Although asking us to choose our favorite caffeinated option is like asking us to choose our favorite child, we have to admit we are big fans of cascara. Never heard of cascara? Allow us to introduce you. You can think of cascara as an option that goes against everything you thought you knew about beverages: a delicious drink that falls somewhere between the category of tea and coffee. You might be wondering how this is possible, and we are delighted to give you the rundown.
First, let’s start with the basics. What is cascara? Well, for starters, it’s pretty amazing. Cascara is a Spanish word that translates to mean “skin” or “shell.” We’re guessing if you’re here, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the coffee bean. Well, think of the coffee bean as the seed of the fruit, commonly referred to as the coffee “cherry” due to its color and size. The first step of the amazing seed-to-mug process is to de-pulp the cherries, which separates the bean from the surrounding pulp and the skin or shell.
Often, the husked skin is discarded as waste and becomes merely an afterthought, but not always. Carefully cleaning and drying this skin in the sun creates the beloved, subtly sweet cascara beverage, sometimes called “coffee cherry tea.” The dried husks resemble tea leaves a bit, but they are slightly larger and have a leathery, woody look to them, similar to a raisin or a nutshell. As an added bonus to their deliciousness, using the coffee cherries to make cascara is eco-friendly and limits waste—rather than simply throwing the pulp away, another delicious beverage is created.
A Little Cascara History
Cascara is a relatively new introduction to the US beverage market, but people in Yemen and Ethiopia have been enjoying this unusual and delicious drink for centuries. In fact, there’s some speculation that those regions made coffee cherry tea before they started making coffee! In these countries, the dried husks are often steeped with other spices to make a fragrant drink. Coffee growers in El Salvador, Bolivia, and other South American countries have also started selling and exporting cascara in recent years.
How to Enjoy Cascara
As we’ve alluded, the most common use for cascara is to steep it and make an herbal tea (also known as a tisane). Since cascara is so new to the US, there is no tried and true recipe for making it. This leaves plenty of room for you to use your imagination and experiment to find your perfect method. In addition to enjoying cascara in the form of a tisane, you could also make your own cascara syrup! You can substitute this syrup for simple syrup to take your morning coffee drink to the next level, add it to a bottle of cold, refreshing mineral water, or even use it in a cocktail. Trust us, this is a sweetly delicious option that you won’t regret making. Check out our recommendations below to get you started.
Cascara tisane served hot:
- Put a tablespoon of cascara into a tea strainer or sachet. You can even use a French press, or simply put it in a pot and strain at the end! (The key is to be able to separate the cascara from the water.)
- Add hot water.
- Steep for 4-5 minutes, or up to 10-12 if you’re going for a stronger flavor.
- Strain and sip up!
If you’re a cold brew fanatic, we’ve got you covered with an iced version, too.
Cascara tisane served cold:
- Add 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cascara to a liter of water.
- Steep in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Strain the pulp, and serve over ice.
- Add one cup of sugar and one cup of water to a pot.
- Add ½ cup of cascara.
- Bring to a boil and continually stir, then let it simmer to allow cascara to soften.
- Remove from heat and transfer to a jar or covered container.
- Allow mixture to steep for 24 hours.
- Strain cascara and enjoy experimenting with your tasty new creation.
*Feel free to play around with the measurements. Add more sugar for a sweeter syrup, or more cascara for a more robust cascara flavor.
Whether you enjoy it hot or cold, cascara tisane is a delicious beverage that is somewhere between drinking coffee and tea, but not quite like either. True coffee fanatics simply must give it a try! Who knows? You might end up adding it to your list of favorite coffee beverages!