Cascara - The Forgotten Fruit
Hey there, did you know that coffee is a fruit? What we drink every day is the roasted seed of the grape-sized coffee “cherry.” But, that’s not the only delicious part! Traditionally relegated to the compost heap, the dried fruit that we remove from the seed can be steeped in hot water, producing a complex and syrupy fruit tea.
Despite having only recently become popular in specialty cafes, cascara has both a strong tradition and a potentially impactful place in the holistic system of coffee production. Its modern name comes from cascara, the Spanish word for “husk.” Although most contemporary coffee farmers either discard the cherry-skins altogether, coffee-growing communities in Ethiopia and Yemen have consumed them for centuries, typically steeping the dried fruit in boiling water as we now do today. In fact, this iteration of coffee consumption predates that of the bean!
History and Traditions of Cascara
Although Latin American farmers have only been producing cascara in noteworthy volumes for a little over a decade, its appeal to customers abroad is already proven. With significantly less caffeine, a radically disparate flavor profile, and a more straightforward way to brew, cascara can appeal to an entirely different audience than coffee beans. Through this lens, it becomes easy to understand cascara's potential to impact the supply chain: tapping into the market for cascara offers farmers the opportunity to generate more income from every tree that they grow.
As with traditional coffee production, cascara’s potential to augment income opportunities for its producers certainly does not come without considerable investment and attention. Coffee is a resource-intensive, labor intensive, and risky crop to grow regardless of which part of the plant you harvest. In the hands of a skilled coffee farmer and with the right growing conditions, however, the resulting fruit can yield a truly astounding culinary experience. We are still learning how different coffee tree varieties and processing techniques influence cascara’s flavor, but we typically expect to taste floral and citrusy profiles in cascara produced from washed coffees, with earthier, dried fruit, and sometimes even somewhat smoky profiles displayed by natural processed cascaras.
How to Brew and Drink Cascara
Now that you know a little more about cascara’s history and traditions, on to the brewing! As we’ve mentioned, you can prepare cascara the same way you would an herbal tea, but that’s only one of many possibilities.
It pairs wonderfully with sweeteners, making a fantastic simple syrup. With some lightly sweetened cascara concentrate on hand, we particularly enjoy pouring over tonic water and adding a splash of lemon or lime. Follow our social media to learn all of the ways that we’re experimenting with this most unique of ingredients. Visit us at the roastery to try our latest creation using cascara - the Cascara-Hibiscus Soda. And, we encourage you to explore the fresh and invigorating possibilities of cascara along with us!