Monday, October 17, 2016

TX takes LA: Chicory

by Rachel Hamburger, intern

It’s time for the second installment of TX takes LA! Today I’ll be telling y’all about chicory. It’s in lots of the coffee here in Louisiana, and I have set out to figure out what chicory actually is. I had never heard of chicory before living in Louisiana, and when I first heard about it was thoroughly confused. What is it? Why is it mixed in with the coffee here? How does it taste? Well, I found an answer for all these questions.


What is it?

Chicory used in coffee comes from the root of the blue-flowered plant cichorium intybus, an herbaceous plant of the dandelion family. It is roasted and ground, then mixed with coffee. It doesn’t have caffeine, but has a similar taste to coffee. Its main claim to fame here in Louisiana is in café au laits, but is also served black. When ground, it looks much like your typical ground coffee as well, but is a little bit darker.

Why is it mixed in with the coffee?

The use of chicory in coffee became popularized in France during Napoleon’s Continental Blockade in 1808, which resulted in a major coffee shortage. The French began mixing it with their coffee to stretch their coffee supply. Once the blockade lifted, the use of chicory in coffee came to a halt, but the practice of using chicory in coffee made it over to the French colonies in North America. The Acadians brought it down with them to Louisiana from Canada, just like they did with beignets.

The use of chicory in coffee became wildly popular in Louisiana during the American Civil War. Union naval blockades cut off the port of New Orleans, and coffee shipments could not get through. Similar to the French during Napoleon’s Continental Blockade, the people of New Orleans began mixing chicory with their coffee to make their coffee supply last. After this, the use of chicory in coffee became a tradition in New Orleans, hence why it is often in our coffee today.

How does it taste?

It is somewhat difficult to put how chicory tastes into words, as it does taste very similar to regular coffee. Chicory has an almost chocolate and slight anise flavor, and many believe it offsets the bitter taste of coffee.

The takeaway:

Coffee with chicory is a tradition in Louisiana that is loved by people all over. It adds just a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ to the flavor of your coffee without making it taste completely different. In my opinion, the best way to drink coffee with chicory is a café au lait with a side of beignets (and by side, I mean a mountain of beignets).

If you want to try some for yourself, grab a bag of coffee chicory from Baton Rouge coffee roasters, Cafeciteaux.

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