What is Chicory? Should You Try It?
You've heard of chicory. Often it is seen as a filler in inexpensive coffees found in hospitality and foodservice applications. Because of this, many people may think chicory is a substandard substitute, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Let's learn more about what chicory is and how to enjoy it.
What is Chicory?
Chicory is an herbal plant from the dandelion family. It has a woody, hairy stem, light purple flowers, and lance-like leaves. Other names for chicory include wild endive, wild bachelor's buttons, blue dandelion, blue daisy, succory, and cornflower. The plant can grow to almost five feet tall with leaves that are four to twelve inches long and one to three inches wide. The flowers are around one to one and a half inches wide.
History of Chicory
In Europe and Asia, chicory was used as a beverage before coffee was introduced to the areas. Even after coffee came to the Europeans, France used chicory during the early 19th century while Napoleon's blockade kept coffee from reaching the country. Napoleon even encouraged France to grow and consume chicory locally rather than importing coffee.
Up until the mid-1800s France was able to produce enough chicory to meet demand. In the late 1800s, chicory had to be imported from Belgium as production couldn't be met locally. This was exacerbated by the rest of Europe consuming chicory in the face of the expensive coffee. This was when chicory began being used as a filler in coffee by unscrupulous coffee importers.
How is Chicory Used?
Much like the coffee bean, chicory is roasted and ground before being brewed into a beverage. Unlike coffee beans, the root of the chicory is the portion that is used. Though the flavor and effects may be similar to coffee, the main difference is the lack of caffeine.
Not only is chicory used as a beverage, but you can also find chicory leaves and flowers in salads and other foods.
Chicory in the New World
During the American Revolution, chicory was used as a coffee substitute by the Confederates. While the Union blockaded the port of New Orleans, the people of Louisiana added chicory to their coffee to stretch it out and make it last longer.
Chicory in New Orleans
You might know chicory as a New Orleans coffee substitute or as a blend with coffee. Since the American Revolution and the difficulty accessing coffee, along with the history of the French using chicory to replace or bulk up the coffee they did have, it made sense that the primarily French city of New Orleans would adopt the same practice.
Health Benefits of Chicory
In addition to chicory being naturally caffeine-free, chicory root is also a source of the prebiotic fiber inulin which has been linked to gut health and weight loss. It is also a great source of vitamin B6 and manganese, both linked to brain health. Also, chicory may be known to lower blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and aid digestion.
Caution with Chicory
For those who experience ragweed or birch allergies, chicory can affect them negatively by triggering their allergies. For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, they may wish to check with their doctor prior to consuming chicory in case it may cause a negative effect.
If you're interested in trying chicory in your coffee you're in luck! Our New Orleans Style Chicory coffee blend is a delicate blend of our pure arabica Colombian beans, our dark French Roast, and chicory. This creates a true New Orleans traditional blend with a heavy body, smoky overtones, and a surprising brightness. Reach for our New Orleans Style Chicory coffee blend for a unique coffee drinking experience that will transport you to the French Quarter with the first sip.