Cascara, the typically discarded coffee cherry shell, is being turned into drinks that repurpose food waste and create new revenue opportunities for coffee farmers. While cascara has made it to the menu of some third-wave coffee shops in the past as a hot beverage, the drink could peak this summer as a cold, fizzy drink. In addition to smaller coffee shops like New York’s Everyman Espresso and DC’s Slipstream, larger chains like Gregory Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee feature a cascara fizz, sometimes called cascara soda. The soft drink is made of sweetened cascara syrup and soda or cascara tea with simple syrup and a splash of seltzer.
Dried cascara husks are soaked in water to draw out the cherry’s floral, mildly fruity flavor. The liquid is then reduced with sugar into cascara syrup, or heated and served as is. NPR credits Aida Batlle, a fifth-generation coffee grower in El Salvador, with coining the term cascara, deriving from the Spanish word for husk. "Pulp was such a yucky word," she said. "I was like, nah… this is cascara."
Perhaps you’ve heard of the cascara latte, which Starbucks debuted in January 2017. Although the drink featured espresso along with cascara syrup, the drink sparked cafe-goers’ interest in the typically discarded element of the coffee production process. The coffee chain also introduced the Cascara Lemon Sour mocktail, a blend of cold brew and maple syrup, at its Seattle Roastery Experience Bar. Disappointingly, Starbucks seems too reliant on the classic flavor of coffee to truly explore cascara’s full potential.
However, once the weather takes a turn for the sweltering, I bet we’ll begin to see the cascara fizz on more drink menus, and perhaps even see cascara proper in food. Juan Coronado, creative director at Colada Shop (which serves a cascara Old Fashioned) told the Washington Post, “as soon as a mega chef does something with it, it will be amazing.”