Cascara is the dried skin of coffee drupe from which you can obtain an infusion with floral and fruity notes.
There it is, then, where Cascara comes from, how you can recognize a good Cascara and how you can prepare your Cascara brew.
It’s really true: nothing from the coffee is ever thrown away. If we do a research on internet by typing “Reause of coffee” our search engine will return us pages and pages of tasty ideas for the recovery of our leftover morning coffee and creative ways for the recycling of used coffee grounds, halfway between reality and grandmother's remedies.
But we don't know much about alternative employment of the pulp surrounding the coffee bean.
I’m talking about Cascara, the dried skin of coffee drupe. Left to infuse for some minutes in hot water, it returns an energy drink with fruity taste and floral notes. You can taste it cold or warm depending on your taste (and temperature outside).
So, stay focused now because I’ll explain to you in detail where Cascara comes from, how you can recognize a good Cascara and how you can prepare your Cascara brew.
Even if this beverage is already known for a long time in Central and Latin America under the name of Qiushir, it’s only in recent times that it appeared in this chunk of the world. Its introduction to us is mostly thanks to the Salvadoran coffee legend Aida Battle, who discovered it during a cupping session. Suddenly she was distracted by a pleasant hibiscus-like note in the air coming from the Cascara brew. Once she tasted it, she began to process the coffee drupe to produce her own Cascara to commercialize it also in the Western World.
Attention though, because the part used it’s not properly the whole drupe: the name “cáscara” literally means “husk” in Spanish and that is the part used for the brew, only after a careful process, as I will explain you shortly.
...from waste flowers are born. Paraphrasing Fabrizio De Andrè: from the use and reuse of the waste coffee, something really interesting can be found for our palate.
When the husk is not used for cascara brew, it is thrown away and then represent the main residue out of the coffee production. As it is generally considered as a worthless waste, it is currently discarded, contributing to the environmental pollution.
Then a great opportunity for farmers to earn a new source of revenue is lost.
Given the volume of coffee production, wasted cascara represents one of the biggest coffee industry inefficiency.
Even more if what can spring up from this waste is something incredibly good with elegant floral and fruity notes. The resulting drink is rich in antioxidants and modest in caffeine, just enough to sprint your day by allowing you a peaceful night's sleep and blissful dreams.
All right, but where does this natural energy drink come from?
Cascara can be divided into two types according to the process from which it derives.
From the coffees that are processed following the washed or honey method, the cascara will be obtained from the pulping machine and then dried.
From the coffees processed according to the natural method, cascara is obtained after the whole drupe (including internal seeds) is dried and then, once coffee is ready, removed from the bean.
A slightly different cascara will be obtained from the two processes: in the first case the pieces obtained will be larger, from the second method you will get fragments, the so-called “husk” which also includes the parchment (which can be removed at a later stage).
Whether Cascara is obtained by the first or second method a good sample should have no foreign materials and be dry to the touch, indicating a good conservation of the product. Some people prefer not to have fragments of parchment, which add bitterness to the cup, but it depends on the result you want to achieve and therefore on your taste.
The color of cascara is really important because it is an indicator of the ripeness of the drupe. The riper the drupe, the more it will be able to develop sugar, giving to the cup a greater sweetness and a more intense taste. In this case, the Cascara will be dark red, close to black if coming from the washed/honey method; slightly lighter, like brown tending to red-violet if coming from the natural method.
As a general rule, we can say that the cascara coming from the washed/honey method will have a bright acidity with notes that go from mandarin, to watermelon, to grapes.
That one obtained from the natural method will have a greater sweetness but less acidity, a smooth body with notes close to molasses, cedar, vanilla and red fruits.
There is no tasting protocol for Cascara. Therefore in this case the best method to cup it is in infusion enjoying it as you like: you will add a greater quantity of Cascara if you want to obtain a more concentrated drink, maybe to dilute with other liquids to create amazing drinks. If you want to taste it in purity, both hot and cold, the ratio between water and Cascara will need to be lowered.
Well, for a start, I can help you with your Alberto Polojac's recipe.
Get some cascara (write me here to know how to get it) and use a ratio of 70 g of Cascara per liter of water and steep it for four minutes.
It can be prepared with a French Press if you have one, or with a simple teapot.
And then experiment: mix the infusion with the Cold Brew to give a deeper scent of red fruit and flowers to the drink, add it to your fizzy drinks.
In short: have fun and let us know your recipes!
Good Cascara to everyone
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