This year for the first time we have brought in some ‘cascara’ – or dried coffee cherry – to our UK warehouse along with our other lots from Bolivia. We have been having fun experimenting with various brewing methods in our London lab and we’d love to hear from anyone who has come up with their own recipe.
Cascara, meaning ‘skin’ or ‘peel’ in Spanish, is a novel way of recycling left over coffee pulp, which is produced in huge quantities when ripe coffee cherries are pulped before the beans are washed and dried. In most producing countries this pulp is traditionally seen as worthless and is usually broken down and used as fertilizer – but it is also possible to dry this left over cherry to create the base for a unique and refreshing tea.
Although few have heard of it, cascara has a very long and interesting history. Coffee farmers in Yemen and Ethiopia have in fact been drying and brewing cherry like this for centuries – possibly since before coffee seeds were first used to make a drink. In these countries the dried cherry is often steeped along with spices such as ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon to make a fragrant drink known as Hashara in Ethiopia or Qishr in Yemen.
The cascara that we have sourced this year is the screen-dried cherry from various organic-certified coffees processed at the Buena Vista mill in Caranavi, in the heart of one of Bolivia’s prime coffee-producing areas. All of these coffees are grown at over 1,500 metres by small producers in the Caranavi region using no chemicals or pesticides.
The result is a rare and delicious tea, which reveals yet another taste dimension to the coffee cherry. We enjoyed this lot’s tart acidity, gentle mouthfeel, and apple and elderflower notes – an excellent palate cleanser! We tasted the Buena Vista next to a cascara from one of our producers in El Salvador, which was an interesting contrast – the El Salvador was much sweeter and fruiter, while we found the Bolivian more tart, complex and refreshing. Both were very delicious – though high on caffeine so probably something to enjoy in moderation!
Cascara is still a relatively new ingredient in most countries and so ripe for experimentation (excuse the pun!). We have tried brewing it various ways in the Mercanta lab and we like using a French Press the best (recipe below), but you could also try using a tea pot, an Eva Solo or any other method you can dream up! If you hit on a particularly ingenious way of brewing cascara please do get in touch as we’d love to hear about it…
Mercanta’s Cascara recipe:
Use 17g of cascara per 200ml
Brew for 4 minutes in a French press
Stir 3 times
Wait an additional 3 minutes