Posted in Kafevend Blog
There's more than one way to skin a cat as the gruesomely graphic old saying goes and it's no less true of our frequent blog subject, coffee. We're not talking about the various ways of preparing coffee either; we refer to the coffee plant itself. It's the beans that give us our coffee drinks- that's a fact that will have escaped no one's notice- and yet what's much less well known is that other parts of the plant can be used to prepare drinks too.
Whether the coffee plant in question is arabica or robusta, harvesting it isn't simply a matter of plucking beans from the branches. The beans lie inside the fruit of the plant. These coffee cherries go a deep red when they're ready to be picked, but the pulp and skin that is left over once the bean has been extracted doesn't have to go to waste. In some parts of the world it's used to make a much loved drink in its own right, basically a coffee cherry tea.
In Yemen they call the drink qishr. After coffee first left its birthplace in Ethiopia it arrived in Yemen, so coffee itself is an ancient tradition there, but qishr is cheap to make and avoids wastefulness making it very popular indeed. The coffee cherry husks are brewed with ginger, and often with other spices too, such as cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Said to be a very refreshing drink, lighter and less acidic than coffee itself, qishr is prepared and drunk at any time of the day and served to guests as a mark of hospitality.
Cáscara is the name given to coffee cherry tea in central and south America. The word literally means husk or skin. The drink is more likely to be prepared without the addition of spices in this part of the world, which allows both its natural sweetness and other flavours (caramel and floral notes are typical) to come through. It's not surprising perhaps that the areas in which this infusion is commonly enjoyed are places where coffee is grown and harvested. People have experimented with the leftover product on both sides of the globe and developed an appetising way of using them. Nevertheless, with the current rise of interest in speciality coffee there are a few places you can purchase cáscara from here. Extract Coffee Roasters and Rave Coffee are just two amongst other UK coffee companies that offer the product via their online shops.
A third drink made from coffee cherries is KonaRed from Hawaii, which is the only American state with the right conditions for cultivating coffee. The actual area in which Kona coffee is farmed is only around fifty miles square. However, the farmers have capitalised on their crop by marketing KonaRed as well as coffee itself. The coffee cherry husks are dried, condensed into a liquid and then blended with other fruits to make a bottled drink. The drink is sold in a growing number of locations across the USA, its inherent health benefits adding to its popularity as well as its flavour.
Unfortunately, it isn't marketed in the UK at the moment, so if we've whetted your appetite for coffee cherries best stick to trying some cáscara for now. Check back soon for news of another part of the versatile coffee plant that can be used to make a completely different drink again!