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Editors note: A version of this article first appeared as a two-part series in Barista Magazine Online on September 15 and  September 18, 2018.

By Chris Kornman & Sandra Elisa Loofbourow

Part I – Green Coffee Extract was the First Wave

By Chris Kornman

In Yemen’s port of Aden around the middle of the 15th century, a Sufi mystic named Jamal al-Din Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Sa’id, (known as Dhabhani) introduced and popularized a drink he’d encountered while travelling to the horn of Africa, likely to the city of Harar. The beverage he tried would have been called called bun or buna, and that name survived his return to the Arabian peninsula in the form of bounya, a drink made from crushing and boiling green coffee beans to create an extraction, like a strong tea from raw coffee beans.

Its similar stimulant properties to “kafta” – an already popular drink made from khat leaves – led to its adoption for use during sect’s midnight prayers, and the term kafta was co-opted and applied to the coffee beverage. Eventually kafta would be corrupted to “qahwah”(قهوة) in classical Arabic and “kahveh” in Turkish. From there, it’s not hard to imagine the linguistic leap to the “cafe” of the romance languages.

While qishr (قشر) is often regarded as the iconic Yemeni coffee drink, made from husk of the the dried cherry (not unlike cascara), boiled and spiced, it is bounya that would eventually evolve from raw extraction into roasted, ground, brewed, and filtered coffee.

Green extract was the drop that whetted the world’s appetite for coffee.

But the tradition of boiling unroasted coffee beans predates the Sufis of Aden, and the Abyssinian farmers and traders of Hararghe, during the Islamic Golden Age. Both in Arabica’s home of western Ethiopia, and in northern Tanzania near the origins of Robusta, unroasted coffee, boiled and sometimes smoked, was chewed or the extraction could be imbibed unfiltered.

Modern interest has revived in green coffee extract, though not really for culinary purposes. In 2012, Dr. Mehmet Oz popularized a theory that the high proportion of chlorogenic acid in green coffee could stimulate weight loss. During roasting chlorogenic acid degrades into quinic acid, and so it is technically true that more of it exists in the unroasted beans.

However, there are some pitfalls to this method of preparation. Boiled green coffee is not especially palatable – all that chlorogenic acid in the absence of caramelized sugars is terrifically bitter. Poor quality green coffee also runs a higher risk than roasted of causing potential health issues – many compounds that burn off (like mold) or reduce in concentration (like ochratoxin) during roasting will adversely affect the consumer’s wellbeing if ingested in high quantities.

There’s also a drawback to using green coffee extract as a weight loss supplement: it doesn’t seem to work. One of the studies promoted by Oz was falsified, and in recent years, multi-million dollar settlements and lawsuits for green coffee extract products promoted by the tv personality have tarnished the reputation of both the extract and its promoter.

But, if we’re unconcerned with health (benefits or detriments), then surely there’s a way to experience coffee like its earliest drinkers in a way that appeases modern gustatory sensitivities. As part of a lecture and tasting series, my colleague Sandra undertook the challenge. Gleaning inspiration from ancient practices and fusing them with regional flavors from Indonesia, she more than exceeded at crafting refreshing drinks using green coffee extract. Her process and recipes can be found in Part II.

Part II – Drinking Green Coffee Extract… And Enjoying it.

By Sandra Elisa Loofbourow

Green bean extract does not taste good. A mix between soggy burlap, old peas, and herby chamomile, it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t really need to be tasted more than once. That people had the determination to get caffeinated before roasting became common practice is frankly impressive. When presented with the challenge of crafting a beverage that tasted delicious, but which used green bean extract as it’s based, I wasn’t totally sure it was possible.

As baristas, it can be tempting to rely on the simplicity of just one or two main ingredients for crafting delicious drinks. Luckily, there are other industries just as dedicated to deliciousness with a much wider range of ingredients. Taking cues from bartenders and chefs, I reviewed my arsenal: bringing balance to this earthy drink would certainly  require adding acidity and sweetness. The musty intensity and bitterness of the extract would benefit from dilution, and carbonated water would add effervescence and a more interesting mouthfeel.

