What looks like coffee, tastes like a fruity coffee-tea hybrid, packs a heck of a lot of antioxidants, and has way less caffeine than a regular cup of joe? The answer: cascara, otherwise known as coffee cherry tea, which is made from the dried skins of the coffee fruit.
As a relative coffee noob, I was unfamiliar with cascara until I read a primer published in HuffPost. Thus I learned that it’s predominantly consumed in coffee-growing nations like Bolivia, Ethiopia, and Yemen, although it’s gaining ground in the U.S. as coffee bigwigs like Starbucks and Blue Bottle Coffee hop aboard the cascara train. But what exactly is cascara, and why should one brew up a hearty mug of the stuff?
First, let’s review the anatomy of the humble coffee bean. Per HuffPost, the “bean” as we know it is actually the seed housed inside a coffee cherry. To get to that sweet, sweet bean, coffee farmers must first remove the cherry’s outer husk. And while some farmers toss the husk, others dry it in the sun and package it into cascara. The result is a tea that can be served hot or cold.
Why drink cascara? Well, there’s the flavor, which sounds delightful. “This drink doesn’t easily fall within a category that most people are familiar with,” HuffPost’s Anna Rahmanan writes. “You’re going to want to think of it as a very potent, fruity, herbal tea boasting notes of hibiscus, cherry, and even mango.”
Cascara also boasts a whole lot of antioxidants, mostly polyphenols which, according to a scientific study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, can help protect against chronic illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Finally, it has roughly a fifth of the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee, making it a great option for days when I’m so anxious that I could complete a series of Matrix-style acrobatic feats outside of my cubicle. To find out more about cascara and learn how to prepare it, check out the HuffPost article.