Present Mark’s Guide to Cascara

cascara

If I were to offer you a drink that contained a naturally powerful antioxidant that can improve brain health, regulate appetite and improve energy levels, would you be interested? Obviously, yes! And this drink would be cascara, the long-overlooked sister to coffee exploding in cafes across the States right now. A lighter alternative to coffee, with benefits for both you and the environment, cascara is a genuine winner for mind, body, and soul.

Don’t worry, because here I’ll answer some questions you are bound to have about cascara and get you eager to try it. That’s if you haven’t already, of course. You’ll walk away confident in what, exactly, makes it so great that Starbucks has repeatedly introduced both hot and cold cascara-based drinks to their menu (tip: this season’s offering is the Cascara Macchiato).

Q

What is cascara?

A

Let’s answer that by starting with a different beloved beverage: coffee. We all know coffee comes from beans, right? Well, those beans are actually the seeds inside a fruit called the coffee cherry. Cascara, from the Spanish for ‘husk,’ is the shell of that cherry. As a drink, cascara usually comes in the form of a tea (or tisane, for the particular among us). Keeping up? Good.

Q

How is it made?

A

When making coffee, the entire coffee cherry goes through a pulping process in order to separate the bean from the rest of the fruit. The husks, or cascara, used to be composted or simply thrown away. Now, though, these shells are carefully collected to be dried and then shipped to meet their destiny as a delicious drink. The final product looks pretty much like most herbal teas you’ve seen except the pieces of dried fruit are a bit bigger. Bonus fact – The ever-increasing number of South American farms producing cascara commercially are applying quality controls to this process, like you’d expect from coffee producers, to ensure their product is of the highest standard.

Q

Why should I care?

A

It’s a nootropic, which means it boosts your brainpower – particularly creativity and memory. Cascara is low on calories and, because it’s naturally sweet in flavor, there’s no need for added sugar. It’s anti-inflammatory and is a great source of potassium as well as antioxidants. Another winning factor is that it contains about one-quarter of the caffeine of coffee. So it can improve your concentration and energy levels but won’t give you the jitters. This makes it ideal for the afternoon or evening, without worrying about later sleeplessness. Finally, cascara contains chlorogenic acid, known to stimulate weight loss.

On a broader scale, it’s great ethically as it gives coffee farmers a second revenue stream, allowing them to further invest in their business while the income helps local economies. It’s better for the environment too as these shells, which primarily used to be discarded at huge quantities, are now being put to use. Psst, can you see where the mind, body, soul trifecta come into this yet?

Important side note: Please, please, please don’t get this confused with the laxative tea Cascara Sagrada… for obvious reasons.

Q

What does it taste like?

A

First of all: completely different from coffee. It has a sweet flavor, with floral notes like hibiscus, or tangy notes like tamarind. Some mention plum, peaches, or even maple when describing its flavor. Like with many drinks made from plants (coffee, wine, etc.) this can vary based on the variety of fruit, where it’s grown and when it’s harvested. Of course, taste testing for yourself is the fun part!

Q

How do I brew it?

A

It’s usually drunk as a tea. A good measure is one or two heaped tablespoons of the dried fruit to large mug (8oz) of hot – not boiling – water and let steep for four minutes. Proper brewing will produce a dark red tea so use that as your frame of reference. If you prefer an iced beverage, I’d suggest doubling the cascara to water ratio that you would then leave in the fridge overnight. Yum! It can be (and is) used to make cocktails, mocktails and fizzy soda. There are even some cascara beers on the market, so keep an eye out, and you’ll start to notice it everywhere.

Q

Can I add any flavor?

A

You sure can. You can complement its taste with honey, nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon. In fact, in Ethiopia and Yemen, they’ve been enjoying spiced cascara – known as Hashara and Qishr, respectively – for over a thousand years. But by all means, get creative with your cascara! There are bound to be countless taste sensations as yet unknown.

 

In every season, there are so many ways you can enjoy cascara; we would love to discover unexpected blends and hear about your favorite cascara drink. Please share yours on Instagram, with a recipe if you know it, and tag @presentmark. And, if you’re looking for more ways to add easy healthy habits – check out this Lazy Girl Workout Guide. Also – on the rare chance you’ve visited a coffee farm and seen the production process for yourself, we have to be in on that too!

Featured image via Unsplash Photography

 

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