One of the great ‘say what?’ moments in anyone’s coffee journey is the first time you are told ‘Did you know coffee starts off a fruit? A cherry in fact!’ (Secretly hoping that someone just had that moment reading this). We are all then promptly informed about the processing methods to effectively remove the precious coffee seed from the pulp of the cherry, to then be dried, shipped and roasted into the delicious specialty coffee we know and love.
From there the story often moves on quickly to cover espresso, lattes and various other brew methods, but we rarely stop to ask ourselves what ever happened to that luscious outer cherry pulp. Where does it go? Is it edible? Does it taste like a cherry? Well it’s time we shine a light on cascara, the often photographed and rarely consumed by-product of our favourite daily beverage.
The name has Spanish origins meaning ‘husk’ or ‘peel’, and is used to describe the carefully processed (wet or natural) dried skins of the coffee cherry. Should processing and drying go smoothly the resulting product is then carefully packed and shipped to be consumed as a ‘Coffee Cherry Tea’. The resulting brew is sweet, raisin-like and a little peachy, with hints of maple in the aroma.
A frequently asked question asked here is ‘Does cascara contain caffeine?’ You betcha! But at a much lower concentration; about 25% of the amount found in roasted coffee beans, so you can put on a pot of ‘Afternoon Delight’ without concern of being up all night.
Aside from it being a delicious beverage, there are some broader benefits to cascara being consumed in larger numbers. The first being another viable revenue stream for coffee farmers, which is something we can all get behind! With some farmers around the world sadly being forced to pull up their coffee crops, making coffee production increasingly viable is more important than ever. 1,000kgs of fresh cherries produces approximately 400kgs of wet pulp. Imagine just throwing that potential away! Which leads to the obvious second benefit of greatly reducing a wasteful byproduct. When no effective use is available, the pulp is often tipped into landfill where it rapidly produces vast amounts of methane gasses, ultimately creating a negative environmental impact.
How to enjoy Cascara!
Time to fill up a pot then! So how should you brew and enjoy cascara? Cascara is very easy to prepare and can be enjoyed in many ways.
Brew it hot.
Brewing Cascara as a tisane or tea is the most popular approach. Here’s our go-to recipe!
What you need:
- A brew device like a tea pot or Clever Coffee Dripper with a filter, or Handybrew.
- A kettle.
- Filtered water.
- Your favourite cup.
- Weigh 10gr Cascara per 300ml water into your teapot.
- Add 300g of 96deg C water (2mins off the boil) to the Cascara
- Steep for 4-10mins (weaker to stronger)
- Strain, serve and enjoy!
Pro Tip: One of the great experiences of enjoying cascara is to let it continue to steep and get sweeter and sweeter in the pot. A tiny pinch of Earl Grey tea is a playful riff in order to add some citrus pop and aroma to this sweet elixir.
Brew it cold.
Much like making cold brew coffee, steeping cascara in cold water and keeping it in an airtight container, like a jar, for 24 hours yields a spectacular result.
Increasing the dose from the hot recipe is recommended; starting with 10gr per 150gr water will get you tasty results. Once steeped, simply strain, pour into a tall glass with ice for a super sweet syrupy drop. Alternatively, top with sparkling water and add a squeezed cheek of lemon for instant refreshment.
Make a cocktail.
Let the fun begin! Cascara is a delicious and versatile ingredient for adding to cocktails. Use this dried fruit to make a simple syrup and add a dash of cascara flavour to any drink using this syrup recipe:
- Create a simple 1:2 sugar syrup using 250gr water and 125gr sugar, bring to the boil dissolving all the sugar and turn off the heat.
- Add 20 grams of cascara, give it a gentle stir and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
- Strain through a very fine mesh or cloth, then bottle and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Enjoy with a good splash of soda water for a refreshing drink (think creaming-soda!). For those of you who sampled our Straight Shooter Coffee Spirit, you could also use this as a great alcoholic base. The possibilities are endless!