Many drinks are commonly taken and known as coffee substitutes, almost always by people who cannot consume caffeine or have some intolerance. Among these alternative infusions is chicory coffee, a drink similar to other cereal and root beverages on the market but with very particular properties.
Originally, chicory coffee was very popular due to food shortages. It was drunk instead of coffee (or the original coffee was adulterated with a percentage of chicory) because it was much cheaper to produce. Not surprisingly, it grows wild in the countryside and is easy to find on a walk-in in many regions of some countries.
Nowadays, its consumption has become popular again, not for economic reasons, but for health reasons: there is much more information about the great medicinal benefits of this plant.
Most of the options you have for buying chicory coffee are soluble chicory preparations. But you can also buy the chicory root, ground or unground, to prepare the coffee yourself in a more artisanal way.
What is chicory coffee?
The first thing we need to clarify is what we mean by chicory root coffee. You may have seen or eaten chicory in salads (you know the term Radicchio, as it is called in Italy?). Still, you probably don’t associate those big, green leaves with the preparation of anything even close to coffee. Right?
The explanation is quite simple: chicory is consumed in the leaves and the root. And it is precisely the root that is cut, dried and roasted before packaging or grinding (just like coffee). Once roasted and ground, chicory root is prepared the same way as coffee beans.
It is also sold in instant form (soluble chicory) so that the infusion can be obtained by simply adding hot water on top and stirring.
Chicory is also widely used with other infusions, such as malt and chicory coffee or barley and chicory coffee. But on this page, we will always refer to 100% chicory coffee without mixing it with any other ingredient.
What is chicory coffee-like, and what does it taste like?
Chicory coffee has a mild taste, quite pleasant, similar to other infusions. But it does not have much to do with the taste of traditional coffee. Because of its mildness, there is no need to add sugar or milk (although some people do, for taste, not for necessity).
Chicory infusion is not as bitter a drink as coffee. It has a slightly bitter taste but is not as recognisable. The colour of the infusion is quite similar to that of the coffee we know.
Main benefits of chicory coffee
The health benefits of chicory coffee are many, not least because it is a plant that has been used in cooking since time immemorial for its medicinal properties. It is important to distinguish between the two parts of chicory that are consumed separately: the leaves (as food) and the root (for infusions).
- It is a very digestive infusion. Its active ingredients increase the secretion of bile and gastric juices, which facilitate digestion, especially of fats.
- It helps to regulate intestinal functions and to combat the appearance of parasites.
- It promotes circulation and thus regulates blood pressure.
- It has diuretic properties.
- Does not contain caffeine and does not affect the nervous system.
- It is used to produce inulin. Inulin is a sweetening component which is also used as a food supplement.
- It has a mild laxative effect.
- It has a high concentration of vitamins and minerals.
- It has relaxing and analgesic properties. It is ideal for taking at night, for example.
Chicory coffee: contraindications
- People should not take it with very high blood pressure or those suffering from anaemia.
- Due to the absence of caffeine, it lacks the benefits of traditional coffee in terms of short-term memory and concentration.
- It may contain traces of gluten, so if you have coeliac disease, it is best avoided if you are not 100% sure where it comes from and how it is packaged.
How is chicory coffee prepared?
At this point, you may be curious and want to know how to make chicory coffee. Once you have found out where to buy chicory, the rest is very easy. We will summarise it in two points, depending on the type or format of chicory you are taking home:
- If we buy soluble chicory, we only have to pour the amount we want into the cup and add water or hot milk to taste. Stir well until the desired infusion texture is achieved and eliminate the presence of grains or large lumps in the drink.
- If we buy chicory for a coffee machine, we will prepare it as if it were filter coffee. You can use an Italian coffee maker or a drip coffee maker. Normally the root will come already roasted and ground (if not, we can always grind it ourselves to a medium coarseness), and we will serve it in the filter of our coffee machine in the proportion that we usually use for coffee. We can even put a certain amount of coffee in the filter and complete the dose with the amount of chicory we like best for the mixture.
Where can I buy chicory coffee?
When buying chicory coffee, several options are available, although not all are within reach. The first option is always to consult herbalists or specialist health food shops. You can also look in supermarkets and department stores, but they are not as likely to carry it.
The second option is to go to the Internet, where the alternatives multiply. You will find many soluble chicory brands (100 or 250-gram jars, such as the classic Eko or other cereal-based drinks such as malt coffee or barley coffee).
On the other hand, chicory for coffee is marketed in packets similar to ground coffee, 250 or 500 grams. We have already said that its use should be similar to traditional filter coffee.
Among the brands of chicory coffee, Nestlé and Biocop stand out. Both brands sell instant or soluble chicory jars in 100 or 200 grams. Moreover, allows us to enjoy organic chicory (its products are somewhat more expensive, for this reason).