Chicory coffee and its Health Benefits
How did chicory, a root native to Europe, become an essential ingredient in South Indian filter coffee? From its original purpose as filler during times of shortage, chicory is still added to South Indian Filter coffee today and subject of much debate. How much is too much & is it even a true ‘kaapi’ when the chicory is removed?
Here we explore the origins of chicory coffee and added benefits this humble root brings.
Chicory alone is a bitter plant of the endive family and grows wild by the roadside throughout Europe. It was cultivated as early as 5000 years ago by Egyptians as a medicinal plant and known as a “friend of the liver” due to its supposed stimulating effect.
The white fleshy root of the plant lacks the aroma, flavour and body of coffee, however when brewed with coffee it greatly increases the cup yield. The coffee-chicory blend is thought to have originated in Holland, although it was the French who popularized its use.
The Continental Blockade of 1808 saw coffee become difficult to obtain and during this shortage chicory root made dwindling supplies stretch. Chicory coffee became commonplace in France and countries of French influence. Even when supplies became more plentiful, many continued to enjoy the flavour enhancing properties of the chicory root.
French colonial provinces in Southern India were thought to have brought the idea of chicory coffee to India, as well as British Military influence in the late 1800s. During wartime, British soldiers brought a commercial product known as ‘Camp Coffee’ to India. This Scottish food product was a blend of water, sugar, coffee essence and chicory essence. Indian soldiers gradually gained a tasted for this chicory-based coffee, particular during times of rationing.
During the 1890s coffee cultivation in the Western Ghats of India was in full swing of production, with majority of beans being exported to Europe. However some bags of coffee destined for export found their way into the hands local sellers and thus into the hands of the Tamil family home. With experimentation, ways were found to roast, grind, brew and serve coffee in the home. This went on to become and art form and passion that defines a community. The use of chicory not only increased the yield for greater economic value, it also added a richness and depth of colour and increased body of the coffee.
Freshly harvested chicory root
1- Increases Yield
Chicory, when added to coffee increases its cup yield greatly, for example:
One kilo of pure coffee powder gives 100 cups of coffee.
A one-kilo blend with 45% chicory gives 200 cups of coffee.
2- Contains fibre and promotes gut health.
Chicory root contains large amounts of inulin, an insoluble fibre. This means it remains undigested by the small intestine and passes further into the digestive system feeding beneficial gut bacteria and promoting a number of health benefits.
Bacteria play a role in reducing inflammation, improving the immune system function as well as mineral absorption and even cancer fighting properties 1, 2. Fibre also assists in improving bowel movements and reducing constipation.
3- Contains antioxidants
Chicory extract is rich in natural antioxidants.3 Antioxidants are substances that prevent or slow damage to cells caused by inflammatory free radicals.
4- May assist in weight loss
High levels of oligofructose in Chicory, as well the fibre inulin, helps to regulate production of the amino acids associated with feelings of fullness. The curbing of hunger and cravings may assisting in the reduction of overeating and thereby help with weight loss 5
5- Controls blood sugar
Chicory root extract has been found to contain blood sugar levelling compounds. This suggests that chicory root extract could delay the onset of diabetes. According to one article 6, research concluded that each cup of coffee consumed was linked to a 7 per cent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, chlorogenic acid, one of the main antioxidants found in coffee, may reduce the absorption of glucose and therefore aid in regulating blood sugar spikes. 7
Our Malgudi days coffee contains what we consider to the perfect blend of premium organic chicory and coffee. South Indian filter coffee traditionally uses a high percentage of chicory to give the coffee a deeper colour and distinct flavour. This often masks the true cup characteristics of the coffee itself.
We had a different approach. Over the years we worked on numerous profiles and blend permutations until we reached the optimum balance of specialty coffee and premium chicory. In this lovingly crafted blend, everything was in perfect harmony to bring out the best in the beans, resulting in the freshest South Indian filter coffee available in Australia.
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Our organic, premium chicory.