The last couple of years have been dominated by hand-brewed specialty coffees and specialty teas. Coffee drinkers opened up to everything from single-origin to civet coffee (Kopi Luwak), before they embraced the change in brewing techniques — the plunger to pour over, then siphon coffee and what not. Teas, in the meantime, braced up.
Apart from the change in tea bags, their contents underwent a full makeover too. The bags now contain flowers, petals or even a good concoction of herbs and flowers. According to brewers and coffee masters like Suhas Dwarkanath — owner of Vimoksha Beverage Solutions, who helps food and beverage enterprises develop and implement the latest beverage concepts and solutions — there’s a market graph to denote the evergreen demand of the hand-brewed specialty coffees and teas.
This year, as if to meet the trend of ‘zero food wastage’, coffee brewers abroad are looking to make the best use of the coffee skin as well. They are introducing Cascara tea. Typically for coffee, that grows in the form of cherries, the skin is discarded and what is obtained as the coffee bean is the seed from these cherries. In a bid to make the best use of the entire fruit, growers started using the ruby-red peel or the dried husk of the cherry to make brews.
Drinking this brew, however, has been an age-old custom in places like Yemen and Bolivia, where it is known as Qishr and Sultana respectively. The coffee museum at Araku, near Visakhapatnam, shows that it was the husk that was consumed earlier. Cascara is still struggling to find a foothold in the world of niche and exotic tea, coffee drinkers. Only a few cafés across the world stock Cascara drinks.
To my delight, I finally came across this drink at The Roastery Coffee House in Hyderabad, where master roaster and brewer Nishant Sinha is trying his best to educate patrons.
“Cascara means husk/peel/skin in Spanish. These skins are collected after the seeds have been removed from the cherries, and sun-dried before being packed for sale. Normally, coffee cherries are considered a by-product of the coffee-making process, and are either discarded as waste or used as compost. What I store at my café is 100% organic husk from two specialty farms in Chikmagalur. I stress on organic not because it is the most in-thing. It is because if it is not organic then the peels will bear all the harmful pesticides. Which when soaked or brewed will be consumed by us,” he explains.
Appearance-wise, the cascara looks like wood shavings. It can be used as a hot and a cold brew. After it is brewed, what comes out is a dark amber drink. “15 gms of casacara steeped in 200 ml of hot water is ideal to make a hot brew. For a cold brew, the same should be done with cold water and kept sitting for 24 hours,” explains Nishant.
The taste is 80% smell; the cascara gives out fragrant wafts of rosy and berry-noted woodiness, similar to that of Roselle tea and Rooibos tea… or an extremely diluted form of kokum extraction. And because one can have either cold or hot variants, the intensity of the flavour profile also varies. This non-acidic, refreshing drink makes for a good base for cocktails and mocktails, often paired with fruit or even honey.
According to Suhas, “Cascara is the cold brew one can have during summer. It is considered to have eight times more antioxidants when compared to coffee.”