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Coffee Lab: What Is Cascara?

Our Cascara Fizz is made from some of the world's finest coffee cherry.

Coffee Comes from a Fruit

We often revel in that fact the coffee comes from a fruit, celebrating the myriad flavors of our seasonal single origins, but we seldom discuss the fruit itself—let alone encourage you to taste it.

The coffee fruit (known as “cherry” in the coffee industry) is about the size of a cranberry, and as deeply rouged when ripe. A bite into it reveals a sliver of sweet fruit flesh, intercepted by a pair of coffee seeds at the cherry’s core. It takes a whole lot of work to free those seeds, which require fermentation to remove one particularly stubborn layer, called parchment or mucilage, that clings to the seeds.

Whether a coffee is natural or wet processed, the remnants of cherry are called cascara, which comprise the outer skin and the pulp, and are named for the Spanish word càscara, meaning “shell” or “husk.”

Cascara Tea: The Original Coffee Drink 

The dried fruit, when steeped in hot water, makes an invigorating, floral, and fruited tea. Cascara tea, or qishr, as it is called in Yemen, supplants coffee in some producing countries, and is thought to predate the more complex beverage, coffee. These days, however, for most farmers, cascara is considered just a byproduct to be discarded altogether, or used for fertilizer or fuel.

Yet it's worth asking: If specialty coffee farmers go to all the trouble of picking only the ripest fruit, shouldn’t we savor that fruit, along with the seeds?

On Our Menus All Along

In search of a drink that's neither coffee nor tea, we came up with the Cascara Fizz, a shimmering combination of cascara syrup (made from cascara steeped in hot water and sugar), sparkling water, and a touch of lemon. Slightly caffeinated and subtly floral, it’s part grown-up soda, part coffee-fruit exposé. We love that now, in our cafes, you can experience the entire coffee fruit.

Cascara from an Incredible Source

We source our cascara from Salvadoran powerhouse Aida Batlle, who grows some of the world's most-awarded coffees, including El Salvador Aida Batlle Finca Kilimanjaro. If the coffees made from the seeds she grows are revered for their deliciousness, the drinks made from the cherry from those same seeds deserve nothing less.

When it comes to coffee, it's easy to miss the forest for the trees—the process of transforming a seed into a drink is so complex that the details can get lost. But come on in to one of our cafes and get a little closer, literally and imaginatively, to the entire coffee cherry. Our New York and Miami cafes will be offering tastes of Cascara Fizz, but it is available in all of our cafes, everywhere. 

Get to know some of our other coffee cocktails, like the sparkly Coffee Tonic


By Blue Bottle Staff

Published Oct. 16, 2018

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