All you need to know about coffee berry tea, also known as cascara tea or coffee cherry tea



What is Coffee Berry Tea, Cascara Tea, or Coffee Cherry Tea?

The Coffee Berry

The coffee berry is the vibrant red berry removed from the green coffee bean during initial processing. Once the green bean is removed it is then roasted and is what you see as the commercial coffee bean product available upon store shelves. Coffee Berry Tea or also sometimes called Cascara Tea which it’s name “cascara” comes from the Spanish word that directly translates to “husk”. Therefore coffee “cascara” is the dried husk or dried outer skin of the coffee berry. More technically speaking the coffee berry tea consists of the dried pedicarp which includes the outer skin layer (endocarp), pectin layer, pulp(mesocarp) and parchmet layer(endocarp). This outer hull or “pedicarp” encapsulates and surround the coffee seeds (coffee beans), which are then removed before being roasted to the commercially available product you see in stores.

Are Coffee Berry, Coffee Cascara, and the Coffee Cherry the same product?

Yes, the coffee berry, coffee cascara and coffee cherry are essentially different names for the same item. Coffee cherry and coffee berry are often used interchangeably as a cherry is a form of berry. The cascara as mentioned refers to the husk of the coffee berry which usually is used only to describe the dried form.

What is your LeClair Organics coffee berry product?

Currently LeClair Organics offers a coffee berry tea in the form of a dried coffee berry husk. Moving forward we are looking into other innovative ways to serve and present our coffee berries! We aim to make coffee berry tea, or cascara tea widely available for sale to buy across North America.  See full information on our coffee berry tea here.


Coffee Berry or Cascara is a major upcycle opportunity

Coffee Berry Upcycling

The Coffee Berry is a vibrant red and flavourful berry that is removed from the coffee bean during the processing of coffee beans. After it is removed upon processing the majority of all coffee estates discard the coffee berry.

For centuries, this nutritious coffee berry has been thrown away right in front of our eyes, and not consumed across North America. It appears that only a few coffee producing countries such as Bolivia, Ethiopia or Yemen use the coffee berry as a local traditional drink. It was a surprise that despite the magnitude of coffee bean consumption in North America, coffee berry is still relatively unheard of and has lack of commercial availability. We aim to change that.

Due to the scale of coffee production globally, innovative ideas have potential for major widespread impact. There may be approximately 8.5 billion tons of coffee beans sold per year. This entails therefore a proportionately massive number of coffee berry waste. To put this in perspective, the average Arabica coffee tree produces 10 pounds of coffee cherry per year, or 2 pounds of green beans. Yes, most of that is water weight which is evaporated and dried out of the final product. However, we want to portray the visual imagery that 80 percent of the fresh coffee berry by mass, part of one of the most popular drinks across the world is otherwise being discarded.  Therefore visually demonstrating the potential for eco friendly upcycling.

The coffee berry may be as valuable as the bean!

We see the coffee berry as an exceptionally flavourful and healthy ingredient that also contains caffeine. Therefore this is a high value ingredient with large potential as an upcycled mass market consumer product. Another aim therefore to add a newly recognized stream of income to farmers. We believe the coffee berry has exceptionally high market potential and perhaps as important as the bean. Long term we would like to prove statistically significant economic increase in profit per acre as a demonstration for what is possible on a larger global scale.

We see the coffee berry as an exceptionally flavourful and versatile ingredient. Currently this ingredient has perception of a novel and new item not frequented in North America. Market application may reach several creative niches across the food and beverage industries. The coffee berries flavour profile is versatile to creative integrations such as cocktails, spirits, beer, ice cream, teas, chocolate, smoothies, desserts and whatever the mind may conceive. Beyond flavourful uses, the bioactive compounds including caffeine, polyphenols and antioxidant compounds beneficial of human health are also desirable components. We will go further into health benefits below.


Why is the coffee berry discarded?

We were surprised that such an established global product has not yet recognized widespread usage of the coffee berry waste stream. Cascara has even been already traditionally consumed in a minority of locations for thousands of years. Currently the coffee berry is most often being left in piles to decompose or is burnt. Below we review details on why the coffee berry is currently being discarded.

The coffee berry just as many other fruit it will go bad if not processed under appropriate conditions or kept in appropriate temperature storage. This process of decomposing becomes more rapid in removing the bean as the interior pulp is exposed to oxygen and the environment. Without appropriate processing techniques the berry will naturally start to decompose. This is perhaps why the coffee berry is currently considered a waste product, as without the appropriate processing methods or knowledge it starts to deteriorate.

