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Chicory Coffee 101

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Photo by Jennifer Hitchcock
Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde / Photo by Jennifer Hitchcock

If you’ve ever had an early morning rendezvous after a long night in New Orleans, then you know that the coffee in the Crescent City is a little different. Finding your usual cup of Arabica coffee can be a challenge because of the long standing New Orleans tradition of adding chicory to cup o’ joe.

The root of the wild chicory plant has a woody, slightly bitter flavor that’s been used in coffee as far back as the early 1800’s, when Napoleon’s Continental Blockade caused a restriction on coffee imports to France. In desperation, the innovative French began adding ground chicory to the coffee as a way to stretch their supplies

Chicory ended up in the coffee cups of New Orleans in much the same way. A Union blockade during the Civil War cut off the coffee supply to the port, so residents began looking for a way to extend their reserves. Chicory was one of the one of the additives used. By the time the blockade ended, New Orleans had fallen in love with the flavor, and so this culinary tradition remains to this day.

If you want to drink your chicory coffee like a New Orleans native, skip the creamer – though for heaven’s sake, don’t drink it black! Add a bit of hot milk to make a café au lait, and don’t forget a beignet dusted with confectioner’s sugar to complete the Big Easy chicory experience.