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Pairing Cigars: Coffee and Chicory
Chicory gained widespread use as a coffee extender in the United States during tough economic times like the American Civil War and the Great Depression when pure coffee was scarce and/or too expensive. Of course, when times improved most people returned to their morning cups of pure coffee except for the good folks in New Orleans who, thanks to their French cultural influence and never-ending love of bold flavors, continue to drink LOTS of coffee and chicory to this day.
Typically in New Orleans, coffee and chicory is brewed very strongly then served as “café au lait” – ½ coffee and chicory and ½ hot milk, then sweetened (or not) according to preference. Café au lait is the coffee many visitors to New Orleans enjoy at Café du Monde with their powdery-sugared beignets, essentially deep fat fried donuts.
Chicory adds a boldness and bitter cocoa flavor (but interestingly no caffeine) to café au lait; hence you will want to pair it with milder cigars that do not cover up the distinctiveness of the drink. I like my old stand-by, Flor de Oliva Sumatra (with the sweetened cap) with my café au lait, as well as with a Gispert Connecticut. Many of the Honduran Value Line cigars work well, too.
Most mild cigars will do, but if you need to amp-up the taste volume you could pair it with any cigar at all, really. Since this is a non-alcoholic drink, there is no confounding strong solvent like alcohol that’s going to interfere with the flavor of your cigar. Therefore, pick whatever you like in your humidor or try it with a Tabak Especial which will add even more coffee essence, and in my book, you can’t have too much of that.
I recommend you try strong coffee and chicory as a change-of-pace to your usual cigar beverage or with your morning smoke. You’ll almost feel like you’re sitting on the back deck with The Rev in Uptown New Orleans. (If you can’t find it at your local grocery, it can be mail-ordered from such sources such Community Coffee, CDM Coffee, PJ’s Coffee or French Market Coffee.)