You’ve probably never heard of Cascara, but its potential is enormous and a growing market for cascara would be great news for struggling coffee farmers.
“Cascara” is a word in Spanish to refer to the shell or husk of the coffee fruit. That’s right, the coffee tree is a fruit tree, and the coffee beans that you’ve come to know and love are actually the seed of that fruit. Typically, the seeds/beans are removed, dried and shipped around the world.
What makes Cascara special?
Sustainability: Once the beans are removed, the fruit is often just thrown away. At best, it’s used as compost, so Cascara is a way to up-cycle a waste product into something that is marketable and easy enough to be implemented on coffee farms everywhere. And as climate change and “leaf rust” threaten coffee plantations around the world, it’s important that we’re able to get the most out of each piece of viable farmland.
Economics: This is also great for the farmer who is suffering under the burden of the current low coffee prices. You may have even seen some of the charts that show how much money from each cup of coffee makes it back to the farmer, and although the numbers vary, it’s probably not more than pennies on the dollar. Cascara allows farmers to sell a whole new chunk of the coffee tree, as much as doubling their income potential, and giving them the livelihood and investment capital to carry on into the future. Plus, coffee farmers that can invest in their farms also make better coffee, so it’s a win-win-win!
Health Benefits: It may surprise you, but Cascara tastes nothing like coffee. It’s more like a cherry or tamarind. It has caffeine, but less than coffee and more than black tea. Most importantly though, it’s chock full of antioxidants and other vitamins. Even more so than the typical champion in this category, Pomegranates.
What to do with Cascara
Flakes: Cascara comes from the farm as dried flakes. It’s similar to a loose-leaf tea, and that’s exactly how you’d brew it. I tend to use a French Press. It’s easier to infuse the cascara in hot water because it gives the cascara more surface area compared to a tea ball. A Cascara tea is the best way to take advantage of all the health benefits.
>>> Brewing Recipe: 60g / L and brewed for at least 5 minutes at near-boiling water.
Syrup: Our primary Cascara-derived product is a flavored syrup that we’ve been selling since 2016. It’s made with cane sugar and is steeped in cascara so that the final product has the taste (and a tiny dose of the health benefits) of the brewed cascara tea. This syrup is great for flavoring all sorts of things such as lattes, cocktails, sodas, etc. In the summer, I often just mix some with sparkling water to make a quick Cascara Soda.