They aim to push it out to about 500 stores across the UK. It retails at £279, which is not cheap, but Mr Schnellmann argues that this is cheaper than a trendy ‘big’ coffee machine which typically costs £400 plus and the Schnellmans would argue the coffee does not taste nearly as good.

The idea for retailing is to place the machine with small businesses with a flexible approach, offering deals for individual shops.

Of course, the couple would love to see the Atomic in the likes of Harrods and Fortnum and Mason, but they realise how hard it is to influence the buyers of major retailers.

The Internet is already proving a useful tool, with sales starting to go out across Europe and America, while a site for enthusiasts has been set up on Facebook, and it is available for sale on eBay and Amazon.

Mr Schnellmann said: “There is a difficult balance to be struck between trying to generate as many sales on the web, without encroaching on the territory of the small shops.”

Orders are also coming in for spare parts for the original machines, which the Schnellmanns are happy to service Mr Schnellmann, 61, is delighted to have started the business, having looked for a new challenge since returning to England and Oxfordshire, where he has fond memories as a former pupil of Abingdon School.

After leaving school, he worked in the brewing industry for ten years before seeking a new life in Australia in the 1970s where he became a miner.

Then he studied computers and then went on to work for IT giant Nixdorf, where he met Lisa. He ended up working across Europe and the United States in project management, before becoming a management consultant with Pricewaterhousecooper.

Future plans include a range of additions, such as cups and milk jugs for cappuccino making (the Atomic has a wand attached for steaming milk). Coffee beans could also be a complementary purchase.

But with an Atomic, it is clear you are not just buying a coffee machine, but a piece of history with a style that harks back to an exciting era of change and challenge, and a name reflecting the development of the greatest threat of the 20th century.

Communism, spies, mass industrialisation and the American dream — it’s all wrapped up in a little machine that sits on top of your cooker.

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