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  • White Coffee: Variants, Origins, Flavors, and More

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    With the growing popularity of specialty coffee, there’s a world of interesting coffee beverages to choose from. However, it can be hard to keep up sometimes. Don’t fret, though; that’s why we’re here!

    white coffee

    If you’ve been following some indie coffee circles lately, you may have come across the term”white coffee.” But it seems like there are about as many definitions of this drink as there are variants of coffee. Read on for an explanation of this exciting coffee trend. 

    Why the Confusion?

    With a term as simple as white coffee, it’s no wonder people have different ideas of what it is. The reason for the disparate definitions is because light coffee drinks developed in multiple parts of the world. And because not everyone is creative enough to come up with “Frappuccino,” these drinks, though different, are each called white coffee.

    The two types of white coffee you may to run into on your coffee shop crawl originate either from Malaysia or Yemen. 


    Malaysian white coffee, also known as Ipoh white coffee, refers not to a specific bean, as many people mistakenly believe. It simply refers to a specific roasting process and beverage preparation


    The beans for this white coffee aren’t actually white. They are, however, a lighter roast. During the roasting process, the roasters use palm oil margarine rather than the margarine, sugar, and wheat combination used for their dark roasts.

    This process gives the resulting brew a slightly caramelized flavor.


    The name “white coffee” comes from the preparation of the drink itself. After brewing with the light-roast beans, condensed milk is added to the tan-colored coffee. 

    In order to get the flavor out of the unique beans, the grounds have to be brewed at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s then poured from well above the cup to help cool it down and create a nice foam. 


    If you’re currently at home drinking Death Wish or the like, this subtle drink might not suit you.

    But if you’re looking for something smooth, creamy, and sweet, it’s perfect. The coffee flavor is rather subdued, though some people do say the flavor is purer than those muddled by other roasting/extraction processes. 


    Unlike the Malaysian variety, Yemeni white coffee actually looks close to white without anything added to it. However, the two are similar in that they are both very light roasts with unique ingredients added to the final brew. 


    These beans are roasted at about 325 F, which is significantly lower than other roasting processes. And the time that the beans are roasted is also much shorter than that used for darker roasts. This leaves you with an exceptionally light roast. 


    While these beans aren’t always served in the traditional Yemeni style, most coffee shops that offer it still do. That means a mixture of spices called Hawaij is added to the beverage. 

    Hawaij is a more aromatic mixture of spices used for soups. It includes cinnamon, aniseeds, ginger, cardamom, cloves and fennel seeds. 


    Because this is a very light roast, it’ll have a good deal more acidity than most coffees. It’s typically described as having an earthy or nutty flavor without the bitter undertones characteristic of coffee. This is a plus for some and a con for others, so your personal palate is what will determine its agreeability.

    The addition of the hawaij gives this berate a bit more oomph than your usual cup of Joe. Thanks to the subtlety of the coffee flavor, the intricate notes of the brew and the spice mixture can shine through. 

    Caffeine Content?

    There are some sources that tout the exceptionally high caffeine content of white coffee. There is a general belief that caffeine is lost during the roasting process, so naturally this ultra-light roast must have a TON of caffeine. This isn’t exactly true

    Because light coffee is denser than dark roasts, measuring your coffee (as opposed to weighing it) will give you some slight variation in caffeination. However, the difference, even with white coffee isn’t spectacular. The real difference is in the beans themselves (Arabica vs Robusta).

    So if you’re not a fan of white coffee, making the switch for the sake of caffeine isn’t worth it. 

    Health Benefits?

    While you probably shouldn’t be relying on white coffee as a total health alternative, it does have some nice benefits. It is higher in chlorogenic acid than other coffees (which is already contain considerable amounts). This particular acid is thought to help with cardiovascular health, glucose regulation, weight loss, anti-inflammation, and more. 

    Wrapping Up

    White coffee, both the Malaysian and Yemeni variety, is an exciting coffee beverage that’s worth trying if you’ve never tasted it. While some of its properties are a little over exaggerated, it is still a tasty treat with a couple interesting plus-sides. 

    We especially recommend this drink to people who prefer a more subtle coffee flavor and generally prefer lighter roasts. The Malaysian is great if you’re looking for something sweet and creamy; whereas the spice of the Yemeni drink leans into the naturally nutty flavor.

    Happy Caffeinating! 



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