Last Updated on May 10, 2021 by Cristina Vélez
There’s more to life than having to choose only between your usual latte or espresso. From coffee beans aged in bourbon barrels to mixing your coffee with butter, coke, or cheese, more than one drink in this list that will surprise you. And maybe you’ll find a new favorite.
1. Coffee leaf tea
As its name suggests, coffee leaf tea it’s not a coffee drink but a tea, made from the leaves of the coffee plant. Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee berry, which is the fruit of this coffee plant.
People in West Sumatra and Ethiopia, have drunk this herbal infusion for hundreds of years. They call it Kuti in Ethiopia and Kawa Daun in Sumatra. It is prepared by sun-drying coffee leaves to reduce their bitterness, then roasting and finally boiling them in water.
Coffee tea leaf has a caffeine content similar to green tea, and it is loaded with antioxidants, which are believed to boost overall health. It has an earthy taste that’s neither as bitter as tea nor as strong as coffee. It doesn’t taste like coffee at all.
Canadians Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet helped popularize this drink when they started Wize Monkey, a company that sells coffee leaf tea in North America. They became interested in the coffee leaves because of their high antioxidant content. During their travels to Nicaragua, they found that coffee farmers only have income for a few months of the year, during the coffee harvest. This inspired in them the idea that coffee plantations could become profitable during most of the year, if the coffee leaves were used in the production of coffee leaf tea, thus stabilizing the income for coffee farmers.
Coffee leaf tea should not be confused with coffee cherry tea, also called cascara, which is an infusion made with the dried skins of coffee cherries.
2. White coffee
White coffee it’s not really white, and it’s doesn’t mean coffee with milk. It’s coffee brewed with coffee beans that are roasted very lightly, at a lower temperature and for a longer time than regular coffee. In other words, white coffee is half-baked!
But, why would you under-roast your coffee beans? Most of the bitterness in coffee is produced during the later stages of the roasting process when chemical processes like caramelization and Maillard reactions occur. The darker the roast, the more destruction there is of the antioxidants present in the green bean. Therefore, white coffee is higher in antioxidants, which are good for your health. White coffee is also smoother for your stomach.
One important thing to consider when buying white coffee is that lightly roasted beans are much denser (harder to grind). Unless you have a heavy-duty machine, you will have a hard time trying to crush them at home, and it will probably ruin your home grinder. It’s better to just buy them already ground.
White coffee has a nutty taste with high acidity and low bitterness. The flavor depends a lot on the type of bean that you use because the low level of roast preserves more of the original characteristics of the bean. It also has a higher content of caffeine. Because a lot of the flavor present in brewed coffee comes from the roasting, the flavor of brewed white coffee can be quite different than regular coffee, which is why some people mix it with some regular roasted coffee to get more of the smokey, deep coffee flavors.
3. Aged coffee
Aged coffee is prepared with coffee beans that are left to age for a few months or a few years, sometimes inside barrels that were previously used to age wine or whisky. During this process, the green coffee beans mellow and turn a shade of brown.
Aged coffee beans have an ancient history. In the book Uncommon Grounds, Mark Pendergast mentions that, in the time when Indonesia was a Dutch colony, a type of coffee called Old Government Java was held by the Dutch government for seven years or longer in go-downs or storehouses. This coffee, like old wine, commanded a premium price and was often faked or imitated by adding brown colorant to regular beans.
Back in modern times, people in the coffee industry won’t agree on whether aged beans taste better. In general, the aging process diminishes the acidity or brightness of a cup of coffee. Aging is not suitable for the subtle flavor of high grown coffees of Central America, but it may enhance the heavy body of coffee from Sumatra or Mysore.
A recent trend is to age coffee beans in oak barrels that were previously used for aging wine or whiskey. This requires coffee beans with a strong flavor profile that can stand up to the intense flavors of the barrels. It also needs to be aged under the right circumstances, like the right amount of humidity. You can find coffee aged in bourbon barrels on Amazon.
4. Fermented brewed coffee
Yes, fermented brewed coffee is a thing, and it’s called Coffee Kombucha.
Regular Kombucha is a slightly alcoholic, lightly effervescent drink that’s made from fermenting sweetened black or green tea. Coffee Kombucha is the same style of drink, but using brewed coffee instead of black or green tea.
In both Kombucha drinks (made from tea or from coffee), the fermenting microorganisms are introduced in the form of a semi-solid, gelatinous disc called a SCOBY (SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts). The SCOBY has a weird appearance, as you can see in the image below.
Kombucha coffee should be served room temperature or cold. Heating would destroy most of the beneficial yeasts and bacteria. It’s a special drink with an unusual flavor, that may take some time to learn to love.
5. Coffee brewed without heat
Cold-brew coffee is made by steeping coffee beans with cold or room-temperature water for up to 24 hours. Before serving, this coffee concentrate is diluted with water and ice, usually in a 1:2 ratio. It should not be confused with iced coffee, which is coffee brewed in the usual way (using hot water) and then chilled with ice.
