If you’ve ever had a cup of coffee in New Orleans, chances are you’ve enjoyed a longstanding NOLA tradition: chicory coffee.
Chicory is a blue-flowered plant in the dandelion family, and its roots have been cultivated and used for food and medicine as far back as ancient Egypt.
Though when people first began mixing coffee with chicory is unclear, the use of chicory in coffee became particularly popular in 19th century France after Napoleon initiated the “Continental Blockade.” This trade blockade caused a major coffee shortage in Napoleonic France, so to make their limited supplies of coffee stretch, the French began roasting, grinding and mixing chicory root with coffee.
Though chicory root lacks caffeine, it was widely available at the time and shares a similar flavor to coffee when roasted, making it a logical additive. Some even used chicory as a substitute for coffee altogether.
After the embargo was lifted in 1814, the use of chicory as a coffee additive continued to grow throughout France and its areas of influence, like the French-founded city of New Orleans. By 1860, France was exporting 16 million pounds of chicory.
However, it wasn’t until the American Civil War that coffee and chicory became truly popular stateside. When Union naval blockades cut off the port of New Orleans, one of the largest importers of coffee in the United States at the time, desperate Louisianans began mixing chicory with coffee to stretch out their supply. Even after coffee became readily available again, the practice stuck, giving way to one of our favorite coffee traditions.
For a taste of this tradition, check out our bold and flavorful Coffee & Chicory blend. Try it café au lait style with steamed milk for an even more traditional flavor!