Chicory is a root that can be roasted, ground and brewed like coffee and, in some parts of the world, is combined with coffee to make a unique breakfast beverage. In the US, New Orleans is a city that is known for the combination of coffee and chicory, but that pairing traces back to the city’s French roots. Chicory came into popular usage in France as a coffee substitute during a coffee shortage. It has a coffee-like flavor, though it contains no caffeine, and can be used to convincingly stretch existing coffee supplies. Over time, the combination of coffee and chicory simply became beloved by many (especially by fans of the beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans), even though we aren’t currently facing a coffee shortage.
Coffee chicory has a relatively high sugar concentration and that sugar is caramelized during the roasting process. The caramelized sugar cuts the bitterness of the root and, especially when combined with coffee, yields a cup that is strong and smooth. The chicory is less aromatic than coffee so, while smoother, it is not necessarily “better” than coffee alone. Some will love it and others may prefer regular coffee, but it can be a delicious (and cost-effective) beverage when done well.
While the root is used as a hot beverage option, the whole chicory plant is actually edible. They produce beautiful blue flowers and their leaves are frequently used as salad greens