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The term "white coffee" can be use to refer to any one of three separate beverages. It can be used to describe regular coffee that has had enough milk or cream added to turn the liquid a very light or white color. White coffee can be a tea made from orange blossoms that is served in the country of Yemen. More often, however, white coffee refers to a regular coffee bean that has not been roasted in the traditional way but is exposed to a different type of heat, turning the color a pale yellow-brown. These beans have a distinctly different taste from regular coffee and can be brewed in a different way to create a lightly colored, tea-like drink.
The process of creating these coffee beans is very different from that used to make dark coffee beans. The standard technique for making coffee beans is to roast the beans under high heat while they are constantly turned to prevent burning. This has the effect of splitting the beans open as the moisture inside expands and the sugars caramelize, providing the distinct bitter flavor normally associated with coffee.
White coffee beans are not roasted, but instead are exposed to a low and dry heat for a very long time. Instead of caramelizing and browning, the beans become pale and the sugars inside do not turn bitter. In one sense, the beans are actually developed into white coffee by undercooking them, creating a very different taste from what traditionally is thought of as coffee.
The taste of this coffee is described as nutty, acidic and somewhat floral. It is frequently compared to a tea more than it is to brewed coffee. The process of making a beverage from the beans involves steeping them in water for some time, as one would steep tea leaves to make tea. The color of the liquid after the white beans have been used is a light yellow-brown or golden color. Some people enjoy adding traditional tea to the coffee or flavored syrup to accent the nutty taste.
The beans themselves do not become as easily split and ground as dark roasted coffee beans. This means it is more difficult to turn the white beans into a powder for brewing. Hand-operated grinders or powerful spice grinders can be used to powder the beans. There are some reports that brewed white coffee has more caffeine than dark-roasted coffee, but this is not the case. In certain instances, more caffeine has been found in white beans because of the variety of bean used, not the cooking process.
@Terrificili -- You won't find white coffee too often in the United States. Lighter roasts, sure, but no roasting at all? Very uncommon.
If you go outside of the United States, though, white coffee is far more common. I do believe it is particularly popular in parts of Asia.
Strange, or perhaps I've just not been around that much. I have never heard of white coffee in the United States and have always been under the impression that the roasting process is what determines whether a coffee is a dark roast, light roast or what have you.
The roasting process is pretty established as the thing that makes one coffee taste different from another. Skipping that roasting process altogether just seems unusual.
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