10 Things About White Coffee You Didn’t Know

It seems that every few months a new coffee trend appears, testing your faith in your tried-and-true Starbucks order. 

One such drink, known as white coffee, is appearing on the menus of hipster coffee bars everywhere. 

But what exactly is white coffee? 

To all but the most cultured coffee lovers, this beverage is still a bit of a curiosity. White coffee has exotic rarity with roots in both Asia and the Middle East. It is gaining traction in coffee shops internationally. You might decide to convert from dark roasts for this one.

Let’s take a deeper look into what coffee is all about.

Quick Summary : White coffee refers to one of two things – a Malaysian drink of convenience or an under-roasted coffee beverage from Yemen. 

Both are powerfully healthy and contain less caffeine than your average dark roast.

1. White Coffee Can Mean Different Things

Ipoh Old Town White Coffee Packaging

Ordering a white coffee at a Brooklyn roastery will likely get you a vastly different product than if you were to ask for the same thing in Ipoh, Malaysia, where white coffee is as synonymous with local culture as Earl Grey is to the British way of life.

White coffee in Southeast Asia has a long history, but the Ipoh white coffee is not the same thing as light, under-roasted white coffee, nor is it the same thing as a flat white, which is an espresso-based specialty drink. 

2. There is No Such Thing as a White Coffee Bean

White Coffee Beans

Contrary to common belief, white coffee is not brewed with a mythical foreign white coffee bean. Beans are occasionally roasted in margarine, giving them a slightly sweet and caramelized flavour, but the drink itself gets it unique pure white appearance through the preparation.

Part of the confusion understandably arises from the fact that the beans actually do look lighter than normal, but this is due to the roasting process; the beans are roasted at such a low temperature that they appear a light, burnished beige in colour, rather than traditional rich dark shade you are used to seeing.

3. White Coffee has an Exotic Origin

Even before Malaysians began stirring condensed or powdered milk into coffee to make a quick and easy drink, white coffee was gaining steam in the Middle East. 

A tradition dating back centuries in Yemen involved roasting coffee beans at a low temperature and then mixing the grounds with a special blend of spices known as hawaij

It is this unique combination of flavors that make white coffee taste so intriguing and multi-layered. 

Fans of white coffee typically report a dominant nutty flavor with notes of cinnamon, cardamon, and even ginger. The alluring flavor is what keeps many people coming back for more.

4. White Coffee is not Just A Hipster Fad

Old City of Sanaa in Yemen

Despite the fact that the coffee industry is falling hard for the white coffee trend, its original consumers were farmhands in the rural Yemen who required a boost of energy during their breaks before getting back to work. 

Their long shifts in the hot Middle Eastern sun demanded a caffeine jolt that didn’t dehydrate them quickly. The health benefits of white coffee, which we will discuss later, were obvious to the Yemenites even then.

5. You’ll Need A Specialized Grinder

Antique Coffee Bean Grinder

Part of the reason you might not have tried white coffee yet is because its grinding process requires special equipment. 

Not every coffee shop has the grinder necessary to make a really good white coffee. This means that if you are lucky enough to try one, you can be sure that the beans were ground with real tender loving care using a commercial grinder. 

The reason the beans need their own grinder to reach their full potential? 

They need to be roasted at low heat, unlike dark or even most light roasts.

6. The Beans are Roasted at A Low Temperature

Roasting Coffee Beans

If you are aware of home brewing trends, you probably know that the typical standard light to dark roast is roasted at 450 to 480 F. 

In order to create the perfect cup of white coffee, on the other hand, you have to turn down the heat. 

An astonishingly low 325 F is the Goldilocks zone that will ensure the resulting beans are a soft, pale color.

7. It’s A Very Light Roast

Coffee Roast Light and Dark

The process of making white coffee is fairly lengthy and complicated, but the originators of this savoury drink in Yemen perfected it long ago. 

While dark roast was the trend du jour for quite some time, the coffee industry is making a shift towards the light side, with plenty of baristas recommending light roast to burnt-out coffee drinkers tired of the richness and intensity of their morning cup of Joe. 

8. It’s Unsweetened

A cup of Ipoh White Coffee

If your go-to black coffee is starting to feel a bit routine, but you’re wary of trying anything that eliminates the natural flavor of the coffee itself, consider switching to white coffee. 

On the other end of the spectrum, some people like to mask the taste of coffee with as much sugary goodness as they can, but are concerned about consuming so much sugar. 

If you enjoy sweet specialty drinks, you’ll appreciate that this one is naturally that way, and does not have any additional sugar. It has all the qualities of a cinnamon dolce latte without the added calories.

9. White Coffee is Still Considered A Specialty Drink

Yemen White Coffee

If you order white coffee at your favorite local coffee bar, you probably won’t get an Ipoh white coffee.

What you’re likely to receive in any Western coffeehouse is the version which originated in Yemen.

10. It’s Apparently Healthier than Black Coffee

A Cup of Black Coffee

A holistic nutritionist named Dr. Ben-Zion, who helped launch a chain of organic coffee chains known as Dr. Smood in New York and Miami, holds a PhD. He’s also a fanatical advocate for the health benefits of white coffee. 

Dr. Smood is highly committed to transparency in regards to their ingredients and seeks to radicalize the restaurant industry in a big way, beginning with the introduction of white coffee to menus across the United States. 

According to Dr. Ben-Zion, the delicacy of the roasting process, which enhances oxidation, makes white coffee a health elixir. It also allegedly has less caffeine.

Ryan Hamilton

About Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton is in the process of opening his own roastery after working in a cafe for the past 5 years. He graduated with a degree in English literature and decided to combine his passion for writing with the knowledge he had gained about the coffee industry.