Tea made from Coffee?  Seriously, it's a thing.

Tea made from Coffee? Seriously, it's a thing.

Cascara, aka Coffee Cherry Tea

I know there are many people who don't drink coffee. I am not sure why, but there are reasons. My lovely wife is actually one of them! Shocking, I know. 

She is a specialty tea drinker and has her own mix procedure. Not quite as detailed as all my coffee brewing methods, but she does have a method to her tea madness. 

While doing some coffee research, an article mentioned coffee cherry tea. What? Tea from coffee? I was intrigued. So, as the internet is want to allow, I went down a rabbit hole.  

I thought I would share my own enlightenment. I have not tried coffee cherry tea, yet. But I am definitely going to try it. Sounds like a good reason to explore coffee shops with my wife. Boom, date night! 

The specialty coffee and tea industries have seen a lot of modifications recent years, such as the emergence of pour-over and hand-brewed coffee, and apparently, the heightened interest for tea. News to me.  

A new, intriguing beverage has come into the picture: cascara, otherwise referred to as coffee cherry tea.

The beverage has made gradual appearances in cafés around the world but is not always easy to come by.

 As a result, those who haven't encountered cascara yet may find themselves wondering what it is. I sure did. 

What is Cascara Tea?

So, you may ask, what is Cascara Tea?

The Spanish word Cascara, meaning "husk," "peel" or "skin," refers to the dried exteriors of coffee cherries. After the beans have been separated from the cherries, the pulpy skins are dried in the sunshine and subsequently packaged and shipped. 

These bags of dried cherries resemble bags of tea, but the pieces of cherries are visibly larger than tea leaves and have a leathery, wooden appearance like that of dried raisins or the shell of a nut.

An interesting aspect of this procedure is that it is not only a creative way of utilizing the coffee plant, but also environmentally friendly.

Conventionally, the coffee cherries were thought of as a by-product of coffee production and either thrown away or repurposed as compost. Now, however, these cherries are being recycled to craft an exclusive beverage. 

So, what is it? - coffee, tea or a combination of both?

What is the Flavor Profile of Cascara Tea?

At the meeting point of coffee and tea lies Cascara. As we mentioned, it is derived from the coffee plant, yet its taste isn't comparable to that of coffee.

It is often commented that Cascara tea has a sweet flavor with hints of rose hip, hibiscus, cherry, red current, mango and occasionally even tobacco.

Does Cascara Beverage Contain Caffeine?

In the post "Cascara and Caffeine" on the Square Mile Coffee Blog, Square Mile co-founder Anette Moldvaer discussed the caffeine content of cascara tea, which is not as high as coffee. 

After sending some cascara to a lab in Germany to test, Moldvaer discovered that the ratio of cascara to water had an effect on the caffeine content, while steep time had little effect. 

Surprisingly, the caffeine content was reported to be low. Even with the strongest, longest brew, the caffeine content of cascara was 26 mg per 8 ounces of tea, much lower than the approx. 90 mg of caffeine found in  8 ounces of brewed coffee.

Cascara isn't coffee or tea since it comes from the coffea genus instead of Camellia sinensis plant. It's not like the typical herbal tea as it's made from fruit. But there are several tisanes made from fruit which makes it more fitting to call cascara a fruit tisane.

**Quick definition time 


The correct term in the tea industry for teas made from anything outside of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is a “tisane.” The tea and herbal industries market tisanes as a tea; however, tisanes are not a true tea. True teas are black, green, oolong, yellow, or white, made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis.

Beginnings of Cascara as a Beverage

This beverage, coffee cherry tea, may be new to the U.S., but it has been consumed in other places for quite a while. As Melbourne Coffee Merchants' post "Buena Vista (Cascara) Tea" explains, "In Ethiopia and Yemen, coffee producers have been drying and preparing the cherry in this way for centuries - possibly even before coffee beans were used for beverages." 

I guess it took a while to figure out the goodness that was in that bean! 

According to Melbourne Coffee Merchants, a type of drink referred to as hashara in Ethiopia or qishr in Yemen has been traditionally made by steeping dried cherries with spices such as ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon. This beverage remains widely enjoyed in these countries and is consumed more frequently than coffee in Yemen due to its affordability.

Cascara has been produced in Yemen and Ethiopia for a long time, but coffee growers in South America, especially El Salvador and Bolivia, have started to export it too. 

Crafting a Cup of Cascara Tea

Brewing Cascara tea is a simple process that anyone can do. It begins with gathering the ingredients, which include dried Cascara cherries, a teapot, and hot water. Once the cherries and water have been acquired, it is time to begin the brewing process. Place the Cascara cherries in the teapot and add the hot water. Let the tea steep for 10-15 minutes, ensuring the water is hot enough to extract the flavor from the cherries. Once the tea has been steeped, it is ready to be served. Enjoy!

Brewing up the perfect cup of cascara (coffee cherry tea) requires some experimentation, as it is a relatively new beverage in the United States. So many variations and everyone has different tastes. There is no precise guideline for preparation, but you can play around with water-to-tea ratios and steeping times. As with most tisanes, the process begins with steeping the dried coffee cherries in hot water. Have fun and find your own “sweet spot”

Square Mile suggests that for every eight-ounce cup of water just off the boil, a heaping tablespoon or two (about five to seven grams) should be used as a general rule.

Cascara has a natural sweetness, but for those who want to enhance the flavor, adding a bit of honey or sugar is suggested. Alternatively, adding spices like ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon to the beverage creates a historically-inspired Qishr. 

**Quick definition time #2

Qishr  is a Yemeni traditional hot drink made of spiced coffee husks,] ginger, and sometimes cinnamon] In Yemen, it is usually drunk as an alternative to coffee because it doesn't need to be roasted.

Where to Find Cascara Tea

If you are looking to buy cascara for coffee cherry tea, it is important not to mix it up with cascara sagrada, or Rhamnus purshiana. Even though this tea has a similar name, it is in fact distinct: Cascara sagrada is the dried bark of the California buckthorn tree and is usually employed for medicinal laxative purposes. (VERY Important thing to be aware of!) 

Though cascara is still uncommon, it is available at various roasteries in the US, Europe and Australia. It can be purchased either from Sweet Maria's or Square Mile Coffee Roasters and Verve Coffee Roasters. I am sure there are more options but that should get you started. 

I think cafe operators have a great opportunity to engage with customers by offering coffee cherry tea. Most of us are familiar with the flavor of coffee, but rarely do we think about its source or how it's made. Cascara provides an educational platform for both cafes and consumers; not only does it inform patrons about coffee production, but it also gives them something new to try. This allows for a positive exchange of knowledge, ultimately making it a win-win situation for all

I like the fact that more of the wonderful coffee plant is being used for tea. 

Less waste and more goodness from coffee. It is the plant that just keeps on giving. I wonder what the next bonus use of the coffee plant will be?

Stay Caffeinated, my friends. 

Tim @ Good Bean Gifts 

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