Perhaps you’ve seen along the roadside, some plants rising above their surroundings with pert little blue flowers that look like the cross of a dandelion with an aster. This is the common chicory, Latin name Cichorium intybus. They are considered weeds, and to be honest, the stalk that supports the flowers does little to improve their appearance. Yet, this unobtrusive plant is of positive interest historically.
In France for instance, chicory, for the coffee drinker, was welcome. In his conflict with England, Napoleon wanted to wreak havoc on their economic system. He, with the cooperation of some other countries, enacted a blockade. There were ramifications that led to a shortage of coffee.
It was already known that properly processed root of the chicory plant made an acceptable coffee extender, so the limited coffee received through shipping could be modified to provide a more satisfactory supply of that most essential beverage. Eventually, some of the modified coffee reached the United States and Louisiana.
Chicory in Coffee Becomes Popular in America
One of the largest importers of coffee in the U.S. was the Port of New Orleans. When, during the U.S. Civil War, that port was cut off by the North, Louisiana increased in their use of chicory as a coffee extender.
This practice became a deeply entrenched tradition. Even today, there are those who prefer to drink their coffee blended with Chicory.
Seeing is Believing
Care to see the “real thing” being made? This is a very pleasant five minute video about just that!
Note:You might also enjoy How Coffee Aroma Relates to Skunk Stench
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: Master Gardener Program: Chicory, Cichorium intybus
- Encyclopaedia Brittanica: Continental System
- Smithsonian Magazine: The History of the Chicory-Coffee Mix That New Orleans Made Its Own