|"A mild roasty/nutty presence sort of gave the impression of coffee, but – for the most part – it was all spice."|
As oddity would have it, the company was fronted by a former Olympic skater by the name of Craig Buntin, and he was the one that sent me the inquiry. I felt I should've known the name but was drawing a blank. Being a male and a nerd meant I paid little attention to sports, let alone figure skating. I had to ask my mother if she knew who he was. She excitedly squealed an affirmative. Afterwards, I asked my father - a coffee drinker - if he'd heard of white coffee; he hadn't. A unique blend fronted by a sports celeb...how could I not try it?
Two months later, samples arrived in the mail - the day before I was set to start a job unloading trucks at the ungodly hour of 5AM. That prior night I managed only two hours of sleep. Tea wasn't going to cut it for caffeine. I needed something stronger. It seemed a good a time as any to turn to the coffee-chai-thingy I had on hand.
The blend contained baked arabica coffee beans as the base. The "Coffea arabica" species was touted (in coffee circles) as one of the oldest ever cultivated. The Almighty Wiki even mentioned that the plant had a thousand-year history as a manhandled crop. It derives its name from the mountainous region in Yemen it was indigenous to. Typically, the roasted variety contained less caffeine than other types, but the ones used here were baked (hence the "white" moniker). In theory - due to the lower-temp drying process - the result yielded a smaller, harder, sweeter and more caffeinated bean.
Rounding out the blend were cinnamon bark, ginger root, star anise, cloves, and natural flavors. A lot of the usual suspects for masala chai were present and accounted for. I had no idea why natural flavors were necessary for so loud a spice combo but no matter. The blended bits were ground pieces of beige and brown; the darkest of the lot, I guessed, were cinnamon chunks. The fragrance of the spicy fusion reminded me of sweetened dandelion root with a ginger lean. There was a distinctive woody element to it - overall, not unpleasant.
There weren't any particular brewing instructions on the Teabean site to springboard from. I wasn't entirely sure how to brew something with a coffee bean base - baked or not. A typical, quickie masala chai approach called for a three-to-five-minute steep in boiling water. I did just that and dunked the pyramid sachet in a 12oz mug, covered it and waited.
The infusion yielded a foggy amber liquor with a strong, “sweet-wood” and ginger aroma. A mild roasty/nutty presence sort of gave the impression of coffee, but – for the most part – it was all spice. The first sip garnered an arched eyebrow. That earlier dandelion root impression came back in a big way. Not too surprising considering the root tisane is often used as a coffee substitute. Teabean was right about the natural sweetness given off by the white coffee base. The foretaste alternated between woody, nutty, and sweet, whereas ginger and cinnamon surfaced in the body. The finish was crisp, cooling, and surprisingly smooth.
If I had one gripe, it was that this product was missing a creamy accentor. Oftentimes, fennel is added to chai blends for just this reason. Instead of natural flavors to fill in the gaps, fennel seed could’ve easily picked up the slack. As it stands, though, it is a coffee I’d happily turn to. And it helped keep me energized through five hours of a ten-hour shift.
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