Coffee culture has a long history with coffee alternatives and additives. It seems that nearly since it’s discovery, people have been trying to replace, alter and enhance it. In Mark Pendergrast’s book Uncommon Grounds, he names more than 65 things that have been used for coffee additives. Some of my favorites are brewery waste, burnt rags, and dog biscuits.
“The list of coffee adulterants indeed is amazing: almonds, arrowhead, asparagus seeds and stalks, baked horse liver, barberries, barley, beechmast, beetroot, box seeds, bracken, bran, bread crusts, brewery waste, brick dust, burnt rags, burrs, carob beans, carrot, chickpeas, chicory, chrysanthemum seeds, coal ashes, cocoa shells, comfrey roots, cranberries, currants, dahlia tubers…” (Uncommon Grounds, 60) You get the picture.
Of all the things that have been added to coffee over the years, chicory, a blue flowered plant native to Europe, is probably the most familiar and successful. The leaves of the plant are sometimes use as salad greens. The root is roasted, ground and used to produce a bitter “coffee substitute.” It is probably most well known in New Orleans style coffee which can be up to 40 percent chicory.