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Market and Consumers

Coffee Alternatives Around the World

The history of beverages made from chicory root is at least as long as the history of natural coffee. In turn, the history of beverages prepared from roasted cereals is slightly shorter, reaching the 18th century when, during the Napoleonic wars, the British suspended the export of natural coffee to continental Europe.

The essence obtained from cereals and chicory was considered an independent group of drinks, but most often its consumption was due to the need to supply a substitute, the so-called surrogate, of natural coffee. This was the case at times of limited access to food products; for example, during World War I and World War II. 

Such reasons for the consumption of chicory and cereal beverages also appeared in the 1970s, when the price of natural coffee on the world markets surged.

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Roasted plant ingredients

The roasted plant ingredients from which beverages of this kind have been and continue to be produced, have a fascinating history developed in various parts of the world.

In the 16th century, when coffee was first introduced to Europe, it was compared to a beverage known before, one brewed from chicory root. Then, beverages made of barley and rye appeared. Sources from the 19th century state that over 40 ingredients were used to brew coffee substitutes, while other documents describe over 100 such plants.

Plant-based beverage additives, such as molasses or juices from sweet plants often in the form of concentrates, have been used since the end of the 18th century. Such ingredients modified the colour of the beverages or added bitterness or sweetness.

Regional differentiation and consumer preferences

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In Western and Southern Europe, consumers mainly use cereals and chicory blends, or blends in which chicory or barley is the only ingredient. The traditional markets for pure chicory are France and Belgium as well as Russia.

On the other hand, in Central and Eastern Europe, more so-called cereal coffee is consumed, i.e. drinks including blends of barley, rye, and chicory.

North America

In North America, various mixtures of cereals, chicory, and other roasted ingredients are known, including: dandelion, wheat bran, and carob.

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South America

Consumers from South American countries prefer barley drinks.

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In the countries of North East Asia – China, South Korea and Japan – the traditional drink used to improve digestion is barley tea, prepared from roasted barley.
In India, chicory is very popular, often mixed with coffee.

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In the countries of Northern and Southern Africa, consumers choose chicory beverages. In South Africa, chicory is cultivated, and drinks that are a blend of coffee and chicory are among the most popular beverages.

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Names used

There are different terms to describe beverages from roasted cereals and chicory.
In Poland, the name traditionally used is “cereal coffee”. For chicory: “chicory coffee”. In Asia, the term “herbal coffee” appears. The most encompassing and widest term will be the use of one of the phrases: “coffee substitutes” or “coffee alternatives”.

In English, the following terms are used: cereal beveragegrain beveragechicory beverageherbal coffeecoffee substitutecoffee alternative.