What is Cascara Topping? (And How to Make it at Home)


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Although cascara has slowly been catching up to the rest of the World, it has for a long time been in use in some coffee-producing countries such as Ethiopia and Yemen. Qishr is a traditional spicy drink in the Arabian peninsula brewed from dry coffee skins and spices.

Whether it’s cascara topping, syrup, tea, or coffee, there are numerous ways to use the coffee pulp.

If you have been to a wet-processing coffee plant, you will have noticed the unmistakable fruity aroma of the fresh pulp at the dumping area. As the coffee skins age, they darken and begin to ferment, and their smell becomes rather sharp and piquant. You can smell them from a mile away.

Despite growing up on a coffee farm that is less than a mile away from a wet processing plant, we never had any use for the coffee skin and we considered it waste.

***Well, we still chew on fresh coffee berries during harvesting as the fresh pulp is sweet and fruity***

So, it’s been a revelation to me that coffee pulp has other uses in the food sector other than the occasional chewing on it.

Let’s discuss cascara and some of the cascara products such as toppings and extracts. Also, find out how cascara is made and how to use it.

What is Cascara Topping?

Cascara topping is brownish sugar sprinkles that are infused with the coffee cherry extract. The extract adds floral undertones to the sugar.

Starbucks uses cane sugar for its cascara topping and you can order it to top your favorite beverage.

You can also give your pastries a sweet, floral twist by sprinkling some cascara sugar on them.

6 Uses For Cascara

What is cascara? In its simple form, cascara is dried coffee pulp. However, due to the increasing demand for cascara, innovators have developed ingenious ways to make cascara extract or coffee cherry extract which can be used in myriad ways.

Here are five ways to use cascara

  1. Cascara Tisane or cascara tea. You can steep cascara in hot or cold water to make hot or cold herbal tea respectively.
  2. Cascara extract as a flavor. You can buy coffee cherry extract or make some at home to add to your coffee or tea to add some fruity notes, antioxidants, and some caffeine.
  3. Cascara topping
  4. Cascara syrup as a sweetener. Cascara syrup combines water, sugar, and cascara extract to make a syrup that you can use to sweeten your beverages and pastries. Starbucks cascara syrup was available for lattes, frappuccinos, and cold drinks but has since been discontinued.
  5. Cascara soda. You can mix carbonated water, cascara syrup, and lemon juice to make cascara soda
  6. Coffee flour. Cascara flour is low in fats and rich in ash and fiber. It is a proposed alternative to regular baking flour

What is Coffee Cherry Extract?

Coffee cherry extract is a concentrate derived from the pulp of coffee fruits. It is also called cascara concentrate and can be a liquid or 100 percent water-soluble powder that you can add to coffee, cold brew, and confectionery to improve antioxidants and polyphenols. You can also use it to make your own cascara topping.

Cascara puree is also available in some countries.

Coffee Fruit Extract

Whole coffee fruit extract is a concentrate that is extracted from both cascara (coffee pulp) and coffee beans. However, the extraction method removes most of the caffeine so that the whole coffee fruit concentrate is lower in caffeine and richer in antioxidants than regular coffee.

Some coffee fruit extracts have nearly zero caffeine content.

Therefore, cascara is present in whole coffee fruit extract. Hana Naia Whole Coffee Fruit Concentrate is a popular choice that is:

  • Made in Hawaii
  • Made from both the coffee pulp and bean
  • Comes with a liquid dropper
  • One serving is 10 drops
  • Is low on caffeine (lower than decaf)
  • Antioxidant-rich
  • May boosts your brain health and memory
  • Add to coffee, tea, and confectionery

Cascara at Starbucks

Starbucks has discontinued cascara syrup but continues to offer cascara topping. Cascara syrup was popular with cold foam as well as a sweetener for cascara latte.

Cascara topping pairs better with either cold foam or whipped cream so you may want to avoid it if you don’t like foam or whip on your drinks.

How to Make Cascara Topping at Home

This is a simple recipe that should be no trouble at all. It works better with store-bought coffee cherry extract but you can also make your own extract by steeping dried coffee pulp in cold water for 24 hours in the fridge.

Equipment

  • Zipper bag
  • Sugar
  • Food-safe liquid dropper
  • Tablespoon
  • Small container

Materials

  • Cascara extract
  • Sugar

Instructions

  • Add 4-6 tablespoons of sugar to a zipper bag
  • Add 6-8 drops or 2 tablespoons of cascara extract to the zipper bag. Avoid adding a lot of the extract as you do not want the sugar to start dissolving. You simply want the sugar to soak in the extract
  • Lock the bag and roll the sugar so that it absorbs all the extract until it is fully coated
  • Transfer the coated sugar into a small container, cover it and leave it overnight on a cool and dry shelf. The sugar continues browning as it takes in the color and flavor of cascara extract
  • Your cascara topping is ready to use

How to Make Cascara Syrup at Home

Equipment

  • A small saucepan
  • Measuring cup or kitchen scale
  • Spoon
  • Stove

Materials

  • Cascara extract
  • Sugar
  • Filtered water

Instructions

  1. Add equal parts of sugar and filtered water and a half-part of cascara extract to a saucepan.
  2. Simmer the mixture on a stove and stir to fully absorb the sugar.
  3. Set the syrup aside to cool.
  4. Transfer to a syrup bottle.

Wrap Up

Traditionally, coffee husks have been dumped into streams and open fields which has negatively impacted the ecosystem. Like coffee beans, the husks contain tannins and chlorogenic acids that react which have adverse effects on soil and water such as altering the pH.

The growing demand for cascara and the innovation around cascara products is an effective way of countering the environmental risks that the husks pose. Cascara also has the potential to improve the farmers’ earnings in most places they earn from coffee beans only.

Patrick

Patrick is first a coffee lover and then a trained barista. His bucket list includes sky diving and sipping on Java in the Himalayas.

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