2016 Sunset Report

OLG & DCRT Strategic Plan
2020-21 through 2024-25


Did you know?
Section 1
The Port of New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century
Section 2
Improvements and Consolidation:
The Founding of the Dock Board
Section 3
The Banana Trade
Section 4
J. Aron and Company:
The Role of the Coffee Importer
Section 5
New Orleans and Coffee
  • It has been said that the best barometer of the destiny of the port of New Orleans is coffee. It is the most widely distributed commodity imported by the United States and for this reason it has sought in the past and will seek in the future the channels of least resistance by which to enter this country.

    — T. J. Conroy, "Not Peas or Beans But . . . Coffee," New Orleans Port Record (April 1943)

Today, New Orleans is the number one coffee port in the country. Around 241,000 tons of green coffee or 27.8 percent of the coffee that entered the United States in 1995 came into New Orleans. Beans are shipped here in large containers from thirty-one coffee-producing countries. This coffee is shipped out to large bulk roasters and smaller specialty roasters around the world.

Morning Call and Cafe du Monde
For many visitors to the Crescent City, a stop at Morning Call or Cafe du Monde has served as an introduction to the coffee traditions of New Orleans. Both stands competed for years in the French Quarter, attracting everyone from day laborers on a coffee break to debutantes on their way home from a ball. The two enterprises remain an important part of local culture.

Gourmet Traditions
New Orleans has long had a reputation for fine food and drink. Coffee recipes are part of this gustatory tradition. At Antoine's restaurant in the 1890s, for instance, Jules Alciatore created Café Brûlot Diabolique, a flaming concoction of coffee, brandy, and spices. The drink later became a popular way to disguise alcohol during Prohibition.

  • Antoine's Café Brûlot Diabolique (Devilishly Burned Coffee)
    developed by Jules Alciatore in 1890s

    2 sticks cinnamon
    8 whole cloves
    peel of 1 lemon
    1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
    3 ounces brandy
    3 cups strong black coffee

    Put the cinnamon, cloves, lemon peel, sugar, and brandy in a fireproof bowl and heat on an open flame. When the brandy is hot, but not boiling, bring the bowl to the table and ignite with a match. Use a ladle to stir and pour the liquid around the bowl for 2 minutes. Pour the hot coffee into the flaming brandy and ladle the mixture into demitasse cups.

    Courtesy of Roy R. Guste, Proprietor of Antoine's

Many myths surround the use of chicory in coffee blends. One story holds that the root was accidentally found to be a flavorful additive to coffee as far back as the sixteenth century. Chicory is made from the root of the endive plant and was used as a filler and flavor enhancer in parts of northern Europe at least as far back as the eighteenth century. Napoleon's armies reportedly brought chicory back to France, where Parisians began to prefer its taste and the thriftiness of adding chicory. Since chicory could be grown in parts of Europe where coffee could not, the root was obviously cheaper. How it made its way to the United States is unknown. For many years it was used to stretch coffee supplies, especially in hard times such as the Civil War. This practice upset many purists, who disdained chicory and other additives. Somewhere along the way, however, New Orleanians developed a taste for chicory in coffee blends and many prefer it today.

Throughout the New Orleans area, chicory has been used as a flavor additive. Local coffee companies have kept up with demand by offering the same blends with and without chicory. Within the city, coffee and chicory are consumed in greater quantities than anywhere else. Outside of the city, most coffee drinkers imbibe pure coffee instead.

Coffeehouses and Breaks
In the 1920s the coffee break, as we know it, had not yet become a part of the daily ritual of American workers. In New Orleans, however, where business was said to have taken a secondary role to pleasure, the mid-morning break began to take form. In 1928 Lyle Saxon wrote in Fabulous New Orleans:

  • It is no unusual thing for a business man to say casually: "Well, let's go and get a cup of coffee," as a visitor in his office is making ready to depart. It is a little thing perhaps, this drinking of coffee at odd times, but it is very characteristic of the city itself. Men in New Orleans give more thought to the business of living than men in other American cities. . . . I have heard Northern business men complain bitterly about these little interruptions for coffee or what-not.

We may never know if the coffee break was actually invented here in New Orleans, but the tradition remains popular. In recent years, a new breed of coffeehouse, the gourmet shop, has gained popularity in the New Orleans region in keeping with a national trend. With premium blends of coffee from around the world, these establishments are breathing life into a coffee industry that was suffering from high prices and competition from soft drinks and flavored waters. Workers in New Orleans, now more than ever, enjoy their sacred coffee break ritual to its fullest.

Cafe du Monde
c. 1945

Cafe du Monde at Night
c. 1950

Café Brûlot Cup and Saucer
c. 1960

Chicory Stacked in a Warehouse
c. 1950

J. Aron and Company Workers enjoying a coffee break
c. 1955