Apparently it's a root I've recently discovered, not visually dissimilar to a carrot. What a humbly deceptive appearance for something so distinctive when ground, roasted and dissolved in hot water.
My first hot coffee beverage was consumed well into adulthood, on a quiet night in the passenger seat of a comfortable vehicle. The flavour of coffee is lovely (in chocolate or ice cream, for example), but the intense bitterness as a brewed drink confused me; it seemed more like self-torture than indulgence, yet was somehow a worldwide staple. Not until I rose regularly to work on little sleep did I come to embrace it, and not until years later did I begin perceiving my body's threshold for caffiene, not to mention the drink's ability to stain enamel or dentine.
Food and drink alternatives are worth an entire chapter, as easily scoffed as adopted depending on attitude. If I hadn't spent so much time with coffee, I might have appreciated chicory for itself, not as an alternative – and it wouldn't have "confused" me. The beverage has its own bitterness without cream or sugar, but not of the same overwhelming class. It has a flavour which is closer to the average of all tastes than coffee's is. Most importantly, its aftertaste is slightly sweet and flavourful, almost a trace of the "burnt-ness" of burnt sugar occurring naturally to it.
Barely caloric, not filling like hot chocolate – a comforting, unimposing beverage that quickly carved its own place for me. I think it deserves the same at large.