I recently bought some Colombian EA decaf from S&W Craft Roasting, as well as their sampler pack and a bag of cascara tea. The order shipped immediately and got to me within just a few days, and I am pretty happy with the decaf.
But let’s talk about the cascara!
Cascara is the term for the dried fruit that’s left over from the coffee harvesting process. Some coffees these days are fermented within the fruit (natural process), but most of them are removed from the fruit and fermented separately (washed process).
I have had a few natural-process coffees which have an amazing fruity flavor, and I’ve long been curious about the flavor of the coffee fruit itself (which is the main reason why I bought a couple of arabica trees, with the hope of having fruit eventually), but being able to buy dried cascara directly is a lot easier.
“Cascara tea” is really just dried cascara fruit, so of course I had to taste some of it on its own. The flavor reminds me somewhat of hawthorn or stone fruit in general (such as cherries or plums), and is pretty much the flavor that is missing from washed coffee.
As a tea, it gets a bit more of that flavor. It’s a bit funny to me that cascara tea is technically an herbal tea (because it doesn’t involve tea at all), but is made from part of the coffee plant (which is conceptually an anti-tea), and also therefore has some natural caffeine in it (when “herbal tea” usually implies being caffeine-free). It’s sort of self-contradictory in that way. It’s a delicious oxymoron.
Finally, I decided to try something a bit more experimental: I ground a shot of espresso, made from 17.5g of the Colombian EA decaf and 0.7g of dried cascara, pulled approximately 1:2. My grinder had no problem with grinding it consistently, and the shot pulled smoothly with no channeling (which was the main thing I was concerned about). The resulting shot itself was a little on the acidic side, but was smooth and mellow. I didn’t get much of a cascara flavor from it, but it definitely had a little bit of depth that isn’t normally there. It’ll be worth trying a higher ratio of cascara to coffee, now that I know that both my grinder and my brewer can handle it.
Incidentally, I recently remodeled my kitchen and, while I was at it, replaced my Gaggia Classic setup with a Breville/Sage Bambino Plus thanks to a 20% off sale. I’m planning on reviewing it soon, and also talking about the other updates to my coffee station!