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What is Cascara Coffee Cherry Tea?


Brandon Pierce
January 22, 2022

Are you one of those people who can't start their day without coffee? Yes! I know it's hard for many people to even function properly without a cup of coffee.

Due to the increasing numbers of coffee users over the last two decades, the coffee industry has expanded and experienced many changes. One of those changes includes the development of a unique and exotic beverage known as "Cascara". 

A report by Bloomberg indicates that more and more coffee chains are adding it to their menu. Starbucks is already using cascara syrup as a sweetener and offering a topping made from coffee bean husk.

Similarly, Stumptown Coffee roasters have added it to their menu as a tea. Let me explain what this beverage is all about and how you can make it for yourself.

What is Cascara in Coffee?

To understand what cascara is, we first need to understand what coffee beans are. Coffee beans are the seed of a fruit, generally known as a coffee cherry. The color of the fruit varies depending upon its variety, but it is mainly yellow or red when fully ripe.

The cherry contains about a quarter of the caffeine that we get from coffee, and the main function of the fruit is to protect the growing seed by deterring insects. Farmers remove the pit from inside the cherry during the pulping process.

They then roast the seeds to get coffee. Although cherries do an excellent job in protecting the seeds, what happens to them when their job is done? Usually, roasters discard them after removing them from beans. Sometimes they are turned into compost and serve as fertilizer on farms.

Or, interestingly enough, in a few instances, they are dried up and brewed as a tea. Sounds incredible, right? These dried coffee cherries become cascara or husk.

Cascara, pronounced kass-car-ah, is a Spanish word meaning "peel," "skin," or "husk." It is the dried skin of coffee cherries.

What do you do with Cascara?

So you must be wondering how is cascara turned into an exotic drink. Tea, coffee, or both? It involves several steps.

  1. Coffee beans are removed from the cherries, and pulped skins are collected.
  2.  The next step involves drying them in the sun before packaging and shipping them off.
  3. These dried bags of coffee cherries are then used to make a unique drink.

When classifying cascara as a beverage, it is hard to call it a coffee or a tea. It doesn't taste like coffee even though it comes from the coffee plant. So what is its flavor profile? It has a sweet taste like a fruit that reminds you of cherry, hibiscus, or even tobacco. Just like its taste, its caffeine content is not similar to coffee.

It is a common misconception that cascara has more levels of caffeine than regular coffee, but that's not the case. Its caffeine level is similar to that of black tea.

Since it's a natural product, the caffeine content will change from crop to crop and depends upon how the coffee is brewed. Since we have established that it doesn't taste like coffee, does it share a flavor with tea? Let's see. 

Cascara doesn't come from plant leaves; hence it can't be categorized as a tea. Unlike what you may imagine it to be, tea is made from herbs, not fruit. Since the majority of Texans are made from fruit, it is logical to classify cascara beverages as a fruit tisane.

Preparation of Cascara

So now the question is, how is cascara made? Like any other tisane, it's brewed by steeping dried coffee cherries in hot water. As you know, the concept of coffee cherry tea is entirely new to people in the United States; hence there is no right way to brew the perfect cup.

It gives enough room for brewers to experiment with different recipes by changing both water-to-tea ratios and steeping times. Although it is pretty sweet by itself, some people still prefer to add honey or a little sugar to enhance the flavor. Some people also recommend adding ginger, nutmeg, or cinnamon to give a boost to drink and brew it to perfection.

Another plus point of cascara is the fact that it can be cold brewed. Who doesn't like cold-brewed tea? I know, right! According to Verve Coffee Roasters' website, you should mix six tablespoons of tea for every 10 ounces of cold water.

Put the tea in water and let it stand in the fridge for a day. Strain the mixture, and enjoy the drink. The straining process can be skipped by brewing the tea with a French press or using tea filters.

Although this drink is new for United States residents, it's already popular in other parts of the world for quite some time now. According to a report, Coffee farmers in Yemen and Ethiopia have been brewing cherries like this for decades.

The popularity of this drink hasn't decreased in these countries; in Yemen, the consumption of this drink is even higher than coffee because it is more affordable over there. Now coffee growers in South America, especially El Salvador and Bolivia, have dabbled in the cascara business as well.

For instance, Aida Battle, a coffee grower from El Salvador, is known for offering Cascara tea via Sweet Maria's so people in the US can enjoy it too.

Due to the increasing popularity of cascara, farmers are being encouraged to think outside the box and explore new processes for production. They're giving importance to the preferences of those who are cooking and consuming their product.

With these new insights, cascara is going to taste different from farm to farm. As its popularity continues to grow, there is a good chance that cascara could have a usable beyond a beverage - perhaps in desserts or savory dishes.

Well, that sounds amazing, doesn't it? Coffee cherry tea is still a new chapter for the United States. Nevertheless, it's an exciting opportunity for cafes to expand their audience.

Whether brewed hot or cold, cascara is a super cool way to enjoy another tasty part of a plant of which I have become quite fond.

Brandon Pierce

About the author

My name is Brandon and I love cold-brew coffee. If you're a fan of everything homebrew, then we'll get along just fine. I also enjoy riding my Onewheel around town, and going on adventures with my future wife! As an online work-from-home advocate, it's important that I stay connected to the world while being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

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