that’s made from the coffee cherry, but isn’t coffee?
Some call Cascara ‘coffee tea’ but that’s not strictly correct. Perhaps a coffee infusion is more accurate, but even that is confusing because the drink tastes very little like coffee.
So what is Cascara?
It’s a tea-like infusion brewed from the dried pulp of the coffee cherry.
Cascara, meaning ‘skin’ or ‘peel’ in Spanish, is a novel way of recycling left over coffee pulp, which is produced in huge quantities when ripe coffee cherries are pulped before the beans are washed and dried. In most producing countries this pulp is traditionally seen as worthless and is usually broken down and used as fertilizer – but it is also possible to dry this left over cherry to create the base for a unique and refreshing tea.
Although few have heard of it, cascara has a very long and interesting history. Coffee farmers in Yemen and Ethiopia have in fact been drying and brewing cherry like this for centuries – possibly since before coffee seeds were first used to make a drink. In these countries the dried cherry is often steeped along with spices such as ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon to make a fragrant drink known as Hashara in Ethiopia or Qishr in Yemen.
We had the chance to sample a very fine, clean Cascara recently bought in by Melbourne Coffee Merchants. While the brew strength and method were something of an experiment(!), the aroma and taste were very, very nice. Aroma was rich with candied apple and brown sugar, along with lighter citrus. Drinking it, it was much lighter and more delicate than the aroma suggested, still sweet and fruity, with floral and definite tea-like notes. Clean and refreshing.
It would be easy to think of a number of ways of brewing and serving this as a lovely summer drink.
And the really nice part was that this Cascara was from the same Bolivian group of farms that our delicious Estrallas coffees come from. It feels like we are completing some kind of circle…
Here’s the details (courtesy of MCM):
Region: Caranavi Province
Altitude: 1,500 – 1,800 metres above sea level
Processing: Coffee cherry dried on raised screens
Owner: Various small producers
In the cup: Tart acidity with gentle mouthfeel and notes of apple and elderflower.
This particular cascara is the dried cherry from various high grown organic coffees processed at the Buena Vista mill in Caranavi, in the heart of one of Bolivia’s prime coffee-producing areas. All of these coffees are grown at over 1,500 metres by small producers in the Caranavi region – a lush, fertile area of steep valleys and mountains that provides habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna.
Caranavi’s small, traditional family farms average around 5 hectares each, and are often planted out with citrus trees as well as coffee. Most farms use no chemical fertilizers or pesticides and this cascara was produced using cherry from fully organic certified producers.
The result is a rare and delicious tea, which reveals yet another taste dimension to the coffee cherry. We enjoyed this lot’s tart acidity, gentle mouthfeel, and apple and elderflower notes – an excellent palate cleanser!
Cascara is still a relatively new ingredient in most countries and so ripe for experimentation (excuse the pun!). We have tried brewing it various ways and we like using a French Press the best (recipe below), but you could also try using a tea pot, or any number of other methods. We’ll be trying a number of methods and strengths to see what works best, but here’s a starting point:
Use 15g of cascara per 250ml of water
Brew for 4 minutes in a French press
Stir 3 times
Wait an additional 3 minutes
The really good news is that we will have stock in the Ministry Grounds store in February.