What Is Cascara Tea?

The tea leaves in this tea aren't actually tea leaves. They are dried husks from the coffee berry. (Photo: Migle [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)

It's not really a tea and it's not a coffee either, but cascara tea made from the dried husks of the coffee cherry is showing up at some of the hipper tea houses and coffee shops across the country.

Cascara, also known as coffee cherry tea, is having a moment in the United States, but it has been served in Yemen and Ethiopia for a long time, according to Brenna Ciummo at Fresh Cup Magazine. It's made when the coffee beans are removed from the husks and the husks are dried in the sun.

Take a look at the video below to see the coffee beans being separated from the husk. These husks often get composted or are disposed of in other ways, but by making cascara tea from them, less of the coffee plant is wasted.

As cascara becomes more popular, it's creating a higher demand for the husks than the coffee. Aida Batlle, who grows coffee on her family farm in Santa Ana, El Salvador, tells Bloomberg that she gets $7 for a pound of cascara, while the average price for coffee hovers around $1.20. That's the lowest price for coffee in about two years, because of an oversupply of arabica beans.

Tasting and making cascara

Cascara can't be categorized as coffee since it's not made from the bean and doesn't taste like coffee. It also isn't actually a tea because it's made from the coffee plant and is made from a fruit. Ciummo says it's best categorized as a fruit tisane, or herbal tea. It is slightly sweet and has fruit notes to it. The drink does contain caffeine, but only about a quarter of the amount that coffee does.

Because cascara is brewed like tea, it can be made hot or cold, using whatever method you prefer to make tea. Here are two variations on making cascara.

If you have a Chemex, you can make coffee cherry tea this way. I imagine you would be able to use the same method using a French press.

If all you have is a teapot, you can make cascara tea directly in it.

One different way to use cascara tea is to use the dried husks to make a simple syrup and use the cascara syrup in a rum-based cocktail named Sun Streaks in the Coffeelands.