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Cascara: "Orange Bourbon"

Along with some delicious samples of coffee from El Salvador (thank you, Javier and Maria!), was a bag of ‘Cascara’ -the pulp of the coffee cherries!

While visiting the farm Nombre de Dios last year ,  farmer Javier showed me around the property: I got to walk through fields of Bourbon and Caturra, and asked about the yellow and orange cherry varieties: Javier said he would process some cascara for me from the orange one  -a variety until recently found only in El Salvador.

Last week, Maria,  Javier’s unique Mother, wrote me and said the samples were on their way, and today we enjoyed the first sips of Cascara brew from Nombre de Dios!

After the coffee cherries have been picked,  the ripe fruits will as soon as possible be pulped: that means the seeds (‘beans’) will be removed from the fruit.  Usually, the leftovers are quickly shifted away for composting, but the last years’ growing interest from enthusiastic baristi have led to a handful of farmers offering sun dried cascara.

(The ‘skin’ of the cherry is called  ‘cascara‘  in spanish language coffee producing countries).

Sun drying cascara with the purpose of using it for an infusion (a ‘tea’), is an older tradition, possibly dating back to before the coffee seeds themselves cought the attention of the arabs. Even today, the price of dried cascara  -in the Arabic world and in Africa called ‘Quishr’ (also spelled ‘Kisher’) is higher than the price of coffee in an Arabic market.

We’ve already seen cascara being used in Barista Championships, and latest the World Champion of 2011, Alejandro Mendez from El Salvador just a few weeks ago.

Last years’  ‘Nordic Barista Cup’, in Oslo, Norway, offered the participating enthusiasts beer made by blending a strong cascara tea with the beer, and in addition, cascara was steeped directly into the finished beer!

'Cascara Bitter' : Coffee Beer!

The dried fruits have a raisin-prune smell, clean and clearly fruited, like the smell of natural processed coffee.

Brewing an infusion or a ‘tea’ from dried cascara gives an aromatic brew similar to Hibiscus Tea.

The citric notes are, as Alejandro explained, a delicate dominant feature. We  recommend making a stronger brew;  – the water may be hotter than ‘normal’ , and the cascara benefits from a long steeping time: 8 minutes! Use a clean, clean French Press.

The finished brew also benefits from a little sweetener:  we tried a tiny spoonful of a mild, summer meadow honey (corsican), and it was excellent.  It goes without saying that this brew is perfect for Iced Tea.

Just remember this is coffee:  Cascara contains coffeïne like the rest of the coffee plant  🙂

Yello, red and orange 'bourbon', El Salvador. (Thanks to Aida Batlle for the photo)



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