This morning I received an email about nostalgic France, filled with black and white photographs, which reminded me of a treat I had a vague recollection of. The other day, as I was reading about an old-fashioned, licorice- and lemon-based drink which used to be sold on the streets of Paris and Brussels since the 18th century, and up until the beginning of the 20th century, Coco, I confusely conjured up a small box of licorice powder which - I think - I used to suck onto when I was a child in Paris. Bingo, it was not a dream! There is such a thing as "une boîte de coco"...
The picture above shows a version of it which is still sold today. According to the Boer brand, the "boîtillon" or little box of coco used to be sold between 1950-1995. They reintroduced it in 2010 (see on the left). I recall some extra flat round boxes, and I think, in plastic, which were sold by candy sellers. But the memory was so faded, I wasn't absolutely sure it had ever existed.
Today, this Coco Boer is said to be made with wild Italian licorice in powdered form enhanced by the addition of licorice extracts. You can used it to turn it into a refreshing drink or put some on your finger and lick the treat, or dip your tongue in the box. In French pharmacies, you can still purchase licorice branches to chew on, but these little boxes are a more nostalgic sight.
The beverage Coco, from which this powder is derived, used to be a super popular drink before the advent of Coca-Cola. It might have even contributed to the catchiness of the nickname of Gabrielle Chanel, we surmise. Maupassant wrote a text entitled "Coco, Coco, Coco Frais!" in Le Horla which shows the existential importance of a seller of Coco. As the brand recalls even today, Coco has been replaced by Coca-Cola and its 100 grams of sugar per liter.
Because it contains the active glycyrrhizine, it is recommended to use in moderation if you suffer from hypertension. On the other hand, it is recommended for women going though menopause as it contains phytho oestrogenes. Licorice is also considered to be a natural anti-depressant and to be good against thrombosis and other listed ailments.
Price: 2,95€. Available at cocoboer.com