Cascara ‘Tea’: A Tasty Infusion Made From Coffee Waste

By Murray Carpenter | December 3, 2015

Cascara is made by brewing dried coffee cherries, which typically would have otherwise ended up as compost. “We have been throwing away this perfectly good coffee fruit for a long time, and there’s no real reason for it, because it tastes delicious,” says Peter Giuliano, of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Murray Carpenter for NPR

Coffee lovers may have noticed a new offering in their local cafés. Cascara is a tea-like drink with a fine, fruity flavor and plenty of caffeine, and it’s popping up everywhere. For this new addition to chalkboards nationwide, credit Aida Batlle.

Batlle is a fifth-generation coffee grower in El Salvador, whose coffees have won international awards. One day a decade ago, she arrived at a coffee cupping —where coffees are sampled for flavor — and detected a pleasant, hibiscus-like scent in the room. When she asked the other coffee tasters about it, they pointed to the husks from recently milled coffee.

“So immediately I got curious with it,” says Batlle. “And I just picked through it, cleaned it, and then put it in hot water, to see what it was like. Then I called my customers at the time, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, you have to try this. I’m going to send you a sample.'”

The infusion Batlle made from the coffee cherry, or pulp, needed a name. “Pulp was such a yucky word,” she says with a laugh. “I was like, nah, nah, nah, this is cascara.

Cascara is the Spanish word for the peel or skin of a fruit. Coffee is a fruit, though most people don’t think of it that way. Like cacao, it’s processed opposite most fruits: The skin and flesh are discarded, and just the seeds are dried, roasted, and ground to make the beverage many Americans drink daily.

Batlle first used the skins of coffees processed as “naturals,” which are dried whole, and then milled. This produced cascara comprised of fine flakes, similar to the tea in a tea bag. Then she began using the skins of coffees that are washed to remove the pulp before drying, as most coffee in Central America and Colombia is processed. This way, the cascara dries like a raisin, and, when brewed, plumps up to reveal the shape of the coffee cherry.

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Source: Cascara ‘Tea’: A Tasty Infusion Made From Coffee Waste : The Salt : NPR