Everything you need to know about Cascara

By Kristen Underwood — / Death Wish Coffee Blog

What is Cascara? 

Remember back in high school when all the athletes won Homecoming King and Queen, simply because of the hype that has been built up for centuries around forcing us to believe, “That’s just the way it goes”? Imagine a school that elected only those who maintained a healthy GPA and volunteered to help others get on the right track. Stepping out of the comfort zone, if you will.

For as far back as most can see in the coffee world, we’ve been putting coffee beans on a pedestal, rightfully so, praising them for their size, shape, color, flavor profile, etc. I mean, more than half of America runs on their daily cup of joe. But life truly begins once you step outside your comfort zone, and today, Cascara, the fruity outer layer of the coffee cherry, is finally having its moment.

(All photos are from Instagram.)

Is Cascara coffee or tea?

While this unique, intriguing beverage is slowly popping up in cafés around the globe, it can still feel like a treasure hunt to find a place that’s ready to serve it to you. That being said, those who haven’t stumbled across the royal palace yet, may be curious about what the drink actually is. Is it coffee? Is it tea? 

Because cascara comes from the Genus Coffea plant instead of the Camellia Sinensis plant, it cannot be classified as a true tea. With that said, it isn’t quite coffee, but it isn’t exactly tea, either. Perhaps, it’s the best of both worlds.

Cascara, also known as “husk,” “peel,” or “skin” in Spanish, is the dried outer layer of coffee cherries and meets somewhere in between coffee and tea. Although it comes from the coffee plant, believe it or not, it doesn’t taste anything like coffee. It is often described as having a sweet, fruity taste with notes of rose hip, hibiscus, cherry, red currant, mango or even tobacco. Similarly, it doesn’t hold the same caffeine content as coffee.

How much caffeine is in Cascara?

According to Square Mile Coffee Roasters, the caffeine content in Cascara was found to be fairly low. To shed some light on the matter, they decided to send some cascara to a lab in Germany, to be analyzed and tested for caffeine results.

“Surprisingly, we found the caffeine content to be fairly low. Even at the strongest, longest brew, the caffeine content of cascara came in at 111.4 mg/L, compared to the broad range of about 400-800 mg/L in brewed coffee,” says Anette Moldvaer, co-founder and green coffee buyer of Square Mile Coffee Roasters.

How is Cascara made? 

Cascara is made by steeping the dried coffee cherries in hot water. Since coffee cherry tea is so new to the U.S., there is no exact recipe for brewing the perfect cup just yet. This gives cafés all over, room to experience with a variety of water-to-tea ratios and steeping times. However, the suggested recipe includes a heaping tablespoon or two, about 5 to 7 grams, per every 8-ounce cup of water just off the boil. The limit does not exist.

Recommendations: Add a little honey or sugar for extra flavor, or add ginger, nutmeg, or cinnamon for an added twist. 

Aside from the experience of an exotic beverage, cascara is giving baristas all around a new kind of connection with their guests. Coffee addicts all over will stress the importance of their daily caffeine dose, but it’s not every day that you’ll find a coffee drinker that knows the origin of the bean or the route it takes from the very moment the cherry is picked to the minute it hits their cup as liquid gold and the first sip is taken. This gives baristas the opportunity to educate their consumers on the entire coffee journey while bringing more customers in with their experience. All hail Cascara!

Related: How to grow a coffee plant at home


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