I’ve seen pistachio flavored coffee on the menu before (wouldn’t recommend it unless you LOVE spumoni ice cream), but I’ve never heard of coffee that is made with pistachio nuts instead of coffee beans. Recent research conducted by chemists at the University of York indicates that this just might be possible – and that there are quite a few reasons why coffee drinkers, as well as coffee companies, might want to take note.
The nut in question is variety that grows on the Pistacia terebinthus tree. It is smaller than the pistachios that you would find in a bag of mixed nuts, and it has the same chemical “signature” as coffee. In other words, when the nuts were roasted to the same types of high temperatures that coffee beans are roasted to, they took on a very coffee-like aroma and flavor. The “coffee” made with pistachios has no caffeine, although it can be brewed up just like the real thing, making it seem like it might be a fantastic fit for those who want coffee without the kick and would otherwise opt for decaf on a regular basis. Even better, the nuts are much cheaper to buy and produce than coffee beans are, so pistachio could be a very cost-effective business to get into, as well.
But the process of turning pistachios into coffee isn’t perfect yet. The Sunday Telegraph challenged a couple of local (UK-based) coffee experts to try the pistachio coffee and see what they thought about it. One tester found the flavor to be very distinctive with a much stronger pine flavor than any regular coffee, but noted that the overall aroma was very pleasant. Another trial ground the nuts to brew espresso with. Like most roasted nuts, the pistachios were too oily to be ground so finely and turned into a buttery paste (think peanut butter) that would not pull a shot. When it was brewed, however, the pistachio coffee had a pleasant “woody and spicy flavor.”
With these small issues taken into account, researchers are trying to perfect the roasting process to remove excess oil and make the pistachios perform more like coffee beans. The hope to keep their unique flavor but improve their performance. Coffee prices are still increasing and for some manufactures an affordable alternative could have a lot of appeal.