Starbucks’s newest latte flavor is cascara. “Discover the delicate sweetness of cascara,” the sign in the stores say. Also: “Made from the fruit of the coffee cherry.” “Subtle notes of dark brown sugar and maple.”
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The taste: It tasted mostly like Starbucks’s other fun lattes—a caramel-butterscotch situation, with coffee undertones—but maybe a little less sweet. Just from the latte, the taste of cascara could easily still be a mystery to people. Is it like caramel? Is it like coffee? Is it coffee?
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Cascara is a scrap! It’s made from drying out the skin of the coffee cherry once the seed (aka the coffee bean) has been removed. It’s only recently been exported due to growing interest in the byproduct: Historically, it is thrown out, composted, turned into fertilizer, or made into tea for local consumption. Yemen, Ethiopia, and Bolivia, among other places, have been steeping it into tea (sometimes with spices, like cinnamon) for a long time.
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Because it’s not made from tea leaves, cascara’s not technically a tea—but it’s not coffee either, since it’s not made with the coffee bean and doesn't have anywhere near the caffeine content. It's also worth pointing out cascara is not the same as cascara sagrada. That's a totally different plant.
What does it really taste like?
Cascara reminds me of brown butter in that it’s a toasty something that you can’t quite place, but you like that it’s there. It’s subtle like that. Others say it has a “sweet, fruity taste with notes of rose hip, hibiscus, cherry, red currant, mango or even tobacco.” But like coffee, the flavor is dependent on where the cascara comes from.
How do I try cascara?
Well, Starbucks has a latte with a smidge in it. But to try it unadulterated, make it into a tea. Here are a few sources where you can buy cascara; Amazon can also help you out.
Then, according to the owners of 44 North Coffee Roasters in Maine, “steep three tablespoons of cascara in 10 ounces of hot water for four minutes. For a cold brew, go for six tablespoons to 12 ounces of water, steeped for 12 to 16 hours.”
Blue Bottle makes a cascara butter with cascara simple syrup, butter, and lemon. Spread that stuff on some crusty dark sourdough! They also make a cascara fizz, which tastes like a slightly funky (in a good way) Arnold Palmer: It’s made with iced tea, cascara syrup, sparkling water, and a slice of lemon. It’s so good.
You could surely add a spoonful to your coffee and cocktails, but not in one that might hide the gentle cascara. That’d really be a shame.
Tell us: Have you tried cascara? What’d you think of it?