Cascara is an infusion of coffee cherry husks, so basically you steep the dried peel and fruit flesh that originally is around the coffee beans to make a nice and fruity beverage. Cascara contains around 25% of caffeine coffee would have.
Since I did a few articles on Vietnams emerging speciality coffee scene back in 2015, I kept my eyes peeled for Cascara. But even though everyone seemed to talk about it, none of my farm owners, traders or other contacts in the coffee business seemed to have the stuff in stock.
This year however, searching for something completely different to trade with, I stumbled upon a farm from the highlands that offers the husks. Of course I got a package, right before I got ushered into a promotional TV production featuring me as the white ape face.
Even though Vietnam is still not really appreciated as producer of speciality grade coffee, the time when their huge output of cheap robusta beans for the mass production of crappy instant coffee was the countries only reputation, is finally over. Especially the Central Highlands with Dalat as my personal favourite place in Vietnam grow Coffea arabica of ever increasing quality.
Mostly of course the varietals typica, as well as red and yellow Bourbons. White the first one is the “standard” arabica tree, the latter two are what the French first brought to Indochina from the island of Bourbon (Reunion). They also grow Catimor in the highlands, which is a hybrid – not as tasty as the above mentioned arabica varietals, but much more sturdy and easier to grow.
But we don’t want to talk too much about coffee varietals and the Vietnamese coffee market, let’s just focus on this interesting new beverage: Cascara. Well, “new” probably just for us Europeans, since Cascara is a popular drink among coffee growing nations like Yemen for example, where a kind of Chai was made of coffee husks, spices, milk and sugar.
They often called it the “poor man’s coffee”, but together with the growing popularity of hipster drinks, Cascara creates a valuable additional income for organic coffee farmers.
Myself I find the drink has an interesting, fruity taste and definitely potential.