Coffee is the wake-up drink for most of us. In fact, coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world with ever increasing demand.
But did you know that one by-product of coffee production is nothing short of a superfood? This by-product is none other than cascara.
Cascara has been around for a long time. African countries, the Middle East, and South America have enjoyed cascara as a beverage for ages, but it is not a household name in the rest of the world. Even some avid coffee drinkers are not aware of cascara.
So what exactly is cascara and how beneficial is it? Let’s find out.
What is Cascara?
Cascara, also known as coffee cherry, is the dried husk of the coffee fruit. In Spanish, the word “cascara” means skin or husk.
The coffee bean is only a tiny portion of the coffee cherry fruit. Most of the coffee fruit, including the husk and pulp, are removed during processing.
Cascara is made by drying the leftover coffee pulp or coffee husk. Some processing techniques utilize both the husk and pulp to make cascara.
After drying the coffee husks are either packaged whole or processed to produce a flour.
Cascara can range in flavor, based on the coffee type and terroir.
Cascara: How to include it in your diet
Cascara is a versatile food. It can be simply infused with hot water, or powered and added to cakes, cookies and even smoothies to boost nutrition and flavor.
Coffee cherry tea
The easiest way to enjoy cascara is by brewing it similarly to tea. Cascara makes a sweet, stimulating, and healthy drink when brewed with water.
Coffee cherry tea is brewed by mixing 1 tablespoon of dried cascara in a cup of hot water and letting it steep for about 5 minutes. The drink takes on a similar appearance to black tea and is sure to please both tea and coffee lovers.
Brewed cascara has a very similar aroma to coffee. However, it tastes nothing like coffee. The drink is sweet and floral with a subtle hint of fruit.
Coffee cherry flour
Coffee cherry flour is an excellent addition to baked goods. From cakes to cookies, all baked goods will receive a nutrition boost from coffee cherry flour.
Powdered cascara adds a trace of fruity flavor to baked products.
Because coffee cherry flour is gluten-free, it is safe for people with coeliac disease or gluten allergies.
Sweets, sauces, smoothies, and dessert frostings are other food products that benefit from a dash of coffee cherry flour.
The nutrients and chemical composition
From polyphenols, and micronutrients to dietary fiber, this superfood is sure to meet many nutritional needs.
Polyphenolic compounds: Polyphenols are antioxidants and help fight off free radicals. Gallic acid is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in cascara. Cascara is a rich source of antioxidants with 283 mg/L of gallic acid equivalents.
Dietary fiber: Coffee cherry flour is high in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.
Micronutrients: Cascara is a powerhouse of micronutrients. Potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and phosphorus are few of the micronutrients in this healthy food.
Proteins: Coffee cherry flour also contains proteins.
Caffeine: In addition to all the nutrients, cascara contains the well-known stimulant caffeine. A cascara drink consists of 226 mg/L of caffeine, which is much lower than that of coffee.
Health benefits and risks
There are no major identified health risks in drinking cascara. However, cascara has caffeine, so caffeine intolerant people must stay away from it.
Here are some proven health benefits of cascara:
Stimulating and refreshing: The caffeine in cascara has a stimulating effect, similar to coffee and tea.
Enhances immunity: Cascara’s antioxidants protect the body from harmful free radicals.
Improves digestion: The dietary fiber in coffee cherry flour is ideal for improving digestion and maintaining gut health.
Why we shouldn’t waste Cascara
Reduce wastage: Coffee bean production is a process with a lot of wastage. Each year, the coffee industry leaves behind millions of tons of coffee husks. Using the coffee cherry husk and pulp to produce cascara beverages is a step closer to zero food waste.
Reduces greenhouse gas emissions: Some coffee producers use the leftover coffee cherry pulp and husks to make compost and sometimes as animal feed. However, if coffee husks are left around to decay, they release greenhouse gases. Using coffee husks in food products is an environmentally friendly step.
Additional revenue for coffee farmers: The most prominent coffee producers are developing countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Indonesia. Selling the otherwise discarded coffee cherry husks brings in a much needed additional revenue for coffee farmers.
Inexpensive and healthy: Cascara is inexpensive and readily available in coffee-growing communities. Adding it to our diet is a cheap and guaranteed way to gain more nutrition.
Although cascara has been around for a long time, it is still gaining popularity among coffee enthusiasts.
You can purchase cascara through coffee roasters or directly from the coffee growers. Due to its increasing popularity, there are companies like The Coffee Cherry Company specializing in processing and distributing cascara.
Cascara is still novel in scientific research, and there is so much more to discover, but adding this healthy food to our diet is a sure-fire way to gain nutrition while reducing food waste.