Cascara refers to the outer husk of the coffee cherry, which holds the coffee bean until it’s mature enough to be harvested.
Cascara was initially used as fertiliser or compost when coffee was harvested, and the cherries were separated from the coffee beans. For most farmers, cascara is considered a by-product to be discarded altogether.
Not to be confused with cascara sagrada, cascara comes in different varieties, but most are yellow or red when they are ripe. Just like the coffee beans, they also contain caffeine. When coffee is harvested the coffee beans are separated from this part of the fruit. Typically the husks are separated from the beans then discarded during the coffee production process. However, in many countries the Cascara is also dried and brewed, like tea, as a drink often referred to as coffee cherry tea.
Interestingly, people from coffee growing countries were drying and infusing the cherry fruit in hot water to create an infusion, long before the bean was used for coffee. Countries like Ethiopia and Yemen have been producing, drying, and brewing Cascara for centuries while in some countries cascara tea is even more popular than coffee.
The caffeinated beverage imparts a sweet, fruity flavour. It can either be enjoyed on its own or brewed latte style. Since it’s essentially the “fruit” of the coffee tree, cascara is also a valuable source of fibre and antioxidants.
The popularity of this coffee by-product has risen recently in the UK, the US and countries in Europe where some coffee shops are beginning to include cascara recipes in their menus.
Starbucks trialled it in their USA stores and it’s available now as a latte or in their cold brew. Recognising the potential in cascara as a coffee by-product, other businesses are using cascara to create simple syrups, cordials, and liqueurs.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com