Over the course of its history, coffee has seen experimented with by supplementing it with a large number of additives, among them bread crusts, carob beans, chickpeas, cranberries, currants and cocoa shell to name a few. However, chicory is the one that has stood the test of time. This blue flower bearing plant, with origins in Europe, has been the most successful additive/substitute. The plant leaves are at times used as salad greens while the root is roasted and used to make either a coffee substitute or a coffee supplement; the best known being New Orleans style coffee which can contain as much as 40 per cent chicory.
How Chicory was Introduced into Coffee
In 1805, in an attempt to cripple Britain’s economy, Napoleon implemented the Continental System which was designed to prevent the entry of British goods into mainland Europe. The only thing the embargo achieved was shortage of coffee in Napoleon’s empire. Hence, the people of France started looking for replacements or add ons which would make the coffee last longer. The easily accessible, local plant of chicory came to be used for making blends of coffee. Once the embargo was lifted, the French continued to enjoy the chicory coffee.
The French took their liking for chicory across the pond to the French held port of New Orleans. Nearly half a century later, history repeated itself and the Union blockade of New Orleans again created a shortage of coffee in the Confederate territories. Once again chicory rose to the occasion and became the most favoured coffee substitute.
In the first half of 1900 a large number of blends sold throughout the United States contained chicory, as it was more economical. Additionally the overall quality of coffee at the time was fairly bad and it was hard to distinguish between the two. In time however, mixed coffee fell out of favour with the consumers and coffee blends with chicory took a back seat in the coffee market.
New Orleans iconic coffee houses like Café Du Monde kept up the tradition of serving chicory coffee and over time became synonymous with the culture of the city. With the introduction of pre-packed iced teas, the popularity of New Orleans Style coffee is becoming increasingly popular.
Iced Coffee Vs New Orleans Iced Coffee
The arrival of summer months means many people prefer to switch from steaming hot cup of coffee to a nice tall glass of an iced drink. This fact is borne out by the twenty per cent increase in the sales of iced drinks reported by a leading chain coffee shop. There are many different methods of preparing the beverage but the major difference between them revolves around the use of heat.
Iced coffee is prepared by first brewing coffee normally using method of choice like drip, French press or pour over and allowing it to cool down and serving it over ice. New Orleans Cold brew requires coffee grounds to interact with water at room temperature over a long period of time, at least twelve hours. Since no hot water is used the acids and oils that impart a bitter taste to coffee brewed with hot water are never released.
Cold brewing method retains about half the acidity of coffee brewed with hot water. It is easier on the stomach and has a smoother, more chocolate like flavour minus the bitterness. The beverage also retains more aroma with stronger flavour profile. Ice coffee on the other hand gives a watered down, thing flavour due loads of ice.
How to Make New Orleans Style Iced Coffee
Making New Orleans style iced coffee is fairly simple.
- Start with a coffee that complements the nutty tones of chicory. Coffee with fruity or floral tones is not advised. Use one part chicory and three parts coffee.
- Grind the beans at the coarse setting of the grinder. They should resemble cornmeal, something appropriate for a French press.
- Mix the one part coffee/chicory mixture with six parts water in a large non reactive container. like glass or stainless steel. Allow the mixture to steep for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature.
- Finally filter the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or cloth. The concentrate can be stored in refrigerator for around one week.
To prepare the drink for serving, add ice to a glass top it off with one part concentrate and one part milk. While a one to one ration is recommended, there is nothing saying you can’t adjust according to personal taste. It can be sweetened with sweetener of choice like maple syrup. The natural sweetness of milk balances the nutty flavour of the concentrate very nicely and many people find additional sweeteners to be unnecessary.