Lets say its an acquired taste. It originates from a place called Ipoh, in Malaysia. Not wanting to annoy and Malaysian reader, I would say Ipohs claim to fame as a mining town is stronger than its claim to fame as a coffee connesiurs paradise. I have spent some time in Ipoh and while the Kopitiam culture is very strong, the way the coffee is prepared and roasted really suits the palate that was born and thus developed there. Basically White coffee is prepared by roasting the Coffee with copious quantities of Margarine or blue-band butter. The roasting smetimes is done in small roasters, sometimes in large Woks. As most of the coffee used for white coffee is low quality Robusta from South Sumatra, possibily the process of roasting actually improves the base taste of the bean! However, drunk black its not really very nice at all! Of course the "white" coffee gets its name from the next step of the process, rather than the roasting. The coffee itself is brewed and strained and then mixed with condensed milk. It makes for a sweetish drink, which to be honest is the preference for most consumers here in Southeast Asia. Too sweet for me, and I daresay Topher! Interestingly White coffee has not made the jump accross the straits to Medan- where Kopi Tubruk is still the order of the day (albeit with many teaspoons of sugar added!). Apparently- according to more than one coffeeforums.com poster- white coffee is enjoying a resurgence in Malaysia.
Talking REGULAR coffee.... When we remove the parchment shell & arrive at the "green" coffee stage prior to roasting, we REMOVE any blatantly WHITE beans. They're immature coffee beans with no substance to them.