The History of Café Du Monde

Established in 1862, Café Du Monde is a renowned coffee shop and New Orleans landmark. It’s located on Decatur Street in the French Quarter and is a frequented tourist spot due to its longstanding business. In fact it’s the first part of the original French Market, well known throughout the city.

The café stands in the same spot that has been used as a market long before European settlers arrived. It’s situated right next to a levee in the Mississippi River; this has always been an excellent stop for river traffic and so traders would set up their wares here. Initially the Choctaw Indians did so; however in 1718 Jean Baptiste LeMoyne established the city of New Orleans on this very spot, the area which is now known as the French Quarter.

At first the market was called the ‘Meat Market’ or ‘Butchers Market’, in fact it was the only place within the French Quarter where it possible to buy or sell meat. Eventually it became possible to do so in other markets; it was then simply known as the French Market and has been to this day.

The Café is well known for both its coffee and its beignets. When the French first arrived they brought the coffee with them. It was a popular treat, however as the American Civil War rolled around there was a shortage of coffee beans, that’s when the New Orleans Creoles began to develop a new blend to combat the problem. They added chicory to the coffee, a root of the endive plant that softens the bitter edge of a dark roasted coffee and is supposed to give the drink an almost chocolaty flavour. It’s traditionally served as a Café Au Lait, half coffee, half hot milk.

Beignets were brought to New Orleans in the 18th Century by the Arcadians of Nova Scotia; they are a type of doughnut, though unlike most they are square with no hole in the middle. This deep fried pastry usually comes served with powdered sugar but it’s not unusual to see it come with jam, fruit, syrup or even savoury toppings. At Café Du Monde you’ll find them served in threes with a healthy (or rather unhealthy) coating of powdered sugar. These are a local favourite; in 1986 the state of Louisiana actually declared the beignet their official doughnut.

An additional seven stalls were opened up across New Orleans in the 80s, in 1984 at the Louisiana World Exposition Café Du Monde was offered the chance to open up their brand overseas in Japan. In 1989 a deal was made to open its first Japanese outlets and finally in 1990 they successfully did so. The Japan stores are run much like the originals, still serving the same chicory coffee and hosting that iconic French Quarter style and architecture. There are now 32 different locations that host a Café Du Monde, 10 of those being in Japan but if you want to visit the original head down to 800 Decatur Street and experience a real piece of New Orleans history for yourself.

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