Cascara (or Qishr/Gesher as it’s called in Yemen/Ethiopia) is the Spanish term for the dried coffee fruit skin. The fruit of the coffee cherry makes up over 50% of the total coffee cherry mass. During the pulping process, this fruit is removed from the seed and exhausts through a channel into an area separate from the beans. That’s quite a bit of potential waste. Traditionally, the cherry is mainly reused for fertilizing the farm, a nice way to complete and then begin a new life cycle, right? But somewhere along the way in Yemen, the potential to dry the cherry and use as a tea-like beverage was realized, and the production of Qishr tea was born. It tastes tart and sweet, a bit weightier in body than most teas, and considering that the entire coffea arabica plant has caffeine, Qishr/Cascara provided a nice (if not less expensive) alternative to coffee beans.
Traditionally, cascara is sun dried. Because of this, dry times vary depending on sun exposure and heat. You have to remember coffee cherry has a high moisture content, and so it takes a lot of sun energy to dry in a reasonable time frame. And by reasonable, I mean faster than the growth of mycotoxins, which can potentially lead to mold. Similar to dry-processing coffee, some regions are better candidates for meeting the basic requirements – maximum sun, minimal rain. So we see the movement of this rather tasty, tea-like beverage from Africa to areas such as Panama, El Salvador, and as with our newest website addition, Costa Rica.