Cascara - Have you heard of the tea made from coffee?
I do find it amusing where my inspiration for our monthly blog comes from. Usually I think, “What on earth am I going to talk about this month?!” and then I see something, hear something, do something and often there are witterings going on in my head that I can’t get out and….bingo! Discussion topic.
Well, this month’s topic: Cascara. Have you heard of it? The discarded coffee cherry that is used as a tea and more.
Coffee cherries are the whole fruits which grow on the coffee plant. As most berries ripen, they turn a lovely juicy red, this is when they are harvested and taken for processing. Inside each cherry are the seeds, or coffee beans. The beans are removed by various processes, washing, natural or honey. The discarded cherry’s fruit is often a by-product and used as compost or fertiliser, as the main prize is the coffee bean inside the cherry. However, the fruit is also used as a tea - called Cascara.
(The removed husks, above)
Now, we say tea - it is not actually a tea because it doesn’t contain leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, it is more accurately a tisane - a herbal tea.
Cascara, meaning shell/ peel/ husk may be relatively new to us as a drink, but has been consumed for many years by farmers in coffee growing regions - some say it may even predate coffee.
(Dried and cut Cascara, above)
Just like the coffee processing method affects the flavour of the bean, it may be no surprise that it also affects the flavour of the Cascara. Wet processing tends to give a more floral cup with some acidity. Natural processing tends to be sweeter. But don’t expect it to taste like coffee! It is more like a herbal tea, with fruity floral notes and hints of tobacco - and high in antioxidants!
You may also be wondering if it contains caffeine. It does - but not that much. A study found that Cascara contained about a fifth of the caffeine than a cup of coffee.
(A brewed cup of Cascara, above)
Using the leftover husks for Cascara is a great way to reduce waste. There is a huge amount of discarded husks during coffee processing, though a lot is used as compost or fertiliser, and of course it is biodegradable - but processing the husks to become Cascara can also provide an extra income for the farmers. However, few coffee farmers process the cherries to become cascara for consumption and export as it is quite a labour-intensive task.
Another use for the discarded cherry is Coffee Cherry Flour. A fabulous alternative flour that can be used in baking. It is high in fibre and antioxidants, and contains protein, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Now, before I get asked when we are going to stock it - We can’t sell it! Well, at least I don’t think we can. We used to sell Coffee Cherry Flour but had to remove it. Cascara and Coffee Cherry Flour are classed as a “Novel Food”. A Novel Food is defined as a food that has not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997. And until it is deemed or certified as “safe for consumption” we can no longer sell the items. The products are happily selling away (and being consumed!) in the US.
I have recently checked with the British Coffee Association to ask if there have been any updates in the status and have been told that the EU has successfully been granted their Novel Food application, yet the UK hasn’t been granted one. It is a little confusing, and perfectly explained by James Hoffmann “It’s not illegal, it’s just not legal yet.”
If I can get a clear thumb up, I will be sure to stock some Cascara and Coffee Cherry Flour! And if anyone knows where I can get a definitive answer, please let me know.