Brewing coffee this way produces a cold beverage that’s sweeter and less bitter than regular coffee It’s ideal as a refreshing drink for warm weather.
Even though it became popular a few years ago (around 2014), cold -brew coffee has existed for centuries. The Dutch introduced it to Japan from Indonesia in the 1600s, where it’s called Kyoto coffee. It was probably invented as a way to have a portable coffee drink that could be easily reheated or served cold.
Cold-brew coffee is easy to make at home and requires no special equipment. Just mix coarsely ground coffee beans with water in a proportion of 1 ounce of coffee per cup of water. Let it steep overnight in the freezer and then strain carefully through cheesecloth, without pressing or squeezing the coffee grounds. Keep it in the freezer, and dilute it with water and ice when you’re ready to drink. Dilute about ½ cup of the cold-brew concentrate with the same amount of water and serve over a glass full of ice.
If you don’t want to make your cold-brew at home, you can also buy it already made and bottled.
6. Coffee infused with nitrogen
This is a more recent variation of cold-brew coffee, and it has its own unique name: Nitro Coffee, or Nitro Cold-Brew. It’s made by infusing cold-brew coffee with nitrogen, which is a gas that has no color and no aroma.
The process of adding nitrogen is also responsible for giving some beers their thick and velvety foam, and the results are visually very similar too. You can see me in the photo below trying Nitro coffee for the first time at a coffee expo event.
I certainly felt like I was drinking a fancy dark beer, except there’s no alcohol involved, and it tastes like a cold coffee with low bitterness. I liked it, and I wish I had the special equipment to make it at home. In recent years, nitro coffee has become more of a mainstream drink, and you can find it Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts stores.
7. Black pepper coffee
Spices have been part of coffee culture since ancient times. More than 500 years ago in Yemen, coffee was first cultivated and developed into the beverage we know today. Yemeni coffee is traditionally served with a spice mixture called Hawaij, which usually includes cumin, black pepper, turmeric, and cardamon.
In Kerala, India, many start their day with a cup of black coffee spiced up with a bit of ground black pepper.
People in Senegal add a spice called “djar” to their traditional coffee called café Touba. Djar has a flavor similar to a mix of black pepper and cardamom.
So, there are reasons to think that adding black pepper to coffee is a good idea. Although for most people in the western world, like myself, that is not the first spice that comes to mind when you think of coffee. Cinnamon or cardamom would be my first choice. But some people claim that black pepper complements the flavor of coffee very well, so it’s certainly worth to try it.
8. Coffee lemonade
As the name implies, coffee lemonade is a lemonade made with coffee. Just like regular lemonade, you can choose either still or sparkling water but always serve with lots of ice cubes.
In Sweden, it’s called Kaffelemonad, and they’ve been serving it at Café Da Matteo since 2013. At Jubala in Raleigh, North Carolina, they add a splash of tonic water, which provides an energizing boost. A more sophisticated version of coffee lemonade is offered at Stand Coffee in Brooklyn, New York, where they use vanilla syrup, cold brew coffee, and a splash of almond milk over ice.
9. Espresso with lemon
Espresso Romano is a shot of espresso with a squeeze of lemon, usually served with a twist of lemon. The lemon adds brightness to the expresso and somehow reduces the bitterness. Despite its Italian-sounding name, some Italian people say they have not heard from it. Apparently, it’s not a typical roman drink, and its origins are unknown.
10. Coffee with Coca-Cola
Here we have an interesting choice for an icy summer drink: it’s called Fat Americano, and it’s made by pouring an espresso shot over a glass of coca-cola with ice. Yep, it’s like an Americano coffee, where you replace the water with coke, and it comes from South Korea. The drink is refreshing, sweet, and loaded with caffeine.
It reminds of Calimocho, which is a delicious mix of red wine with coca-cola, very popular in Spain. Maybe we should also experiment mixing coke with more drinks, who knows what delightful concoction we will find.
11. Coffee with mushrooms
Coffee with mushrooms is a mix of ground coffee beans with some special powdered mushrooms, called “functional” mushrooms. The fungi most commonly used to produce mushroom powder include cordyceps, chaga, and lion’s mane.
The health benefits depend on the type of mushroom used. Proponents of mushroom coffee claim that it has lower caffeine content, makes digestion easier by adding healthy bacteria to the gut, and helps with stress management. These advantages come on top of the health benefits already present in regular coffee, like increased energy and more antioxidants.
12. Coffee with butter and MCT oil
Bulletproof coffee is a high-fat high-calorie drink made with coffee beans, butter, and a special oil derived from coconut oil called MCT oil. MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride. One portion of bulletproof coffee typically brewed coffee blended with 1 to 2 teaspoons of butter and 1 to 2 teaspoons of MCT oil, which gives the final beverage a creamy look and feel. This mix is whisked by hand or with a blender, to produce a thick foam on top.
