What is Chicory Coffee? Health Benefits and Taste

what is chicory coffee? Chicory is a bluish-lilac summer plant that resembles a dandelion. Chicory coffee is made from it's roots

A Subjective Writing on the Health Benefits of Chicory Coffee: this beverage has numerous beneficial effects and can even be used as a healing elixir for specific conditions.

However, calling it “coffee” might be an overstatement – let’s see why.

What is Chicory Coffee?

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a bluish-lilac summer plant that resembles a dandelion. It has a sturdy, hairy stem, and its flowers are plate-like and round.

Chicory is not a demanding plant and can be found on roadsides and pathways. It’s so accessible that our ancestors could easily brew and drink it. 

Chicory coffee history 

Its medicinal properties were already discovered in the Middle Ages, using its leaves and roots to brew healing infusions.

The connections with New Orleans

Chicory coffee became popular in New Orleans during the American Civil War in the 1860s when there was a shortage of coffee due to the Union blockade, which disrupted coffee imports.

As a result, the people of New Orleans turned started to brew chicory root as a coffee substitute. They stretched their coffee supplies with chicory and created a more robust and flavorful drink. This practice continued even after the Civil War when coffee beans became more available. Drinking chicory coffee became a beloved tradition and remains a distinctive aspect of New Orleans’ coffee culture. 

Even if it’s a much more full-bodied and bitter coffee experience, they still drink it.

Chicory Coffee in Europe

It is the same story but in Europe. The term “chicory coffee” became popular during the 1800s when the Napoleonic Wars led to a severe coffee shortage in Europe. 

So, chicory stepped into the spotlight as a coffee substitute. 

chicory roots have many health benefits

Chicory Roots – The Main Ingredient

The brew is made from the root of the chicory plant. The root is ground and roasted before being mixed with hot water to create the illusion of a coffee-like experience. The ground chicory root is coarser than coffee beans, and its fibers create larger granules in the mixture.

Chicory roots contain essential minerals such as 

  • protein, 
  • carbohydrates, 
  • fats, 
  • inulin, 
  • manganese, 
  • vitamin C, 
  • vitamin B, 
  • phosphorus, 
  • and folate.

Does Chicory have caffeine?

It’s crucial to note that chicory root does not contain caffeine. While vitamins and manganese can support brain function, they function more as helpful nutrients rather than effective stimulants.

The caffeine-free chicory coffee won’t wake you up, but it’s often blended with real coffee to energize you.

The Advantages of Chicory Coffee

The drink has a variety of benefits. It’s easy to prepare, and based on health benefits, consuming it may be a more pleasant experience than drinking ginger tea—or other herbal elixirs. 

Chicory is a crucial component of a healthy diet as it:

  • Acts like a detox: cleansing the liver, kidneys, and spleen
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, thus aiding heart and circulatory health
  • It supports digestion and reduces the risk of digestive disorders
  • Lowers blood sugar levels
  • Stimulates appetite
  • It has effective anti-inflammatory properties
  • It helps prevent osteoporosis.

Sounds good, huh? Let’s see the ‘dark side’ of chicory if it has any. 

The Disadvantages of Chicory

Due to its dandelion-like characteristics, chicory might trigger an allergic reaction if you’re allergic to ragweed or other pollens. Of course, it’s not 100% certain, so it’s worth a try if you want to drink. 

Note that if you experience any adverse symptoms, consult your doctor!

Chicory coffee is not recommended for pregnant women, but breastfeeding mothers can enjoy it without worry.

Chicory as a coffee substitute

Drinking chicory coffee might be beneficial for you. However, I don’t consider it a coffee substitute. Why? Because it tastes awful.

The taste of chicory coffee

In my opinion, chicory has a taste likened to mediocre black coffee. More precisely, it resembles poorly prepared black coffee with an earthy flavor. During one of my coffee workshops, we filtered a low-grade, dark-roast coffee used in offices. Chicory drinks might have an even worse taste than that. 

There is no trace of fruity, exciting, pleasant flavors or good aftertaste. That implies it’s more common to drink chicory as a milk coffee. 

Some people mix it with malt: chicory malt coffee is already a different genre (I have yet to try that one).

All I can say is, drink your coffee how you like it – but I’d never recommend mixing chicory coffee with traditional coffee. And keep chicory away from specialty coffee.

a prepared chicory coffee from a chicory recipe

How to make chicory coffee?

First step: buy chicory coffee!

Second step: make it!

  • You will need an espresso.
  • Steep it in one cup of hot (194 degrees Fahrenheit) water, as you would with tea, for 3-4 minutes.
  • Stir occasionally.
  • Flavor to your liking!

Instant chicory coffee is also available.

I won’t hold you back if you feel like making your chicory coffee. I can only repeat myself: feel free to try it, and because of its beneficial effects, I recommend its consumption. (Occasionally!)

But if you plan a terrace-sitting, contemplative, slow coffee experience on a Sunday morning, then chicory might not be your cup of tea.

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