Beverages made from cascara, the dried skins of coffee fruit, could be poised to break into the mainstream.
Somewhere between coffee and tea lives "cascara." The still under-the-radar drink has been gaining a bit of popularity as a byproduct of the premium coffee market… literally. Coffee beans are the seeds of cherries that grow on coffee plants: In the past, the fruit surrounding the coveted beans had little value, but recently, a greater appreciation for the coffee industry as a whole, and sustainability in particular, has driven interest in these dried out coffee cherry skins and the beverage they create, cascara. Specialty coffee shops have begun serving cascara (which has an intense flavor, typically balanced out with milk). Starbucks has experimented with cascara. And some brands either made their own cascara soda, typically called a Cascara Fizz, or bottle versions of cascara teas and other drinks.
But now, an Austrian brand called Caskai is looking to edge in on America's possibly burgeoning cascara market. Last week, the company announced plans to expand its line of "artisanal Cascara-based beverages" to the US, establishing new American headquarters in Davidson, North Carolina (as well as a satellite outpost in Seattle). To kick things off, the new enterprise is launching its first US product – Caskai Sparkling Cascara Infusion, basically a bottled cascara soda – in a couple of small North Carolina coffee chains, Summit Coffee and Sky Mountain Coffee.
"As consumer affinity for health and wellness continues to grow, we're thrilled to provide craft beverage fans around the world with a distinct option that features one of nature's most overlooked superfoods front and center," founder Joel Jelderks said in a statement. "We believe in the power and story of Cascara and are pleased to share our passion and knowledge with the world."
According to the company, Caskai Sparkling Cascara Infusion provides "drinkers with a natural, balanced and refreshing alternative for 44 calories per bottle," featuring ingredients that "are simple and naturally-derived: sun-dried, premium Cascara that is freshly brewed in spring water from the Austrian Alps, a touch of organic cane sugar, a shot of carbonation and citric acid." The brand also touts cascara's "full combination of beneficial nutrients that includes powerful anti-oxidants, essential amino acids, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, Potassium, essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6), Carbohydrates, Fiber, Protein and a natural caffeine boost."
Caskai also reminds us that cascara "has been used in small communities for more than 1,000 years." It kind of begs the question, so is now really the time for coffee cherry tea to break into the mainstream? Well, Joel Jelderks, the man behind Caskai, has a decent pedigree: He was one of Red Bull's early employees. It begs another question: How does a Caskai Sparkling Cascara Infusion and vodka taste?