Cascara: Coffee, Tea, Fruit or Bean?
What is it? Where Does it Come From? Why Are We Drinking It?
Not that long ago I wrote a blog about the trends in coffee for summer. I thought I had been thorough, but of course, I probably had considering we were only 3 or so months into the new year and not even at the official start to summer (though who can tell these days with the effects of climate change). Then I looked at Stumptown’s website and saw that they’re ramping things up even more when it comes to your summer beverage fix. Cascara is real, and chances are you’ve seen this new word, and probably tasted it’s fruit.
I’m pumped because I love innovation even more than I love coffee. I also love anything that gives me quicker access to my coffee; for example, I drink iced coffee year round so that I can just start drinking it as soon as it’s in my hand.
At Stumptown, they’ve teamed up with a North Carolina company, Slingshot Coffee Co. for their latest summertime brew.
This collaboration is putting to rest that age old battle between coffee and tea in an unconventional way: by combining them! Sort of. Stumptown’s Cold Brewers chose a coffee blend to cold brew and mixed with Slingshot’s cold brewed Cascara–no, not mascara, Cascara (that was horrible, I apologize, please don’t lash out at me in the comments…).
Cascara is a tea; but, it is also a beverage which is produced from the same plant that coffee is made from! What!
Is it Coffee or Tea??
As most of us know, coffee beans are the seeds of a fruit, the coffee cherry, which is dried, washed, or otherwise processed away from the seeds before they are dried. The fruit, cascara, is full of antioxidants and caffeine, just like coffee. Normally, when the seeds are removed from the fruit, the pulp is used for fertilizer, or it is composted at the farm. Or sometimes, people like the folks at Slingshot have it dried and brew it into a tea.
What is Cascara?
Stumptown is taking that concept, Slingshot’s cold brewed cascara, and mixing it with their cold brewed coffee and turning it into a canned, refreshing and caffeinating beverage for your summertime needs. The blend is called Long Distance Relationship because Slingshot and Stumptown are so close together.
Stumptown is in the foreground for all things third wave and futuristic coffee, always trying to one-up themselves and their competitors when it comes to innovation and creativity. The folks at Slingshot have been using dried coffee cherries for over a decade and have come to be known for their Cascara world-wide.
Of course, where one coffee trend is Starbucks is bound to be also. I wasn’t able to determine who started this trend; but, Starbucks is also now offering a Cascara drink. Theirs is not unique to summer, but with the fruity, florally flavor palate, it’s going to compete with their passion fruit tea lemonade (and this one has caffeine)! Cascara, which translates as husk or peel, is now in has been turned into a syrup at Starbucks which can be added to your traditional milk-and-espresso latte. The latte is then topped with a crystallized version of the cascara for a sweet, colorful finish. The company describes the flavor notes in their cascara latte as brown sugar and maple syrup, so perhaps I’m wrong about its summertime feel. But, with ice cubes, anything can be summery!
The Cascara trend has been slowly infiltrating the specialty coffee world, mostly thanks to Slingshot’s Cascara lady, Aida Batlle. She describes her tea as similar to a hibiscus (so florally and slightly fruity) which will make an interesting combo with Stumptown’s earthy, smooth coffee blend. Batlle describes her discovery of cascara as the best discoverers do: it was an accident. Sort of. She was at a cupping and got curious about the pile of husks that had been discarded for the business-of-the-matter coffee beans. She was instantly hooked, and soon, her customers were, too.
This is something to consider for your coffee roasting business, for example. It’s a great example of “using all of the buffalo” to appropriate an indigenous colloquialism. It’s not necessarily that the fruit is going to waste when you purchase your coffee beans from your various farms or suppliers; but, could you be getting more out of them? Customers these days love the idea of something new but with a natural tint; and they love the idea of connecting more to the products they’re consuming. Discovering that there’s a different part of the coffee plant that can be consumed is one such way to stimulate your customers’ experiences, and to stimulate your profits. It would be fun, for example, to offer tea and coffee made from the same plant, for pairing or comparison, getting your customers and employees more involved and engaged with your products.
The final lesson here is that innovation and collaboration are necessary and continuously so for any successful business. When I read blogs from other coffee roasters, I feel the energy, nerdiness (in a good way) and passion behind their experiments like this, their new discoveries, their new inventions. It’s that kind of spark that leads to good ideas, good collaborations, and good business.