Cascara: Coffee Cherry Tea

Have you heard about Cascara? The drink that’s somewhere in between the tea and the coffee? If not, then read on. You might discover your new favorite hot drink. So what is it, you ask? Cascara is a fruit tea made from dried coffee cherries, their husks to be precise.

Let’s start from the beginning though. Coffee is a fruit growing on shrubs or small trees. Ripe coffee fruit looks very similar to the deep red cherries with which we are familiar. The coffee that we usually consume is just a product of its roasted seeds that are found inside the fruit, usually 2 beans with their flat sides facing each other. What only few realise is that roasted coffee beverages didn’t really appear up until the 15th century. Before that, coffee cherry tea, also known as Cascara, was the usual method of brewing coffee in it’s origins.

During the coffee processing, the cherries are either hulled immediately and then dried separately, or the entire cherry is dried before dehulling the bean at a later time. Latter method is often prefered because it results in better tasting Cascara. Either way, processing Cascara is quite expensive, which is why only few producers choose to offer it. In most cases, only the precious coffee beans are used while the rest ends up as a fertilizer.

In Europe the British specialty coffee roasters Square Mile Coffee Roasters were among the first to offer Cascara. By now, most specialty coffee retailers offer Cascara so it is readily available for anyone’s pleaseure. Preparation is simple too. You can use a French Press or any tea pot and sieve. The ideal brew ratio is a half litre of water to each 15 grams of Cascara. Steeping time should be between 6 and 10 minutes at the most. Of course, you may adapt these general recommendations to your liking and experiment.

The coffee cherry husks are naturally sweet and fruity in taste. When fresh, they can be eaten just like any other berry. That’s why Cascara itself is also a mildly sweet and fruity drink that reminds of Rooibos and Rosehip tea. Sometimes you might find a whiff of smokiness in your brew. Similar to coffee, the taste of Cascara may vary depending on the origin. If you feel adventurous, you can also try adding slices of lime, lemon juice and ice cubes which will make for a refreshing summer drink! Just remember, that like coffee, Cascara also contains caffeine so drink it in reasonable amounts (or not).