Some say it tastes mostly like black coffee, but with a greasy aftertaste.
It was invented by Dave Asprey, an American entrepreneur who also created the Bulletproof Diet. Unlike other coffee beverages mentioned in this post, it’s not meant to be just a coffee drink. Instead, it’s a breakfast replacement for people who want to lose weight.
Bulletproof coffee has a strong following, particularly among people who like low-carb, paleo, and ketogenic diets.
Like many popular fad-diets, bulletproof coffee is surrounded by controversy. Its supporters claim that it helps you feel satiated, stabilizes hunger, gives you energy, and promotes weight-loss. Its detractors say it’s too low in nutrients, too high in saturated fat and likely to raise your cholesterol levels.
13. Indonesian Coffee with Butter
Kopi Gu You means “Coffee Butter” in hokkien language, which is a language used by some Chinese people in Southeast Asia. It was originally made by adding a slab of butter to brewed coffee, which then remained floating on top. It was introduced in coffee shops of Southern China in the 1930s, to soften the harsh flavors of the Robusta coffee beans used in the region.
Nowadays, it’s prepared differently, by adding butter, margarine, or lard with sugar during the roasting of the coffee beans. This caramelizes the exterior of the beans and gives them a mellow flavor.
Similar to bulletproof coffee, Kopi Gu You gives you more energy because of the added fat content.
14. Espresso Tonic
Espresso tonic is a double shot of espresso with tonic water and ice cubes. It was invented at Koppi Roaster’s café in Helsingborg, Sweeden, back in 2007. They called it Kaffee&Tonic, and it was their signature drink for a decade until the business closed in 2017. It is now popular in Scandinavia, and in some parts of the United States.
When making Espresso Tonic, choose tonic water that has good acidity, make sure you use lots of ice and garnish with a slice of lemon or lime.
15. Vietnamese egg coffee
Egg coffee or Cà phê trứng is a Vietnamese coffee concoction, that’s more of a dessert than a drink. It’s made by beating an egg yolk with sweetened condensed milk for about 10 minutes until you get a sweet, light, and airy meringue, which then is poured over hot espresso, or iced coffee.
It was created by Nguyen Van Giang in 1946 while working as a bartender at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi. Motivated by a milk shortage caused by the war, Giang whisked in a lot of egg yolk with sugar as a replacement for the milk. Thanks to the success of his creation, he soon left his job as a bartender and became a business owner by opening Giang Café, which you can still visit today.
16. Norwegian Egg Coffee
Norwegian egg coffee is quite different from its Vietnamese counterpart. While the Vietnamese coffee incorporates the egg as a sweet edible foam, Norwegian Coffee uses the egg as a clarifying agent, that’s removed from the final drink.
Norwegian egg coffee is traditionally made by crushing a whole egg, with shell and everything, into a bowl with ground coffee, whisking the mixture, and then boiling it for a few minutes. This concoction is then filtered with a fine-mesh sieve. The idea behind this process is that the albumin present in the egg whites absorbs the bitter tannins present in the coffee beans, resulting in a surprisingly smooth drink, with low bitterness and an amber color.
17. Coffee with tea and condensed milk
Yuan Yang (or Yuen Yeung) is a popular drink in Hong Kong that combines coffee with black milk tea. It typically contains 3 parts coffee and 7 parts black milk tea. The milk tea is made with black tea leaves, water and sweetened condensed milk. It can be enjoyed hot or cold.
The translation of its name, Yuanyang, means mandarin ducks, which is interesting because in China the ducks are a symbol of love in marriage, or of the attraction between opposites. This symbolism is translated as the tea and the coffee combining well, even though they are different.
18. Coffee with cheese
I’m a fan of cheese, so this coffee drink is particularly appealing to me. Norwegian Cheese Coffee or Koffeeost is coffee served with chunks of cheese made with reindeer or goat milk, though cheese made with cow milk can also be used. It’s usually found in the high mountains of northern Scandinavia. This coffee drink was created in the Swedish Lapland, which is the Artic part of Sweeden and home to Europe’s only indigenous people, the Sami.
It’s traditionally served in birchwood cups, shared with family and friends as a symbol of warmth and hospitality. The cheese softens with the hot coffee, but it doesn’t melt, and you can use a teaspoon to eat it from the cup. It’s preferable to drink your Koffeeost while it’s still warm because the grease content of the cheese is less appealing when cold.
19. Charcoal coffee
Charcoal Coffee or Kopi Joss comes from Indonesia, which has one of the most prolific coffee cultures in the world. It’s made with boiling water, finely ground coffee, and lots of sugar, typically enjoyed at the sides of a street while sitting on a mat.
What’s really special about this coffee is the red-hot burning piece of charcoal that is added right before serving. This is better illustrated by looking at the video below:
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)