A white coffee bean is a coffee bean that has been under-roasted, which gives it a light color and different taste from the average roasted coffee. While it is mostly a specialty item and not widely available, it can be found in some coffee shops and purchased through select coffee roaster companies.
Raw coffee beans are initially green when harvested. It is only through roasting that they take on their familiar brown color. Lightly roasting the coffee beans will give them a tan color not unlike the color of a peanut. These are deemed "white" coffee beans, which are much harder than roasted beans and carry a different taste.
Typically roasted coffee has a dark, bitter taste that only takes on flavors when additives are employed in the process. With a white coffee bean, however, the light roasting method causes it to have a nutty taste when brewed, which is remarkably different from the taste of an average cup of coffee. This taste is enhanced when the coffee is prepared with additional ingredients to create a gourmet drink further distinguishing it from its fully roasted cousins.
The more a coffee bean is roasted, the more the bean burns off caffeine. Thus, white coffee beans, being only slightly roasted, contain more caffeine than the fully roasted bean, making it ideal for those who desire an extra dose of caffeine in their coffee. Coffee brewed from white beans can also appeal to non-coffee drinkers, as its nutty taste may prove more palatable than the usual bitter brew.
The light roasting of the beans also means it is closer to the consistency of the average raw bean and therefore much harder than the fully roasted bean. White coffee beans require a special grinder because they can break the average household grinder, which is made to process roasted beans.
Besides the fact that the beans are not technically white, there are misconceptions about the term white coffee, as it can refer to a variety of drinks. White coffee can refer to a normal cup of coffee containing some form of whitener (such as cream, milk, or half-and-half) as the opposite of black coffee. White coffee can also refer to Ipoh white coffee, a Malaysian style of coffee where the beans are roasted with margarine, which gives it a lighter color compared to the traditional Malaysian black coffee, which is roasted with caramel, margarine and grounded wheat or oat.