Cascara in Spanish means ‘husk’, is the pulp and skin of the coffee cherry fruit. For years the dried skin is often used by coffee farmers to make tea infusions, but it is typically regarded as an unusable by-product by the coffee industry and composted for use as crop fertiliser, or discarded altogether.
Its flavour is very different from coffee, often described as sweet and fruity with notes of cherry, raisins, and even caramel.
What was once seen as waste is now a growing superfood trend. People are more aware of the potential health benefits and properties cascara offers.
Cascara is classed as a sustainable superfood due to its unique flavour and perceived health benefits, with several times the antioxidants of blueberries, acai, pomegranate and other known superfruits.
In addition, bioactive food compounds such as polyphenols and chlorogenic acid, which are present in coffee cherry cascara, have been linked to help patients with obesity. The caffeine content can also be considerably lower than coffee.
To meet this growing trend, Olam Coffee, part of Olam Food Ingredients (OFI), has developed a range of coffee cherry cascara products as a key ingredient for beverage infusions and concentrates across multiple applications, from ice teas to nutrition bars.
Siva Subramanian, Vice President of Innovation at Olam Coffee said,
There is also the environmental benefit of utilising the skin and pulp that’s otherwise discarded as a bi-product in the primary processing stage.
As demand for this superfruit grows, upcycling cascara will provide more coffee farmers with an additional source of income.”
Olam Coffee currently sources cascara from its single estate coffee plantations in Brazil, Laos, Tanzania and Zambia, with integrated processing capabilities, which provide a year-round certified supply of quality cascara that’s traceable back to the specific block.
Their teams have carried out multiple trials of ‘husk’ and ‘pulped’ cascara production, experimenting with coffee varieties, cherry ripeness and harvesting and processing techniques to define suitability for specific food ingredient applications, such as teas or natural confectionery flavourings.
There are two main processing methods which produce different flavour profiles. During the wet processing method, the fruit pulp is collected and dried slowly on raised beds in a controlled environment.
The ‘pulped’ cascara, has a sweeter, fruitier flavour and deeper colour than the ‘husk’ variety, produced using the dry or natural method.
Olam Coffee offers a range of cascara products using dry cascara for tea infusions and flour. Liquid cascara concentrates are used for jams, jellies, dessert toppings and bakery fillings. also soluble cascara powder for use in hot and cold ‘ready to drink’ beverages and mixes.
It will also be available for nutraceutical and cosmetic use as an as antioxidant supplement.
Olam Coffee will work with companies and brands directly to co-create bespoke cascara products.
At their Innovation Center in Fresno, California, Olam continues to develop new cascara offerings derived from various processing conditions, in partnership with external laboratories and customers to meet their specifications.