Nutty coffee flavors have been wildly popular ever since the introduction of flavored specialty coffees. From the best hazelnut k cups to deep pecan-flavored coffee, the relationship between nuts and coffee have produced some memorable flavors that the coffee-loving world is thankful for. But did you know that you pine nuts are used to flavor coffee as well? In fact, pine nut coffee or pinon coffee (Spanish for pine nut) is considered a little known and rare caffeinated delicacy.
This specialty coffee is found in the southwest of the United States with a very high concentration in New Mexico. In certain areas of New Mexico where wild pinon nuts grow in abundance, it's not uncommon to see people over on the side of the road gathering these prized nuts by laying down a tarp and vigorously shaking the pinon trees.
The taste of piñon coffee can be likened to an unmistakably smooth and deep cup of Joe with distinct sweet and nutty overtones. What stands out about the flavor of pinon coffee is its depth which comes from the natural buttery flavor of pine nuts. It leaves you with a very satisfying and fulfilling flavor. The coffee's unique smoothness takes the edge off of the bitter aftertaste that typically comes with acidic coffee.
When shopping for pine nut coffee, it's important to note that a majority of coffee companies who offer this product don't use actual pine nuts in their roasting process. Because a pine nut and coffee bean have very different densities, the logistics of roasting both of them at the same time is rather difficult and thus, most roasters opt for natural flavoring instead. These natural flavorings typically aim to capture the best and most satisfying parts of the classic pine nut flavor.
An article on pine nut coffee wouldn't be complete without mention of a company that's credited with pioneering the market for over 20 years. New Mexico Pinon Coffee Company, as its name suggests, is based in New Mexico and has grown from humble beginnings into the state's largest roaster. Their pinon coffee has earned them a world renown reputation for producing some of the most delicious pine nut-flavored coffee. Up until 2015, they were one of the only coffee companies to use real pine nuts in their coffee. However, due to regulations governing the use of wild pinon nuts, New Mexico Pinon Coffee now uses all natural flavoring instead. We reached out to the company for some additional insight on the change.
Drake Miller, who is the New Mexico Piñon Coffee's marketing manager, said “Back when our company was founded in 1994, our coffee contained three ingredients: high altitude Arabica coffee, piñon nuts, and an artificial piñon flavoring in order to help us keep our coffee tasting consistent across each cup and each bag. About two years ago, we made the decision to go completely allergen free with our coffee, and stopped adding piñon nuts unless customers specifically asked for it to be included. With upcoming changes mandated by the FDA in regards to food safety, specifically ingredients harvested from wild sources, we have completely moved away from the inclusion of actual piñon nuts in any of our coffee. However, this year we have moved to using 100% natural flavorings, while still remaining free of any potential allergens. Not only does this keep us within food safety regulations, it helps us to make sure that every cup from every bag of coffee that we make has the same delicious, nutty flavor.”
If any of our readers stumble across a pinon coffee brand that uses real piñon nuts in the roasting process, we'd love to know about it.