Can You Make Coffee From Kentucky Coffeetrees?


That’s a good question and yes you can make coffee from the Kentucky Coffeetree. I personally haven’t tried this but if I come across a cup, I surely wouldn’t mind giving it a try.

Early settlers would roast the tree seeds and pods and add to their coffee to be used as a filler. This was sometimes used as a coffee substitute similar to putting roasted chicory root in coffee.

Can You Make Coffee From Kentucky Coffeetrees

Unroasted seeds and pods are toxic and shouldn’t be consumed, however, if roasted then the Kentucky Coffeetree seeds and pods can be brewed similar to coffee.

Kentucky Coffeetree

Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) is a unique tree with large, woody pods and very large leaves made up of smaller leaflets.

Its common name refers to the use of the pods by early settlers as a coffee substitute. With its bold form, contorted branching, unique bark and decorative clusters of large pods rattling in the wind,

Kentucky coffeetree is an exceptional winter ornamental. Leaves emerge in late spring a striking pink-bronze color. As the beautiful, large airy leaves mature they become dark bluish-green above. The light, airy shade (semi-shade) of this tree makes gardening under it possible.

This tree’s yellow fall color contrasts nicely with the clusters of dark, maturing pods.

Botanical Information

  • Native habitat: Northeastern and central U.S. Growth habit – This tree has an irregular form with coarse branches.
  • Growth habit:
  • Tree size: The coffeetree tends to reach a height of 60 to 75 feet with a 40- to 50-foot spread at maturity. It can reach a height of 90 feet. Growth rate is slow to moderate.
  • Flower and fruit: Greenish-white, 1-inch flowers are arranged in panicles at branch tips. Panicles are 8 to 12 inches long on female trees; 3 to 4 inches long on male trees. The poisonous fruit is a 5- to 10-inch-long, brown, woody pod that contains sticky pulp and a few large seeds. The toxic alkaloid, cystisine, is neutralized in the roasting process.
  • Leaf: Very large (3 feet long and 2 feet wide) compound leaves with numerous leaflets. They are pink-bronze when they emerge in the spring then dark bluish-green in summer. Fall color is yellow but tends to be ineffective.
  • Hardiness: Winter hardy to USDA Zone 3b.

Final Thoughts

I believe you should try new things and expand your horizons, especially when it comes to food and culture, however I also think if something isn’t appealing then you don’t need to go out your way just to experience it.

For some reason the thought of the bitterness these coffeetree pods may have just doesn’t do it for me. I won’t go seeking to try a cup of this but if someone already has a hot pot ready then I will try it.

Would you try this coffee substitute? Let me know in the comments below.


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