Cascara isn’t really coffee. It’s often called tea, but it’s not really tea, either. It’s preparation is akin to tea, what with the steeping and all. But so is press pot and Clever brewed coffee, and that’s certainly not tea. I guess cascara is an herbal tea, which some might argue is not actually a tea either, as it does not contain tea leaves.
In any case, as I understand it, this beverage has a long history in Yemen under the name Qishr or Kishr. Coffee farmers process their coffee and sell off the seeds (beans). What’s left is the fruit exterior, which is then dried and brewed like tea.* In recent years, the famed Aida Batlle started producing this for sale from her farm in El Salvador. Naturally – because of their love for Aida’s coffee – Counter Culture is a more widely known seller of cascara. It was the Counter Culture Finca Kilimanjaro Cascara that I first had a little while back (not hyperlinked because I did not write about it here). But this time, I picked up this cascara with a Verve coffee order I placed. Some delicious, delicious Verve which will be posted here soon enough. Until then…
* I’m sorry that I don’t have good sources to reference.
Verve does not specifically list much detail about this cascara. A cursory Google search reveals that Emporium Estate is one of the estates run by Graciano Cruz in Boquete, Panama. He also runs Los Lajones, which is responsible for the special edition Gesha that Verve is currently selling. The following specs were pulled off the Emporium Estate site, but since Verve did not list this for the cascara, I don’t want to say with certainty that it applies, which is why I left the above section blank.
Varietal: many, unsure which is used for cascara
Altitude: 1600-1600 m
The aroma once the water hits is deep. It’s woody like a fresh tobacco. It’s also, naturally, quite fruity. Imagine black tea cut liberally with cranberry juice. The flavor holds back a lot on the sweetness, tending more toward the full-bodied tobacco end. It’s pretty big, a bit juicy, and quite pleasant. Very smooth, clean, and crystal clear (not in color, of course).
Verve Coffee Roasters says:
Hibiscus. Orange zest. Maple.
It’s a lot different from the Counter Culture Finca Kilimanjaro, which was sweeter and lighter. I think a lot of this is due to recommended brew ratios. Counter Culture’s calls for 5 grams per 8 ounces (~250ml) steeped for 5-7 minutes. Verve – 18 grams per 300ml steeped for 4 minutes. That’s a pretty significant dosing difference. It’s certainly not bad, but very different. I need to try the Verve again with a lower dosage – I think I’ll like a more delicate, sweet profile.
In both cases, though, the one thought that sticks with me is that it tastes much like you’d expect. Like a drink made from steeped dried cherries. There’s obviously some more and slightly nuanced flavors – tobacco, cranberry, etc – that make cascara such an interesting drink. It comes highly recommended.