Across the centuries, coffee traditions have traveled far and wide, across vast landmasses and oceans. Yet coffee never travels alone, but always with a suite of specific customs and all around cultural heritage. Such is the case for a well-known tourist attraction in New Orleans, Louisiana, the French-made Café du Monde.
Café du Monde is located in the famous French Quarter of “Nouveau Orleans”, on Decatur Street, and just like its name might suggest — “The World’s Café” — the coffee shop is an open-air style venue, following the model of Parisian cafés of the 18th century.
Now, while it was founded in 1862, the Café du Monde’s history, at least as far as the coffee is concerned, goes all the way back to the American Civil War. While settling and colonizing the Gulf Coast of the United States, the French did not leave their traditions behind on the Old Continent. Trade was a must, and coffee beans were a wanted commodity, and while this made coffee trading a successful business, the product was not economically accessible to every social class in Louisiana.
The story of Cafe du Monde’s signature drink goes back to this. Over the course of its history, coffee has been blended mostly for economic reasons, in order to make it more accessible. The custom around French-speaking inhabitants, especially due to the shortage of coffee, was to blend coffee beans with chicory. This recipe stuck through the decades and is still a staple of Café du Monde today.
The specialty at Café du Monde, café au lait, is the so-called “French” way of creating a beverage with coffee and milk. The combination of a strong coffee base and hot steamed milk served in porcelain cups or bowls is different from the Italian-style latte, the base of which is espresso. The uniqueness of the drink, however, comes from the fact that Café du Monde adds chicory to their specialty, which is said to give the coffee a taste of chocolate, turning the French way into the now famous “Louisian” way.
If you plan on visiting the vibrant city of New Orleans, Café du Monde is a great stop for a literal taste of its cultural heritage. If you wish to find out more about coffee recipes, shops, and facts, make sure to check out Goffee as well, and be prepared for your next coffee story.