At Cascara Vacation Rentals, we’re all about bringing people to nature, especially to the lakes and mountains of the Cascades. In fact, we got our name from nature: the cascara tree is native to the Pacific Northwest, which we call home.
The name cascara, interestingly enough, also has other ties to nature. Did you know that it’s the name of a popular drink made from the coffee plant? Read on to learn more.
What is cascara, the drink?
The cascara drink originates from the coffee plant, which produces a coffee fruit — or coffee cherry, as it is called. The seed/pit of the coffee cherry is what most people know as the coffee bean that is used to make the popular drink. Coffee cherries are red or purple in color and quite tasty. But since so many love coffee, the bean is what people are after. So, the husk or exterior of the coffee cherry is typically a leftover portion that is thrown away or used as compost. But now, the trend for people is to use that husk of the coffee cherry fruit by drying it and then brewing it as a tea. The result is cascara, a delicious tea drink.
Is cascara coffee? Is it tea?
First, try to think of coffee as a plant and also as a drink. This will help alleviate some confusion. As for the question, it can technically be both. Let us explain further.
If cascara is being used on its own to make a drink, it’s a tea: steeping the coffee cherry husk in hot water (some tea purists may disagree that cascara is really tea, since it’s not made from a tea leaf, but a fruit instead). For that reason, some may refer to it as fruit tisane. Alternately, companies like Starbucks are making a cascara coffee beverage, where they use the sweetness of the fruit to enhance the overall taste experience.
Where does the cascara drink originate?
The coffee plant is grown in many places, including Latin America and Asia. For many years, a drink similar to cascara tea has been found in Ethiopia and Yemen, both places known as the birthplace of coffee. The cascara-like drinks in those countries are called quishr or hashara and are made by steeping the coffee cherry husk along with different spices like ginger and cinnamon.
Cascara tea (steeped coffee cherry husk only, no spices typically used) is found in El Salvador, Bolivia, and more. Exports are now coming to the United States and are appearing at coffee houses all over the country, though it may prove hard to find, depending on where you are looking. Since it is so new in the U.S., the way it is made may vary from coffee house to coffee house.
It seems that many other countries naturally use the whole plant of something for different uses; this trend is becoming more popular in the U.S. as we become interested in less waste, thus the interest in utilizing the husk of a coffee cherry.
According to NPR, the modern discoverer of cascara tea is Aida Batlle. She is a fifth-generation coffee grower in El Salvador who went to a coffee sampling event and smelled a particular fruity smell in the air. The source? The husks of coffee cherries. Batlle steeped those husks in hot water and drank it, then offered it to customers. It was a hit right away. It needed a name. She called it cascara, which is Spanish for “husk.”
How does it taste?
Surprisingly, cascara does not taste like coffee! It has a fruity herbal tea flavor, probably most similar in taste to hibiscus. True to its coffee plant roots, though, it has a good amount of caffeine — about as much as black tea ― though not as much as the coffee drink. Though where you get your cascara and how much water you use to steep it will have an effect on the caffeine content, the steep time itself will not.
When adding cascara flavor to coffee, the sweetness is smooth and subtle.
Is cascara fruit the same as the cascara supplement?
No. The cascara supplement found in pill form is derived from cascara sagrada, which is made from the dried bark of a cascara tree that is used for its laxative qualities.
How to make cascara tea or lattes
You may be able to find cascara (dried coffee cherry husks) in bulk at different coffee houses; it will look like other teas, except rather than tea leaves, they are cherry husks. They tend to be larger than most tea leaves and are leathery. They look almost like large raisins. To make cascara tea, take three tablespoons of the husks and steep them in 10 ounces of hot water for about four minutes. To brew it cold, steep six tablespoons in 12 ounces of water for about 16 hours.
What else can you make with it?
So far, mixing cascara tea into other drinks is becoming popular. You can find vodka with cascara tea and a hot cascara toddy blend. Really, the sky is the limit! Other companies are realizing the great taste and benefits of the coffee cherry and are using it to make other things. New Belgium Beer in Colorado makes the beer Cascara Quad, and KonaRed in Hawaii makes Coffeeberry Juice.
What are the nutritional benefits of cascara?
Since it’s a fruit, it’s of course packed with natural antioxidants, so you can drink to your heart’s content. Some also swear by the coffee cherry husk’s natural rejuvenating effect on the skin (by placing the husk directly on the skin).
With more and more people realizing where the coffee they love comes from, now coffee lovers can try out the fruity cascara tea and learn more about the coffee plant as a whole, from husk to bean. Coffee shop owners, take this opportunity to talk with your customers, offer some insight, and get the conversation going.