Can’t decide whether you’re a tea or coffee person? Avoid labels, and order a drink that allows you to be both: cascara.
Cascara, or coffee cherry tea, is a tea-like drink that’s brewed from the dried husks of coffee cherries. (Fittingly, cascara means “husk” or “peel” in Spanish.) Until recently, cascara was typically only found in South America or the Middle East. But according to Fresh Cup, cascara is increasingly becoming a popular addition to American cafe menus, thanks to consumers’ growing interest in hand-brewed and specialty beverages.
NPR recently interviewed a woman named Aida Batlle, a coffee farm proprietor in El Salvador who is credited with introducing cascara to the United States. According to Batlle, cascara has a fruity taste, while others also describe it as smelling like herbal tea, rose hips, hibiscus, mango, or cherry. It’s also low on caffeine; one analysis found it comparable to black tea, although its potency ranges, depending on the crop and brew strength.
While the infused drink is made from the coffee plant, it's very different from a normal cup of joe. Coffee is made from the dried, roasted, and ground seed of the coffee cherry. In contrast, cascara is brewed from the casing that surrounds the seeds. The leathery husk is dried, then milled and packaged. It’s commonly used to make infused hot or cold drinks, although NPR says that cascara is also popping up in everything from alcoholic beverages to sodas. Since cascara is brewed from the normally trashed or composted coffee skins, it also cuts down on food waste, Eater points out—a fact that isn’t lost on eco-conscious caffeine enthusiasts.
Want to try cascara, but can’t find it anywhere near your home? Learn to prepare your own drink via the handy video above.