Have you tried Coffee and Chicory Essence?

by Nick Hadnutt, Curator, Archaeology, Queensland Museum

Like many people around the world, I start my day with a coffee. I drink it, I enjoy it and I forget about it. We have so many options to choose from – flavour, origin of beans, types of beans and how they are grown.

This International Coffee Day (celebrated annually on 1 October), I was inspired to try a different brew… one that I have come across in many of the historical archaeology assemblages I have excavated across Queensland – the ubiquitous Coffee and Chicory Essence.

Coffee and Chicory Essence is a concoction of coffee, caramel and chicory, used to produce a sweetened coffee-flavoured syrup. In the archaeological record, we often find glass bottles that once contained the mixture; however, a quick scout through the museum’s collection demonstrates that it also came tinned in a granular form. Primarily used in cooking as a coffee flavour substitute, it can also replace ground coffee for a tasty sweet brew.

The shelf life is measured in years and this perhaps indicates why it was so popular – as well as the flavour! When the corner store is many kilometres away and possibly reliant on stock being shipped from across the world or freighted in by wagon, having something that is portable, tasty, long-lasting and able to be used in a variety of ways makes a lot of sense.

So this week, I wandered down to my local grocery store and was able to purchase a bottle of the syrup (in the baking aisle) so have a try yourself – just add Coffee and Chicory Essence to a little (or a lot) of milk and hot water and enjoy!