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Did You Know About Cascara?

For centuries, after ripe coffee cherries were harvested and the beans removed, the outer skin and mucilage were discarded, or on occasion turned to fertilizer. It wasn’t until the last decade or so that we have seen the rise of cascara, a yummy drink made from dried coffee cherry. You may have seen this pop up on the menu of your favorite coffee shops or even in a retail environment. Personally, I think this is a beautiful thing, taking a commonly discarded byproduct of coffee and letting it shine in its own right for the world to enjoy. Here are some things you should know about cascara.

What is Cascara?

Coffee Sustainability: Cascara, Coffee Fruit Tea

Coffee tea may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a fair description for cascara, which is made from the dried coffee cherry. In the last few years it’s made its way onto the world stage with some of the biggest coffee chains serving cascara drinks and experimenting with creative ways it can be enjoyed. While often referred to as coffee fruit tea, technically it is not a tea at all. Since it has no derivative of the tea plant, camellia sinensis, the most accurate description is actually a tisane, a broad term used for herbal blends or plant-derived drinks.

What Does Cascara Taste Like?

Though it comes from the coffee cherry, cascara tastes absolutely nothing like coffee. In many ways, it resembles an herbal tea – floral, fruity and slightly sweet. Just like coffee, the type of cherry, origin and growing conditions all play a major role in what you taste. When it comes to caffeine, cascara has only about a quarter the amount you will find in a typical brewed coffee. While it isn’t going to be a replacement for your coffee habit, it’s a fun drink to throw into the mix to switch things up.

How to Make Cascara

When brewing cascara, just like tea, steep it in hot water for a few minutes before the pulp is strained and you are ready to start drinking. In warm months, many enjoy brewing it cold which does take some time but brings out a whole new set of flavors. We’ve included some simple beginner cascara recipes for you to experiment with below!

Traditional (Hot)

  1. Put ~18 grams of cascara into a cloth bag or metal tea ball
  2. Add 300 grams (10.5 oz.) of 200°F water.
  3. Steep 4-5 minutes.
  4. Strain and drink up!

Cold Brew

  1. Place 100 grams cascara in 1L of cold water
  2. Steep for 24 hours
  3. Strain, pour over ice, and enjoy!

The Future of Cascara

The specialty coffee world has embraced cascara over the last few years and I anticipate that will continue to be the case moving forward. The versatility of the drink and the inherent connection to coffee is definitely playing in its favor. While the initial buzz around cascara on the coffee scene has calmed down, new specialty drinks like cascara cream sodas and cascara tonics are giving cascara new life. Either way, I get a warm fuzzy feeling seeing people drinking something that used to end up in the trash!

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