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All over the world, coffee and coffee-based drinks are even more popular than ever. (Thanks, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s!) But have you heard of white coffee? While it may not be as well-known to the masses, coffee connoisseurs know that white coffee is special because of its roasting process and distinctive taste.

Origin

White coffee was developed early in the 20th century by the owners of the coffeehouse Lian Thong in a Malaysian town called Ipoh. They wanted to give their customers something unique, so they developed white coffee, which began to be in demand around Ipoh. Visitors to the town enjoyed this special brew as well, leading to the marketing of white coffee in overseas markets. It has since gained popularity in countries like Australia, England, and the United States.

Roasting

The roasting process is what sets white coffee apart. White coffee and black coffee both use generally the same type of coffee beans—robusta or arabica. With black coffee, the beans are roasted for variable amounts of time, depending on the desired brew strength, and mixed with margarine and sugar. White coffee is roasted with only margarine to give the beans a lighter roast.

Brewing

Another contributing factor to the taste of white coffee is that it's brewed for a shorter period of time than black coffee blends. The shorter brewing time means that white coffee has more caffeine.

Color and Taste

Despite the name, white coffee is not actually white—it's more like a light tan, similar to chicken broth. Some say white coffee tastes weak like coffee substitutes, while others say it has a more pure coffee taste than other blends.

White Coffee in the US

In the United States, the phrase white coffee also has another meaning—it may refer to any regular coffee with cream, milk, or nondairy creamer.