Chicory-based drinks might be familiar if you’ve ever had beignets or other pastries in New Orleans since chicory coffee is the traditional drink served with them. Outside of the French Quarter, many people aren’t aware of this delicious, earthy drink at all. Frequently used as a coffee substitute, chicory root tea is actually more closely related to dandelions and daisies.
Chicory root tea is a tisane created by infusing hot water with the dried roots of the common chicory plant. This weed is a relative of the daisy and dandelion and is associated with many health benefits. Chicory is used both in beverages and eaten raw in foods such as salads.
Want to try chicory but you’re not sure where to start? Read on to learn more about the common chicory plant and how to prepare it to make chicory tea.
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What Is Chicory Tea?
Chicory tea is an herbal infusion or tisane made from common chicory, an herbaceous perennial plant in the daisy family. Chicory is also closely related to dandelion and mugwort, other commonly used plants in herbal medicine.
The grounds for chicory tea are made by harvesting the roots of the chicory plant, roasting them, and then grinding them into a coarse powder. This powder is steeped in hot water to create the chicory tea. Chicory grounds are also commonly blended with coffee grounds to create chicory-flavored coffee, a Louisiana delicacy.
The History of Chicory
Even though chicory tea and chicory coffee first gained real acclaim in New Orleans in the United States, this common weed has been used in herbal medicine for over five thousand years.
Use of chicory in medicine dates back to ancient Egypt, where physicians prescribed it as a detoxifying cure for the liver. Chicory was also used as medicine by the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was likely also foraged as food, but only as a last resort. Wild chicory roots are incredibly bitter, especially before cooking.
In the United States, chicory coffee became popular during the American Civil War, when Union blockades prevented coffee from being imported into the port of New Orleans. To make up for the lack of coffee, local vendors roasted and ground chicory to serve as a brew instead.
What Does Chicory Tea Taste Like?
Chicory tea is a popular substitute for coffee since ground chicory has a similar taste and aroma to coffee. Both chicory tea and coffee have a warm, earthy, nutty flavor that pairs well with sweet pastries and breakfast foods.
Chicory leaves are sometimes added to salads, but the raw leaves can be very bitter, especially if the chicory is wild foraged chicory. Blanching is one preparation method used to reduce the bitterness in chicory before eating it.
Health Benefits of Chicory Tea
One of the major reasons a lot of people get into drinking chicory tea is because of the health benefits associated with it. Chicory tea can give you many similar health benefits to drinking traditional coffee, but without the caffeine intake to go with it.
Here are a few of the advantages of drinking chicory tea for your health :
- Less caffeine intake: Caffeine may be useful for maintaining focus and driving off drowsiness, but it’s also associated with negative health effects like irritability, jitters, and insomnia. Chicory tea and coffee offer some of the same comforts of a hot cup of coffee without giving you a caffeine buzz at the same time.
- Improved digestive health: Chicory is full of a soluble fiber called inulin which aids your body in passing food through the digestive tract. Inulin also helps with water retention, which can make you feel more full and consume less excess calories throughout the day.
- Improved cognitive health: Chicory is full of healthy nutrients and vitamins such as manganese and Vitamin B6. These nutrients are associated with improving electrical signals and blood circulation in the brain, which in turn improves cognitive functions such as memory and reaction times.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Chicory has been used both internally and topically to reduce swelling and inflammation. More studies are needed to determine how effective chicory is as an anti-inflammatory remedy.
Chicory isn’t just a delicious alternative for your morning cup of coffee. It also offers many health benefits that you can’t get from any other beverage.
Side Effects of Chicory Tea
Chicory tea and chicory coffee are generally considered safe to drink. That being said, people who are violently allergic to ragweed and other pollen should think twice about drinking chicory.
Since chicory is in the same family as dandelion and other flowers that are known for aggravating pollen-based allergies, it can potentially cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to pollen. Most people never experience negative side effects from ingesting chicory, so it isn’t a dangerous drink to try if you’ve never had it.
If you have any reaction to drinking chicory such as shortness of breath, hives, or dizziness, cease drinking the chicory immediately and consult your physician to determine whether you’re experiencing an allergic reaction.
How To Make Chicory Root Tea
Chicory tea is brewed in much the same way as you’d brew a cup of coffee. Most store-bought chicory root comes as roasted granules. Here are two of my favorite ways to make chicory tea from roasted chicory granules.
How To Make Chicory Tea in a French Press
- Add 2 tablespoons of chicory root for each serving to a french press.
- Add 1 cup boiling water for each serving
- Steep for 5 minutes
- Press the plunger down to isolate the chicory granules
- Enjoy black or add cream or non-dairy milks if desired
How To Brew Chicory Root On The Stovetop
- Boil 1 cup of water for each serving
- Stir in 2 tablespoons chicory root granules for each serving
- Remove from heat and steep for 5 minutes
- Strain into a cup
- Enjoy as is or add milk as desired
If those methods seem like too much trouble, chicory root is also available in an “instant chicory root” variety, just stir into boiling water and enjoy without straining.
Does Chicory Tea Have Caffeine?
When consumed alone as a tea, chicory doesn’t have any caffeine in it. When chicory is mixed with coffee beans to make chicory coffee, it will have some caffeine due to the addition of the coffee. However, it’ll still have less caffeine than if you drank coffee with straight coffee grounds.
Chicory Root Tea Is A Nutritious Treat
Even though lots of people drink chicory for its delicious taste, this drink has plenty of nutritional benefits to recommend it, too. Try brewing up a pot and see for yourself!