Even with these ingredients in mind there was still a mid note missing; one that could fill the gap between the base notes of the muddy extract and the high notes of whatever acidic and sweet components were added. The solution? Ginger beer! This product filled that space perfectly, rounding out the beverage with mild spiciness, and an earthiness that complemented and improved on the muddy quality of the extract while playing well with whatever other ingredients were included in the recipe. Through multiple iterations of this drink, I found that ginger beer was the best solution for bringing true balance.

Here are two recipes for an iced-tea style drink that made green bean extract not only palatable, but delicious. Both use the recipe for Green Bean Extract listed below as their base. Don’t forget that the extract is highly caffeinated, and should be imbibed with restraint if not caution.

Green Bean Extract:

Rinse coffee beans thoroughly before steeping. A 1:4 ratio of water creates a powerful tea with plenty of flavor. Boiling the beans more aggressively or for a longer time will yield a more concentrated brew.

Ingredients:

  • 100g green coffee
  • 300g water

Bring water to a simmer. Add green beans and stir occasionally. After 10 minutes, strain coffee beans out and let the freshly brewed extract cool.  

Green Bean Extract is best consumed within 24 hours, but will keep in the fridge for a few days. As always, if there is a drastic change in color or opacity, it’s best to discard the liquid.

Spiced Ginger Cooler with a Caffeinated Kick:

This drink is cool and refreshing, and the spiced simple syrup and demerara sugar add a layer of complexity to an otherwise simple iced tea.

Ingredients:

  • 120g Green Bean Extract
  • 120g Ginger Beer
  • 60g Spiced Simple Syrup
  • 420g Sparkling Water

Mix all the ingredients together and add ices or chill. The flavor of the green bean extract should be distinctly present, but not overwhelming; getting the right ratio down might require some fine tuning.  

Spiced Simple Syrup:

  • 200g Demerara Sugar
  • 5g Cardamom Seeds
  • 5g Star Anise
  • 5g Cloves
  • 200g Filtered Water

Bring water to a boil, and add sugar and spices. Cook for 15 minutes, or until sugar has completely dissolved and the spices have fully infused. Strain the spices out and allow the syrup to cool. Kept in the fridge, this can last for 4-6 weeks.

Makrut Tamarind Tonic:

Tart tamarind can be a great counterpoint to the green bean extract, and syrup flavored with the unique acidity of  Makrut lime leaves (sometimes known as k-lime, previously known under the slur kaffir lime) creates a fresh, rejuvenating (and again, highly caffeinated) cooling beverage.

Ingredients:

  • 100g Green Bean Extract
  • 20g Tamarind Juice
  • 20g Makrut Lime Simple Syrup
  • 40g Ginger Beer
  • 200g Sparkling Water
  • 5 drops Angostura Bitters (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together and add ices or chill. The flavor of the green bean extract should be distinctly present, but not overwhelming; getting the right ratio down might require some fine tuning.  

Tamarind Juice:

  • 200g Tamarind Paste
  • 100g White Sugar
  • 600g Filtered Water

Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and tamarind paste. Use a wooden spoon to break up the block of tamarind paste until it has dissolved completely into the water. Simmer 15 minutes, then strain the juice into a clean container, leaving the tamarind pods and most of the meat behind. Straining more than once can help remove more of the meat, but isn’t strictly necessary. The juice will separate slightly, and needs to be shaken to re-incorporate the solids before use. Will last in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Makrut Lime Simple Syrup:

  • 5g Makrut Lime Leaves
  • 5g Coriander Seeds
  • 5g Cardamom Seeds
  • 4 Cloves
  • 100g White Sugar
  • 100g Water

Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and spices. Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lime leaves are cooked through. Strain syrup into a clean container. Will keep in the fridge for up to 4-6 weeks.