One waste utilization option of cascara husks previously considered was as a form of animal feed. The caffeine levels are not considered optimal in agricultural feed. The berries do not stay fresh long enough without significant resources towards processing

One other option being considered is as a compost. Caffeine in the coffee berries is actually a well known natural chemical pest deterrent. It has been found that using coffee berries in compost actually will deter and kill microorganisms or worms responsible for healthy decomposition into the soil. The coffee berries instead decompose with mold which add mycotoxins to the soil. These toxic compounds may leach into soil and water streams.

Access to foreign market for farmers and creation of market demand in North American appear to have been co-dependant limiting factors to reaching mass markets. Demand for the coffee berry flavour, health benefits, bioactive components and caffeine energy of coffee berry is still novel to North America(2020).

In summary, with modest adaptations to current processing methods and creation of local market demand there is exceptional opportunity to upcycle the coffee berry.

Coffee Berry Tea or Cascara Tea Caffeine Levels

We believe that coffee berry tea is exceptionally unique that it provides a natural source of caffeine in such a palatable fruit favour. Caffeine is somewhat limited to the commercially available flavours of coffee, guarana, cacao, yerba mate, artificial extractions, and green teas. The versatility of coffee berry’s caffeine to blend with many fruit flavours is a significant advantage.

There is approximately 1/3 of the caffeine of coffee in an equivalent serving size, per the brew recommendation 20 grams coffee berry per 200 ml of water, brew time 5-8 minutes. This may vary considerably per brew time or varying concentrations of tea.


Are there health benefits to Cascara Tea / Coffee Berry Tea?

We are not going to make any particular claims on any health benefits. Although we believe consumption of berries such as the coffee berry includes a significant source of bioactive compounds we hope promote relation to a healthy diet. We rather will gladly provide information sourced from third party professional or university studies. Despite popularity of coffee beans, scientific analysis of the coffee berry is relatively less available. As we move forward we hope to provide a more comprehensive set of scientific information.

Bioactive Compounds, Phytochemicals and Antioxidants in Coffee Berry

In summary, yes coffee berry has been found to be high in many potentially beneficial bioactive compounds however there is limited data on how these may specifically correlate to our health. The analytical findings described are all relating to the arabica species(coffee arabica) specifically unless otherwise noted.

Chlorogenic Acid in Coffee Berry Tea, Cascara Tea

Chlorogenic acid (CGA or 5-caffeoylquinic acid), neochlorogenic acid (5-O-caffeoylquinic acid acid or 5-CQA) and caffeic acid are significant components of coffee berries which may contribute to bioactive activities. Chlorogenic acid has been frequently studied also as a bioactive component in high concentration in green coffee beans and green coffee extracts.

Mangiferin in Coffee Berry Tea, Cascara Tea

Mangiferin is a bioactive compound, first discovered in the leaves of the Mango tree and was also found to be in the mango peel thereafter. The scientific name for the mango tree is Mangifera indica.[1] , therefore is where the name of this phenolic compound originates.
It has been shown that the phenolic compound Mangiferin has also been found in the coffea arabica coffee berry & coffee leaf tea. It has been found specifically in coffea arabica that mangiferin accumulated in the exocarp and mesocarp. You may see further details here on mangiferin in the coffee berry. Ever since this discovery in mangoes, there have been many scientific studies testing the potential health properties of mangiferin an extracted and highly  concentrated form.

Polyphenols in Coffee Berry Tea, Cascara Tea

There are many polyphenols and phenolic compounds found in coffee berry. This study and a few other studies have reviewed the total polyphenols and antioxidant capacity of coffee berry. In particular it reviews polyphenols, antioxidant capacity and free radical inhibition of coffee berry.

Therefore coffee berry may be an alternative concentrated source of polyphenols and antioxidant compounds found in a healthy diet.

Flavinoids in Coffee Berry including procyanidins, catechin and epicatechin

Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols which include Procyanidins (oligomeric catechins), Catechin and Epicatechin are all known to be contained within the coffee berry. These are the same flavonoids also well known to be in cacao, green tea and grapeseed.

