25 November 2016

There is a lot of work put into coffee before it arrives at a roastery. While there are different ways to prepare the beans for roasting, washed process starts with de-pulping, in other words, the removal of the coffee cherry pulp (skin) from the coffee bean (seed). The Spanish name for this removed cherry pulp is cascara. Cascara has a long history of being drunk as a tea, dating back to at least 1400AD. Those who have read the popular coffee book, the Devil’s Cup, may recall the traditional Qishr brew from Yemen, usually seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Fast forward to present day, and Cascara has recently become a popular drink in cafes. It’s usually served as a hot brew or found as a flavour in specialised soft drinks. Its use is not limited to drinks… just think about cascara chocolate, for example.

For a long time it has been believed that cascara contains very high levels of caffeine, owing to the buzz that drinkers reportedly experience. The opposite was displayed in a report released around that time: cascara contains from 3.5 to 7 times less caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. We would like to take a closer look at that.

A. MOLDVAER, ‘CASCARA AND CAFFEINE’, Square Mile Coffee Roasters [web blog], 30 August 2013, http://squaremileblog.com/2013/08/30/cascara-and-caffeine/, (accessed 21 September 2016)

The Square Mile Blog article provided excellent and interesting data, although the testing used a fairly weak brew of only 20g cascara per litre (g/L) of water. Typically cascara brew recipes would contain a significantly higher dose of cascara than that. After brief research, it was found that Cafe Imports used 33.8g/L, 44 North Roasters used 63g/L for their Cascara Hot Toddy, and Sample Coffee Roasters used 72g/L for hot brew and a whopping 140g/L for cold brew (which can be explained by lower temperatures causing slower extraction). Bird Rock Coffee Roasters recommend 18g/ 300ml which works out about 60g/L. Therefore, it seems that it’s necessary to compare caffeine levels once again.

Based on caffeine content data from: Mayo Clinic,’Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more’,  Nutrition and Healthy Eating [Web Blog], May 13, 2014, http://mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372 (Accessed 15 September 2016). 60g/1000ml brew is estimation based on 10g and 20g brews

There was no 60g cascara brew in the original experiment but we can expect caffeine to dissolve proportionally (as it did for 10g and 20g samples). Assuming a usual cascara dose of 60g/L, we would get caffeine content of about 76 mg per a usual, 8oz cup. So, we reach our conclusion, that this is not much different from the caffeine content of a similar sized cup of instant coffee, and about half the caffeine of a cup of drip coffee.


Luke Pochron