New Orleans is a synonym for creole cuisine, the Mardi gras festival and its historical streets. The ‘Big Easy’ is also known for its French influence. The French founded the city in 1718 and brought with them all their traditions, including their passion for coffee.
Sometime during the city’s early stages, the Cafe Noir or New Orleans black coffee was born. This is no regular coffee, it has a distinctive woody, sweet, caramelly taste, and that comes from using chicory!
What is chicory anyway? This beautiful plant is native to Europe but surely found its way into New Orleans in a French ship. You can add the plant’s leaves to salads, but what we’re most interested in is its roots. They’re baked and ground and used as a coffee substitute.
Traditionally, people blend chicory with coffee in a 60-40 chicory coffee ratio, and that’s basically what Cafe Noir is. For today’s recipe, you can either mix your own ground chicory with your favorite French roast coffee or source a premixed chicory-coffee blend.
The cool thing about chicory is that you can brew it just like you do with coffee. Scoop it into your drip coffee maker or whatever, and you’ll end up with a lovely cup of New Orleans-style brew.
Now, here’s a little secret I learned in a nice place up Bourbon Street, use vanilla sugar instead of the regular stuff. French drinks, and pastries are all about that unmistakable vanilla scent, and it turns your Cafe Noir into a real bastion for New Orleans culture.
Vanilla sugar is not artificially flavored, at least not the good stuff. Its powdered sugar infused with vanilla beans — the result is the loveliest sweetener and flavoring, and you’ll want to add it to all your coffee drinks.
A beignet (ben-YAY), of course. This French pastry is a deep-fried treat made with a pastry dough called pâte à choux; it’s then dusted with powdered sugar for a sweet contrast to your intense black coffee. Now we’re ready to make ourselves a cup. Are you ready to get in your New Orleans mood?
Mix the coffee and the chicory before adding it to your drip coffee machine. You can also buy a coffee chicory blend or even go all-in with pure brewed chicory.
Fill your drip coffee machine with water and brew the coffee.
Pour into two mugs and sweeten to taste with vanilla sugar.