Coffee is a global treasure, with countless brewing and drinking traditions developing over the centuries after its discovery. As with many culinary traditions, we often discover new ways to enjoy or utilize an ingredient unexpectedly, as a happy accident.
Such is the case with Cascara tea, the newest coffee-derived product to hit the shelves. Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Cascara tea.
What Is Cascara Tea?
Meaning “peel” or “fruit skin” in Spanish, Cascara tea comes from the discarded pulp and skin of the coffee fruit. Up until recently, we only valued the coffee plant for its delicious seeds that we roast, grind, and brew for a delicious and stimulating cup of morning joe. However, the coffee plant produces a fruit known as the coffee cherry.
Usually, coffee producers remove the skin and pulp to get to the beans. However, cascara tea has reached niche American markets recently thanks to an El Salvadorian coffee farmer named Aida Batlle. According to National Public Radio, Battle attended a coffee sampling reunion and noticed that the discarded coffee cherries forming a mound in the corner emitted a delicious aroma.
The fruity, sweet aroma inspired Battle to experiment with the discarded “cascaras” by cleaning them and steeping them in hot water. The result is a sumptuous fruity and caffeinated tea that you’ll see marketed as either Cascara or Coffee Cherry tea.
Cascara tea consists of the husks or skins of the coffee cherry, stripped of the pulp and dried, assuming the texture of a raisin or dried hibiscus. When you steep the dried peels in water, they re-inflate to take on the original shape of the coffee cherry.
What Does Cascara Tea Taste Like?
Even though Cascara tea is a coffee-derived drink, it is much more similar in flavor profile and mouthfeel to tea than to coffee. The aroma of cascara tea has hints of hibiscus, forest fruit, and dried apricot.
The flavor palate is sweet, fruity, and tangy, with flavors like hibiscus, cherry, mango, lemon, dried cranberries, and black tea. You’ll get an earthy and dry finish with notes of tobacco.
You’ll get none of the bitterness you get with brewed coffee, but instead, a subtly sweet and tangy tea. The color of Cascara tea is reddish amber, similar in color to rosehip and hibiscus tea.
Does Cascara Tea Have Caffeine?
Coffee is touted for its caffeine content, with a single 8 oz cup of coffee containing 95 mg of caffeine. Cascara, as a coffee derivative, does have caffeine, but only a fraction of the number of coffee beans. One kilogram of Cascara produces 111 mg of caffeine. Therefore, an 8 oz cup of cascara has around 25 mg of caffeine.
Therefore, in terms of caffeine content, a cup of Cascara tea has as much caffeine as a cup of black tea. It will give you a nice energy boost without any of the caffeine jitters you might experience with coffee.
Cascara is thus a great alternative for people who are sensitive to caffeine but still want a stimulant. Additionally, the caffeine content in cascara tea depends on various factors. The first is the coffee plant itself. Some coffee plants have higher caffeine content depending on the ecology, species, and geography of their origins.
Another is the strength of the brew itself. Just as you can make a weak coffee by adding a smaller portion of grounds, you can also make a weak tea by adding less dried cascara.
You can also brew a stronger Cascara tea for those groggy mornings or afternoons, and it will still have less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
The Origins of Cascara as a Tea
Despite the recent “discover” of cascara tea in the New World, tea has long been a culinary tradition in Africa and the Middle East, where coffee originated. The coffee bean’s origins have been traced to Ethiopia, while the practice of brewing coffee grounds began in modern-day Yemen.
As the fruit and skin are usually just as valuable as the seed, creating a beverage out of the fruit and the bean is only logical. Plus, the waste-not-want-not mentality of using the entire organism played a large role in Cascara’s discovery.
In both Ethiopia and Yemen, cascara tea has existed since before the practice of modern coffee brewing. In Yemen, Cascara tea is known as quishr, and in Ethiopia, it’s called hashara. Both cultures often blend cascara with other local spices and aromatics like ginger, nutmeg, and clove. You can also find Cascara tea in Bolivia, referred to by locals as “poor man’s coffee.”
How To Brew Cascara Tea
Brewing Cascara tea involves the same methods as brewing any type of tea. An agreed-upon proportion of tea to water is 20 grams of Cascara tea per liter of water, resulting in around 5 grams of cascara tea per 8-oz mug of tea.
To make Cascara tea, bring water to a boil, pour over dried cascara tea, and let steep until deep red. This can take between 4 and 7 minutes, depending on where you live.
You can use a French Press to strain the cascara out of the liquid. You can also use a metal tea strainer for single cups, just as you’d use for loose-leaf teas.
Newer uses for cascara tea include mixing it with alcoholic spirits to create tea-based cocktails like a Cascara hot toddy, Cascara-infused vodka, and even Cascara-infused beer. Some coffee shops in the states bottle cold cascara tea with other fruits to create a line of fizzy cascara sodas.
Benefits of Cascara
Cascara tea has very few calories, averaging around 40 calories per 1.5 cups of brewed tea. Surprisingly, you get 2 grams of protein and 7 grams of sugar. Thus, cascara tea is naturally sweet with more protein than most beverages.
Cascara tea’s caffeine content helps you feel energized without affecting the heart. Caffeine also eases digestion. Cascara tea is also high in polyphenols which have numerous health benefits, including higher brain function and hindering the onset of dementia.
Cascara tea benefits energy, focus, and cognition like other teas and coffee, offering a wonderful flavor that is much more refreshing and vibrant than coffee.
Additionally, cascara tea benefits the earth. Instead of creating mounds of waste, we can take advantage of the pulp and skins of coffee cherries by drying them and enjoying them as a delightful cup of tea, soda, or cocktail.
Cascara tea is the newest coffee fad and a rebirth of an ancient practice that predates the use of coffee. Cascara tea utilizes the otherwise discarded peels and pulp of the coffee cherry to brew a lightly caffeinated tea with fruity, tangy, and refreshing flavor notes.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Cascara tea and would love to hear about your experiences with brewing and sampling Cascara in the comments below.