Coffee Berry has less caffeine than coffee

One particular benefit of the coffee berry may be that it contains less caffeine than coffee. Coffee berry has about 1/3 of the caffeine than coffee per equivalent serving serving size, per the our brew recommendation of 20 grams/200ml of water. If you are looking to cut down caffeine consumption or simply find an alternative caffeinated beverage flavour, coffee berry is a great alternative.

Be wary of coffee berry health claims and antioxidant claims

We believe coffee berry is an opportunity to add a beneficial ingredient to your diet. However take considerable care to inform yourself regarding any health benefits or claims towards our coffee berry or other coffee berry products. We prefer to not make any particular health claims, but may present third party information available from university or professional research.

I believe this is a good time to also point out that many companies may be positioning misleading health claims or claims of high antioxidant levels. We know how easy it may be to present data and health benefits in which the ways people want to hear. Common misleading tactics may include presenting concentrated product or an extract versus non concentrated fresh products. Another may include positioning data per 100 grams versus what may actually be realistically consumed per day.

There are various antioxidant tests that include ORAC(oxygen radical absorbance capacity) equivalents, TROLOX equivalents; HORAC(hydroxyl oxygen radical absorbance capacity), SORAC(superoxide radical absorbance capacity); NORAC, peroxynitrite radical absorbance capacity; SOAC, singlet oxygen radical absorbance capacity. Firstly, it takes a well read individual or a professional in the industry to interpret these numbers. Secondly, although this type of data presents specific numerical antioxidant capacity data, they still may not always translate to real world human health benefits. It also does not always take in consideration bioavailability and absorption levels of particular phytochemicals in the body.

What is the flavour of the coffee berry / coffee cherry / cascara tea?

Our tea specifically has flavour notes of raisin, cherry, honey and a subtle hint of cacao. After opening the bag, smelling the aromas and tasting as a tea for the first time we were very surprised that coffee berry is currently treated as a waste product! Once you try this flavourful tea we are also confident that you will feel the same.

How do they process Coffee Berries?

The Dry Method Processing

The coffee berries are selectively picked and spread out in the sun to dry in a sanitary and safe location. They are turned to ensure an even drying process. When they are dehydrated to optimal level, the husk is then removed mechanically.

The Wet Method or Washed Processing

The Coffee beans are mechanically removed from the coffee berry in a pulping machine. They are then left in water to ferment and soften the remaining mucilage making it easier to remove. After washing and removing the remaining mucilage the beans are put out to dry.

The Honey Process

The skins and pulps are first removed similar to the wet method of processing. After removing the coffee berry, the beans are dried without washing off the remaining outer layer of the fruit. This process therefore allows for unique flavours and sugars to remain apart from other methods.

Coffee berry processing

How do these three coffee processing methods relate to the coffee berry and coffee berry tea? We essentially take an extra step to process the Coffee berry separated from the bean. There also are many ways upon which you may properly process the coffee berry, however our specific process extends from the “dry process method” as previously described. We first dehydrate the full coffee berry from the sun, similar to “the dry method process” until the berries reach a moisture of 12%. The coffee berry dried husks are then separated from the bean mechanically. The coffee berry husk is then dehydrated further to a final moisture level of 7-9% under a very slow low heat oven, ensuring flavour and health benefits are retained.

Coffee Berry and Cascara History

Outside of North America the coffee berry has actually been consumed for centuries. Despite a high percentage of individuals whom drink coffee regularly, the berry is still under the radar in North America and Europe, which we aim to change.
The coffee berry tea is currently consumed in Bolivia, often paired with cinnamon. Bolivia is a coffee producing country and they have kept their local tradition of processing and also consuming the berry.

Qishr is a traditional tea made in Yemen which includes coffee berry, ginger and sometimes cinnamon. Coffee berry is grown locally and therefore has become a simple beverage made at home that does not require the additional step of being roasted. Additionally it is believed that before coffee was modernized and widespread, the first “coffee” based drinks were actually tea consumed from the dried berries somewhere around the Ethiopia and Yemen region.

How can you use the Coffee Berry, Coffee Cherry, or Cascara?

Coffee berry is a versatile ingredient. This is why we have taken the time to develop many recipes including our sample barista menu and cocktail menu which you may view for inspiration.  Popular uses may include brewing as a regular herbal berry tisane, or more creative uses such as a coffee berry latte, coffee berry cocktail, coffee berry sparkling soda or coffee berry iced lemonade.