You may be seeing the word “Cascara” pop up in different coffee shops that you walk into. What is this mystery ingredient everyone is excited about? What is Cascara? In short, it is coffee. However, it certainly doesn’t taste like your typical cup of joe that you may be used to.
How is this? Well, the coffee beans we’ve grown to love are actually the seed of a fruit, commonly referred to as a coffee cherry. The cherry itself is high in antioxidants and contains caffeine (which is how coffee gets its caffeine). Once the seeds are removed from the cherry, they are roasted and you get coffee. But what happens to the cherries? Sometimes, the coffee cherries are turned into compost and used to fertilize the farm it came from. More often than not, the cherry is discarded once the coffee farms get the goods from inside.
Now Cascara, which means “husk,” in Spanish, is the dried skins of coffee cherries. They have a leathery, woody look similar to dried raisins or the shell of a nut. Although it comes from the coffee plant, Cascara tastes nothing like coffee when brewed. It has the taste more similar to an herbal tea or tisane, since it’s brewed from a dried fruit. The people of Ethiopia – coffee’s birthplace – have been enjoying a beverage brewed from the dried cherries called Qishr for centuries. Now the rest of the world is finally catching on! While the beverage, or variations using the ingredient itself, have been slowly popping up in cafés around the globe, it can still be difficult to find. Few coffee farmers produce Cascara and even fewer countries export it.
Similar to roasted coffee, the variety of the coffee cherry – in addition to where it’s grown, when it’s picked – has a strong influence on flavor profile, body and acidity. Typically, there is a naturally sweet component to the flavor profile that may be complimented by a tangy or floral component. How it’s processed also plays a role in its flavor profile. Coffee beans are extracted through either a wet-process or dry-process. The wet-processed cascara husks tend to have more of a leathery feel, and tend to produce a brighter flavor within the cup. Dry-processed cascara husks look more similar to nut shells, with a more fruity flavor profile. Taste, however, is always subjective.
Brewed hot or cold, Cascara is a super interesting way to enjoy another delicious part of a plant of which we have all grown quite fond. There are many creative beverages that can utilize cascara’s subtle sweetness. There are cascara sodas, coffee cherry syrups used in cocktails and even cascara-infused beer.
Brewing Cascara with a French Press
Here’s a basic brewing technique to try out using a french press, and a 1:12 brew ratio.
- Heat up 500g of water in kettle to 200°F. Pour a little water (about 20g) in french press to pre-heat it. After a few moments to heat the french press, pour out water.
- Add 40g of cascara to the french press.
- Pour 480g of water into french press.
- Place top on french press and allow the cascara to steep for about 5 min.
- Press the strainer down, and pour your freshly brewed cascara into a pre-heated cup.
Cascara Simple Syrup
Add this syrup to any beverage (or even on top of some pancakes) to bring a delicious flare to them.
- Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil in small saucepan.
- Add 1/2 cup of cascara to water, reducing heat down to a simmer.
- Simmer cascara for 4-5min.
- Strain cascara husks, and place brew back into the saucepan. (Should yield about 1 cup of brewed cascara).
- Stir in 1 cup of sugar to saucepan, helping it dissolve. Allow mixture to simmer uncovered for a few minutes, until syrup thickens slightly (or to your liking).
- Once desired consistency is reached, turn off heat and allow syrup to cool.
- Pour syrup into jar, and enjoy! Refrigerate after use.