If you’ve ever tasted New Orleans-style coffee, you may know that some of its unique flavour is due to the addition of chicory. Chicory is the root of an endive plant, which gets roasted, ground, and added into coffee. The use of chicory was introduced by the French as a way of dealing with coffee shortages, and the influence also be found outside New Orleans, with chicory being an ingredient in South Indian filter coffee and Vietnamese-American iced coffee.
On its own, chicory can be brewed to make a caffeine-free alternative to coffee; it can also be mixed and brewed with coffee to add body while reducing the coffee’s bitterness. Although adding chicory to coffee may have started out of necessity, it is both delicious and can offer some health benefits.
Chicory cuts down on caffeine in coffee
Chicory contains some trace minerals and inulin, which is a fibre that helps with blood sugar management and gut health. Although the evidence for these health benefits is still thin — the chicory is, after all, brewed into a cup of coffee, which means most of these nutrients probably don’t make it in there — I would argue that the most compelling argument for adding chicory to your coffee is that it is a tasty way to cut down on your caffeine intake.
If you, like me, live for your morning (and mid-morning, and mid-day, and mid-afternoon) coffee, there are going to be times when the caffeine levels become a bit much. However, one of the things about being a coffee-lover is that even when you know you should cut back on caffeine, the ritual of a hot cup of coffee is soothing in a way that very few things are.
When that happens, instead of cutting out caffeine altogether, mixing your regular coffee with chicory can offer moderation without the feeling of deprivation. This is especially true if you make café au lait, which is made using one part brewed coffee, and one part steamed or scalded milk. The result is a full cup of coffee, with half the mixture being milk.
How to add chicory to your coffee
Some coffee blends, such as Café du Monde, sell coffee with chicory already added in, which you brew like you would any other coffee. You can also buy chicory separately, to add into the coffee of your choice.
A good place to start is to add it at a one to three ratio of ground chicory to ground coffee, at which point you’ll brew the mixture like you would any other pot of coffee. Depending on your preferences for taste and caffeine levels, you can adjust that ratio to include more or less chicory.
If you want to make café au lait, you can heat up the milk of your choice to just below boiling, at which point you mix it in a 1:1 ratio of hot milk to hot coffee. To add a bit of froth to your café au lait, you can pour the mixture between two cups until small bubbles form.