Coffee or tea are some of the drinks that can be made with cascara.
Started as a trend a few years ago, the use of this product in the restaurant business is varied and versatile.
But what exactly is cascara? Is that tea or coffee? Where does it come from?
Cascara is part of the coffee cherry. To be more specific, the exocarp, also known as skin, peel or epicarp, is the outermost layer of the cherry. At the very early stage, when the fruit isn’t already developing, it takes a green colour while, as the cherry ripes, it can be yellow or red, depending on the coffee variety.
At the milling stage, the husk (from the Spanish cáscara) or cascara, is already being removed and dried, likely to end up in a landfill.
As you can probably guess, we are not talking about the same caffeine content. So, don’t be mislead by the rich sweetness and think that it is as much caffeinated as drinking coffee.
Considering the same volume, it has only 10-25% caffeine content compared to what’s inside a coffee bean.
But it’s not just about making drinks: recently, the husk has started to be used as a fertilizer by many farmers, to prevent pests, as a fuel or even to grow mushrooms.
And even smarter: a company like the Australian Huskee have found a way to made a reusable cup made with the husk of the cherries (if you want to go deeper, have a read at my review here and see what they’ve done).
Cascara in the restaurant business
It is starting to find its place in the speciality coffee industry. It’s usually infused to prepare a tea with all its sweetness and floral notes. As it’s easy to replicate, people also make it cascara at home with the help of a french press and hot water. It’s also grown in popularity for making a simple syrup to then mix it for making cocktails.
So, how to brew with cascara?
No matter what drinks you have in mind, it works when infused with hot/cold water.
Here’s some recipe you can follow to start with.
Simple syrup is one of the most famous ways to enhance its natural sweetness.
Cascara syrup can be easily incorporated into a cocktail and it just takes you a minute.
You will need sugar and water in equal parts and 20g of cascara.
Here are the steps on how to make it properly:
- Put all the ingredients above into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Make sure to stir until sugar dissolves;
- Allow the syrup to cool down by removing the saucepan from heat;
- Take a strainer to filter the cascara;
- Store the syrup in a jar and keep it refrigerated.
Now you’re ready to mix your syrup. Enjoy!
The most common use is by making tea. It is does considered a tea, same brewing technique and smell like and herbal, floral tea.
Here are the steps;
- Heat 250ml of filtered water up to 95° C;
- Infuse 15g of the product;
- Allow it to steep for 4 minutes and enjoy!
Cold brew Cascara
During the hottest periods of the year, you can enjoy a refreshing drink by simply infusing cascara with cold water.
For this drink, you will need more time to make a cold brew cascara just because, whenever you infused things with cold water it takes hours for the water to extract. Likewise, when making cold brew coffee, you need to steep the grounds for at least 10 hours to get things extracted.
This is why the ratio used here is completely different when brewing espresso or filter coffee.
Here are the steps on how to make it properly:
- Infuse 35g of product in 350ml of cold water;
- Allow the product to steep for at least 12 hours;
- Strain to filter the cascara;
- Store in a bottle and keep it refrigerated;
- Serve it with ice and enjoy!
These recipes I shared are just a starting point. Bear in mind that every cascara out there may differ in taste. The flavours and the aromas are heavily influenced by the point when the cherries have been harvested.
Also, different brewing technique leads to a different flavour. For instance, when making a cold brew cascara you can get more delicate flavours, including floral notes or tamarind. When brewed hot, you’ll be hit by the high sweetness and you will get plummy notes, brown sugar, raisins or tobacco. Also, when steeped longer, sweetness increases.
Fun facts about Cascara
Cascara is also a shrub that grows from northern California to British Columbia and Montana. The dried bark of the plant is known for its laxative properties. It’s also used as a medicine for internal strains, swellings and washing sores. The full name is Cascara Sagrada and it tastes super bitter.
I thought it was worth a mention to save your next purchase and buy the right product 🙂
I’m not aware and I don’t think there’s a grading system for cascara to assess its quality as it happens in coffee with the Speciality Coffees Grading protocol. There are different cascara out there and obviously, they differ in taste. If you like it I suggest you try different samples as you will be surprised at how much their taste is far from the same.
This is the perfect example of what the awareness about the importance of supporting the supply chain, the small farmers and more sustainable practices have led to a better understanding of how to avoid wastage. It’s not only about the bean itself but also the husk.
Hope you enjoyed the article. If you want to add some interesting recipes just comment down below.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.