Perhaps you have heard about the cascara before, especially if you are among regular visiter of coffee roasters and are a true lover of genuine full-flavour coffee. So..
WHAT IS CASCARA?
Cascara is a sun-dried fruit of coffee plant or in other words a coffee cherry. This is kind of berry, which covers coffee beans that use for making a regular coffee drink. The term “cascara” comes from Spanish, what means “peel,” “husk” or “skin”.
Before to get coffee in the form of product we used to buy it in the shops, the whole process is followed: cherries are picked, fruit skins are removed, ‘green’ coffee beans are washed and dried, then roasted and ground, and finally brewed and served as a coffee.
But what happens to the skin of the berry?
Normally coffee cherries are considered a by-product of the coffee-making process. Each year the billions of coffee beans that eventually make their way into the americanos, lattes, and cappuccinos are harvested by milling and extracting them from the coffee plant. The surrounding fruit, is discarded and often gets dumped into rivers or just wasted.
But there are much better ways how to use it!
Coffee cherries are get dried in the sun and used for making cascara tea. These dried coffee cherries are not like usual tea. The pieces of cherries are slightly bigger than a tea leaf and have a leathery, woody look similar to dried raisins or the shell of a nut.
The neat part about this whole process is to allow the coffee plant to be used fully. What are the benefits for using this by-product?
First of all, due to coffee cherry health benefits, which are much more inspiring than from coffee grain. Secondly, it is a nice product, which is eco-friendly and can be used for different cooking purposes.
Cascara is loaded with flavor, vitamins, natural sugars, and anti-oxidants (much more than coffee bean!). It is also high in polyphenol compounds: proanthocyanidins, chlorogenic acid, quinic acid, ferulic acid and caffeic acid. A serving of coffee cherry tea has several times as much antioxidant power as blueberries, acai, pomegranate and many other famous superfruits. Due to its high concentration of polyphenols, Cascara is a true superfood.
In addition to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, coffee cherries may offer significant benefits to the brain. A study on coffee cherry extract indicates that it may boost the brain work protecting it against mental illnesses, including depression and aging-related illnesses such as dementia, what keeps a brain “young” longer.
Dried coffee cherries have three times more iron per serving than spinach and twice the potassium of a banana. Potassium is extremely water-soluble, which makes brewed coffee fruit beverages a delicious and calorie-free way to give your body a vital nutrient.
HOW TO USE IT?
COFFEE CHERRY TEA
The most common way to brew cascara is to steep it in hot water like a tea. Although cascara comes from the coffee plant, the drink doesn’t taste like coffee. The tea tastes a lot like a fruity, herbal tea — but caffeine level of it is more akin to that of a black tea. Likewise, cascara tea does not have the same caffeine content as coffee. The tea drink contains approx. 4 times less caffeine than a coffee bean drink. Means, you will need to drink at least 4 cups of tea to reach the caffeine level or to increase it by using more cherries per serving. Brew time does not affect caffeine content.
Cascara tea brewing reminds usual tea cooking process. You will need around 5 grams of dried cherries for one small cup of hot water (100-150ml). Steep it for 4 minutes before to enjoy the drink.
In the countries, where cascara is more popular (mostly the countries where coffee is produces as Yemen and Ethiopia) it’s especially popular with a beverage known as Qishr – a hot drink made of cascara, ginger and sometimes cinnamon or nutmeg.
Note! Cascara, the tea made from coffee cherries, shouldn’t be confused with cascara sagrada, which is a dried bark that used to be used in medicines and is today available as a dietary supplement. The two are very different products, coming from different parts of plants and from different plants.
Cascara can also be cold brewed and served as an iced tea. Sport enthusiasts can take a note for the idea to make the coffee cherry tea instead of vitamin water during the work out.
Coffee cherry doesn’t taste like coffee, but rather has more floral, citrus and roasted fruit flavours. Cascara is often described as having a sweet, fruity taste with notes of rose hip, hibiscus, cherry, red current.
That’s why it’s such an interesting ingredient for cooking. You can grind dried cascara into flour and use it for cooking bread, cookies, muffins, bars, brownies, pastas, sauces, beverages, and so much more.
There are few innovators around the World, who discovered how to use valuable product instead of throwing it away. I am familiar with some start-ups, who are selling coffee cherry flour, coffee cherry juice and coffee cherry bars.
One of recently discovered and well-received product made by using cascara are the coffee bars produced by innovative Latvian company: Coffee Pixels. It is very interesting to drill into. Read more about the product on their website.
I have started to try some recipes using cascara and I am excited to investigate even more. Check my recipe for chocolate muffins, which are cooked using some cascara flour.
Cascara can be bought in Gemoss shop in Latvia or there are also an options to order it online.