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On Coffee and Chicory

Alexandre Dumas

THERE ARE five types of coffee that are used in commerce, not counting chicory which our chefs insist on mixing in. The best is Moka which comes from Yemen, and is, itself, divided into three varieties - baouri, which is reserved for the highest nobility, saki and salabi.

Coffee from Reunion is highly regarded in the trade but, even so, the beans from Martinique or Guadeloupe are preferred. The coffees from Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico, however, are of an inferior quality.

In 1808, when Napoleon had initiated his 'continental blockade' which deprived France of cane sugar and coffee, beet sugar was substituted for cane and coffee was bolstered with chicory. Even now, after the continental decree has fallen into disuse, grocers and cooks continue mixing in a certain amount of chicory with their coffee, maintaining that it improves the taste and is better for one's health.

The response of the connoisseur has been to order coffee bought only in the form of whole beans. But coffee merchants replied by constructing moulds in the shape of beans and filling them with chicory paste. So, whether one likes it or not, chicory has remained wedded to coffee.

From La Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, 1873
cafeman in a coffee cup