Cafe au Lait

The two cups of cafe au lait I have every morning are a wonderful addiction. I make them with Union coffee and chicory, brewed so dark that it leaves the side of the cup deep brown for a moment when I swirl it. I mix that with an equal amount of milk, and the pleasure commences.

I don’t understand why everyone in the world doesn’t drink coffee and chicory. The use of chicory in coffee began during a coffee shortage in the reign of Napoleon. It spread to New Orleans, where it remained the vogue after people everywhere else stopped drinking it. The chicory is the root of a variety of endive, roasted and ground. It doesn’t really taste like coffee, but the flavor it adds is quite complimentary. One other benefit: chicory, while contributing about 65 percent of the brew’s intensity, has no caffeine.


Serious purists insist that great coffee and chicory can only be brewed in an enamel coffee “biggin,” to which you must add the hot water a little at a time manually. I find that a good drip coffeemaker–especially the kind with cone-shaped filters–does just as fine a job, if you use enough coffee. Err on the side of too much ground coffee, and step it back if it’s too strong.

Union coffee and chicory comes in a soft green 12-ounce bag. It’s in every local supermarket except Winn-Dixie. Other good brands include CDM, French Market, and (with a woodsy, rustic flavor) RT. I’m not crazy about the widely-distributed but relatively light Community New Orleans Blend.

  • 1/2 cup ground coffee and chicory
  • 5 cups water
  • 4 cups milk

Brew the coffee normally in a drip coffeemaker. Fill mugs half-full with milk and heat in a microwave oven until steaming. Add sugar to your taste and stir. Pour the coffee in, and observe the pleasant light foam of the milk on the coffee

Serves eight. Or, more likely, four. Everyone wants a second go-round of this stuff.

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