If coffee is not coffee: from chicory to malt, when the substitute ends up in the cup

Difficult life at the debut, a bit like tomatoes and potatoes. The new, the different and what comes from afar are often disliked, in the time that it is today, even when one appreciates the beauty and the good, it becomes indispensable. So was the case with coffee. When Ambassador Costantino Garzoni first wrote about it, it was in 1573, referring to the senators from the Ottoman Serenissima who used to sip a dark and hot drink. They had discovered the seeds in Yemen and appreciated the purity of the pure infusion there, without the spices used by the Arabs, and they made Turkish kahvesi, Turkish coffee. There were many links and traffic between Venice and the east: there hahvehane, cafes, were so much appreciated by traders that they also decided to import coffee. A few years later, without any connection, the physician and botanist Prospero Alpino, after the consul Giorgio Emo, landed in Egypt, where he collected data for three years for his scientific observations. In his works ‘De Medicina Aegyptiorum’ from 1591 and in ‘De plantis Aegipty’ from ’92, he was the first European to describe the coffee plant, apart from the banana tree and the baobab tree, as a physician for the effects of the drink and as a botanist for the plant’s specifications. During these years, the Egyptians, who observed the cultivation of date palms, realized the sexual difference in the plants that would later become the basis for the scientific classification with Linnaeus. It was always he who tipped about the chicory root, dried and coarsely chopped to make a coffee.

In short, the first to talk about coffee in botanical terms was already recommending a substitute, which has already been proposed by the Royal Gardener Timme of Tübingen. The common term calls it “chicory coffee”, and refers to the brewing method that involves suede or coffee pot to get the brew, but it is wrong. A hot, dark, bitter drink obtained from the same instrument is not enough to claim its name; According to Directive 1999/4 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 February 1999 on coffee extracts and chicory extracts, this term is reserved for “the concentrated product obtained by extraction from roasted coffee beans, with water as the sole extractant, with the exception of any hydrolysis process with addition of acid or base. In addition to the insoluble, technically unavoidable substances and the insoluble oils from coffee, it must contain exclusively the soluble and aromatic principles of coffee “.

Chicory coffee

If it is obtained from chicory, it is wrong, because to call it coffee even though it has taken its place for decades, especially in times of war and autarchy. In earlier centuries, the poorer classes, who did not have access to the precious coffee imported from distant lands, found valid alternatives in the roots, legumes, grains and some dried fruits. Just think of how with the outbreak of the First World War the supply became increasingly difficult, it was then in 1936 with the invasion of Ethiopia that the League of Nations introduced sanctions against Italy. Fascism thus began to talk about self-sufficiency, autarchy, also to compensate for the import restrictions; When World War II broke out and colonial rule fell, coffee, like other colonial battles, became increasingly rare in the market, more and more expensive and it was increasingly necessary to find an alternative to what has now become the ritual early in the morning.

Substitute, one substance that can replace another to certain functions, albeit of quality and therefore of lower cost, and a substitute, a food product of lower quality that can be used instead, says the dictionary. Ciofeca called him Totò, a Neapolitan coffee lover, speaking of the so-called chicory coffee, war coffee they remembered grandparents with eyes veiled by the memory of horrors and the weight of deprivation. Today, the import of this food is not subject to such restrictions, global trade makes it widely available despite climate change and natural disasters that jeopardize its cultivation in some parts of the world. Still, out of taste or health needs, coffee substitutes live a new life, this time by choice and not by necessity. Fruits or parts thereof, roots and turnips, seeds or other raw materials are the main substitutes for coffee. Erronei in the name, from now on is used only to convey the idea and not for the appropriateness of the terms, an overview of the types and history of the main surrogates.

From Vienna to Trieste (and then to the world): the cosmopolitan soul of coffee

by Eleonora Cozzella



Grain coffee. Widespread in Italy, since the 70’s it has seen a comeback in the kitchen due to the lack of caffeine which makes it suitable even for children; Cereals are among the most suitable to use, the world’s grain type is preferred, and not the most suitable gem to eat. Roasted and ground it is prepared in suede, but there are also soluble versions, in commercial operations now infused with tubs and capsules.

Ground coffee. Obtained from malted cereals, subjected to germination, drying and roasting to make the starches first soluble in water, then caramelize them to give color and aroma. It was 1889 when the Bavarian pastor Sebastian Kneipp suggested that coffee be replaced with malt; suffering from health at a young age, he entrusted himself to hydrotherapy after reading Hahn’s manual and recovering, so much so that he revealed its principles according to the method which has since borne his name. In the same year, the mixture ‘Pfarrer Kneipps Gesundheitskaffee’, the parish priest’s Kneipps health coffee, was released on the market.

Yannoh. Still of grain but mixed, it comes from an idea by George Ohsawa, Japanese author and foremost popularizer of ancient oriental theories as well as popularizer of macrobiotics. According to the latter’s dictation, the diet is based on grains, legumes and vegetables, and it is from these in mixture that yannoh is composed. Chickpeas, chicory, azuki beans, rice and whole wheat.

Caff & egrave;  of figs

Fig coffee

Chicory coffee. After Prospero Alpino we come to 1770 when the host Christian Gottlieb Förster got permission to make chicory coffee; four years earlier, Frederick II of Prussia had banned the import and private trade in coffee, so much so that smuggled goods and alternatives flourished. In a few years, the industry flourished, to the extent that in 1890 there were 123 factories in the German Empire. Roots cleaned from the soil, cleaned and crushed were dried in the ovens before being roasted, so that the insulin by caramelization assumes a taste similar to the desired one. Grinded when cold, the roots are ready for infusion.

Lupine coffee. This was also born as an aid when the Austrian Ministry of Trade and Industry issued an ordinance in 1918 that wanted to regulate surrogates and mentioned lupins as an alternative to fine grains. Lupinus pilosus, a hairy or hairy lupine, a legume he found in Anterivo, South Tyrol, a preferred place for its cultivation, is the basis of this preparation. Deamarized, roasted and ground lupines give life to the coffee that takes its name from the mountain town and is mentioned as early as 1887 in a bishop’s document.

Date core coffee. The drink is traditional in the Berberoas and is obtained after taking the kernels from the dates and cleaning them from the filaments that remain on them; left in the sun to dry, they are then roasted under constant stirring so that they do not burn. At the first sound signals given by the seeds when they are heated, they are ground to a powder which is then added to boiling water. Filtration results in an energetic and digestive drink, without caffeine, which can be flavored with spices.

Caff & egrave;  of fungus

Mushroom coffee

Fig coffee. Or roasted, rather, it is obtained from dried and roasted roasted black figs before grinding and gives a popular drink in Latin America, especially Argentina, Aromatic in memory of the dry fruit, decaffeinated and digestive can also be used mixed with coffee to limit consumption .

Mushroom coffee. It all started with Ganoderma Lucidum, also called Rieshi known in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for its virtues, so much so that it is also called the fungus of immortality. Mushroom coffee, which is still not as widespread here, is actually a coffee added with this mushroom, but there are some types obtained from blends of mushrooms with reishi in combination with shiitake, chaga, lion man or priest mushrooms and Cordyceps, youth mushrooms with invigorating properties, clean land. It is not surprising that the ability of the mushroom to be used to make refreshing drinks similar to coffee, already during World War II, chaga, a mushroom that is well suited to grow at low temperatures, was used in Finland for this purpose.

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