Cascara: A new take on an old drink.

This weekend we released a new product; something that we have been working on for several weeks.  As far as we know only a few cafes in the nation are offering cascara on their menu, and of those that have it only a fraction of them are serving it as soda.  So what exactly is cascara, and how did this drink come to be?

Cascara is the Spanish word for “husk,” and it is the perfect description.  Many of you know that coffee grows on a tree inside a cherry.  When ripe, it is picked by the farmer and delivered to a washing station.  The pit of the cherry is then separated from the fruit, and that pit is dried out and prepared to be the coffee that we enjoy daily.  That remaining fruit or husk is called cascara.

Normally, the remaining cherry, or cascara is either discarded or thrown into a compost pile to be used as a fertilizer for the coffee trees.  This has been the custom for decades, especially when global focus has been on maximum production for the corporate coffee world.  With attention shifting from mass-produced coffee consumption to quality-centric specialty coffee, more focus has been placed on the coffee plant itself.

Cascara has qualities of both coffee and tea, putting it into a league of its own.  It can be earthy, with many of the qualities of an Indonesian coffee, or a root-type spice.  Usually that mild earthy taste is accompanied by a cherry or raisin-like flavor, and a pleasant sweetness; especially as it cools.  There is caffeine content as well that is about the same amount you would expect from a cup of black tea.

For as long as coffee has been around, the cascara has been used as a tea, or eaten as a cherry.  Coffee lure actually attributes the discovery of coffee to goats that were hyper-caffeinated by eating these cherries from the local coffee plants in Ethiopia.  The farmers discovered the energy-inducing fruit, and began harvesting, cultivating and trading it.  As the coffee trade took off, the seed became the central focus, but for many of the local producers the cherry would be steeped into a drink of its own.

In order to be made into a drink, the cherry must be carefully prepared and dried to a tea-like consistency.  This dried cascara can then be stored, or shipped as a commodity, much like the coffee itself.  Cascara has long been enjoyed in many European countries, often as a coffee and tea alternative.  Of late, many leading specialty coffee companies have begun introducing it to the American market.

So how did we end up with a cascara soda?  After learning about the flavors and qualities of cascara, we ordered some to find out for ourselves.  We were immediately blown away by the taste and versatility that we found.  Cascara was a huge hit among our baristas.

We immediately knew that we had something special on out hands, and we began to work tirelessly to create a drink that would be unique to Youngstown.  After a few recipe attempts, we realized that there was more than one way to brew this cherry up, and we are planning on having an entirely unique cascara menu.

So what is the Cascara Soda?  It is an amazing combination of flavor that is similar to coffee, tea and soda.  The only way to truly experience it is to grab one of your own.  This soda is only the beginning of the fun we will have; look for our unique Cascara Menu in the next few weeks!