When it comes to coffee, all anyone is interested in is the beans. Few care about the fruit in which the beans grow in a sheltered and protected environment. But we do! Read on to find out about the treasure that can be found hidden in this natural product – and whether the tragedy has a happy ending.
Cáscara is Spanish for husk. When talking about coffee, it refers to the pulp of the coffee cherry that surrounds the coffee bean. In the various processing methods, this pulp is removed and the focus is entirely on the stone of the fruit. We are now going to take a closer look at what quite literally surrounds the coffee bean, because, at least in this article, the stone of the fruit amounts to a hill of beans.
Once upon a time, there was a lonely coffee cherry ...
Admittedly, lonely might not be completely accurate. Forgotten might be more precise. In any event, since the discovery of coffee, people have been almost exclusively interested in the coffee bean. It is the real treasure waiting to be discovered. The fruit that shelters it is only a means to an end. In Western countries where coffee is consumed, hardly anyone has heard of the drink cascara. Fortunately, times are changing, and with them the opinions about this underappreciated fruit.
From an extra to the lead role
In many coffee-producing countries, people have been drinking tea made from coffee-cherries as an energy-boosting drink for centuries. In Yemen, it is refined with ginger, cinnamon and sugar and called qishr. The drink is consumed hot and is particularly popular during the cold winter months.
In recent years, a change has been taking place in the coffee world. Coffee drinkers no longer simply want top-quality coffee, they are also interested in the country of origin and how the coffee is cultivated and processed. They want coffee to be grown sustainably and in a way that protects the ecological balance. In line with this trend, more and more people are becoming interested in what happens to the leftovers of the coffee cherry once the coveted stone of the fruit has been removed.
After each harvest of the coffee cherries, the earth at the plantation lacks valuable nutrients. Many of these nutrients are contained in the cherry pulp. It therefore makes sense to use the pulp as natural fertiliser and to “feed” the plantation with it. This helps the plantation to produce a good crop year after year.
Coming out of its shell: the hidden talents of the coffee cherry
Coffee cherries aren’t just used as a fertiliser – they can also be dried and brewed in water to make a refreshing amber-coloured infusion with a mild sweetness. The caffeine concentration is particularly high in the husk of the coffee cherry as its purpose is to deter insects that would otherwise eat the flesh. The amount of caffeine is lower in the drink itself. This makes the finished iced tea a welcome pick-me-up, but one that doesn’t cause sleepless nights.
Sun-dried cherries provide the perfect flavour. Ripening in the sun allows the fruits to develop a complex flavour profile and a natural sweetness that is reminiscent of honey.
In the end, the once lonely and forgotten coffee cherry finally found the attention it deserved, and it lived happily ever after. In the meantime, however, it is sweetening the everyday lives of many iced-tea enthusiasts.