Think Outside the Bean

Photo by Anna Gleason

In the beverage world, there’s a power struggle between coffee and tea. One new drink is finally putting the debate to rest.

Introducing cascara, a tea-like brew that’s flavored using the skin of a coffee bean. The coffee plant is—believe it or not—a fruit. It’s made of several parts, including the bean and the coffee cherry, a smooth and leathery exterior shell. Think of it like a pistachio: To get to the nut, one must break open and discard the exterior shell. In the case of the coffee plant, these exterior shells, or cherries, would normally be discarded as waste or compost. But cascara had a more eco-friendly idea in mind. The remaining skins are now cleaned, sun-dried, then packaged as loose leaf tea. Coffee distributors recommend a ratio of three tablespoons loose-leaf cascara for every 10 ounces of water. When steeped, the skins produce a slightly sweet hibiscus flavor with musky undertones.

While it’s rooted in coffee, cascara’s caffeine count measures more on the tea side. According to a study conducted by the Square Mile Coffee Roasters, cascara contains about one-fourth of the caffeine content as brewed coffee.“It’s like many herbal teas, but with more caffeine,” says Sean Capistant, a quality control trader for coffee distributor Trabocca North America. “Cascara isn’t so much a coffee substitute as it is a novelty item.”


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