Cascara - Once Coffee Waste Now a Superfood

The nutritional story behind a byproduct of coffee drying

In most of the world, the fruit of the coffee cherry was discarded and considered a waste product for hundreds of years. Ironically, it is the most nutritional part of the coffee. Cascara, the dried fruit of the coffee cherry, has vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, protein, and beneficial bioactive compounds such as caffeine and polyphenols. Just 100 grams of cascara includes the same amount of potassium found in six bananas and the same amount of protein as one egg. It also has Vitamin E, Vitamins B6, Omega 3 and 6, iron, calcium, magnesium, and natural sugars.

Cascara contains less caffeine than roasted coffee, but levels vary between varieties. When steeped like a tea or cold-brewed a cascara beverage can provide a mild pick me up to quite a kick. But cascara drinks will not give you the coffee jitters nor does cascara need the artificial ingredients of the leading energy drinks to be effective. The health benefits of cascara go beyond its energetic effects.

Research is recently uncovering the benefits of the plant polyphenols found in cascara. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds in plants that protect the plants from insects and disease. Polyphenols are the driver behind cascara's high antioxidant capacity and other beneficial health effects. In humans, polyphenols are being researched for their anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, and anti-viral properties. It is just not one compound, but the unique combination of polyphenols that have food, health, and nutritional scientists taking a closer look.

Beyond nutrition, high-quality cascara also tastes excellent. Depending on the variety of cascara used, cascara beverages may have hints of plum, cherry, tamarind, and pineapple flavors. Not all cascara tastes the same and not all cascara tastes good. The variety, growing conditions, and drying method have a significant impact on the flavor. As it is new to the market, quality can vary greatly.

Without the jitters of coffee or the bitterness of matcha, and none of the artificial or overly processed ingredients of the leading energy drinks, this once wasted byproduct is being rediscovered by food and beverage entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.