13 November 2009

Coffee, Tea ... or Both?

It's rarely a difficult choice: people are either coffee or tea drinkers. There may be a cup of the other enjoyed now and then, but your heart belongs to just one.

But you can actually have them both, and be able to look at yourself in the mirror the next morning.


The secret is cascara, a tea made from steeping the dried skins of coffee cherries, which today are normally discarded during processing. This tea is actually an ancient drink known as qishr, and the original way coffee was prepared beginning around the 9th century in Abyssinia (modern-day Ethopia).

Do you understand what this means? Before extra-foam triple half-caf grande soyaccinos, coffee was tea. I'm not being all teaist, either. It's just a fact.


Cascara is simple to make, but a lack of available information or research invited experimentation. Playing around with the dose, water temperature and steeping time, I found 5 grams per 1 cup of just-boiling water, brewed for 8 minutes, to be ideal.


The few other guidelines I turned up recommend a 7-minute maximum brew, but as you can see (photo, below), this produced a much fainter- in color and flavor- cup of tea. It didn't seem that an additional minute would make much of a difference, but it brought out the deep, cherrylike sweetness in way that made the botanical connection suddenly hit on your tongue: Coffee comes from a fruit.


I'm not advocating it as a traditional tea substitute, but for any espresso addicts in search of a transition drink, this could get you off the junk. It's much closer to a fruit or berry tisane than a true (Camellia sinensis) tea, but it's a start.


Plus, it's made from what is usually considered trash. How eco is that?

If you still don't believe me, here's a little video of the whole process from the Square Mile Coffee Roasters, in London, which is where this batch is from.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like coffee,
I like tea,
does that make me a catastrophe?

koohiiteasheri said...

I love both! Where can I get some of these coffee/tea leaves/berry shells in the U.S., or can I? I'd love to try this - it's like the best of both worlds!

Anonymous said...

where is the nearest branch of dried skins of coffee cherries R US?

ana dane said...

mine came from the square mile coffee roasters, or you can order them domestically from counter culture coffee ($9.95 for 4 ounces).

hope you enjoy your cup as much as i did.

Hannah said...

Does it contain caffeine? More or less than a typical cup of tea?

Anna said...

Wow, this is really neat! I'd love to try this sometime.

Jason Witt said...

It is eco and that's a good thing. But I'm afraid I'm a tea purist and must assert that this is still a tisane and not a real tea. Give me a true Camellia Sinensis tea, and make it Puerh.

Margaret Studer said...

I happen to prefer tea, but I drink coffee on occasion. It has to be a very good coffee, strong without bitterness and not the "European roast" that tastes unbearably bitter to me. I can't drink coffee without milk.
It seems that this coffee tea doesn't actually taste like coffee or tea, but has a taste of its own. It's something worth looking into.

Margaret Studer said...

I have to add that though I admire and respect Jason, I respectfully disagree with him about the word "tea". True tea is only from the Camellia sinensis, that's true, but the word "tea" became synonymous with the word "infusion" almost immediately after its entry into the English language.
There is a misconception about that the term "herbal tea" is new. It isn't. I have consumed both herbal and true teas all my life. In the term "herbal tea", the word tea is not referring to what the beverage is made from. It is referring to the method by which it is produced. From that aspect, it may actually be more accurate than the term "tisane" since a tisane is a decoction rather than an infusion. Just something to think about.
I think tea drinkers should feel free to choose whichever term they feel appropriate. I don't think it makes anyone less of a tea lover because of his or her word choice.
We all know a true tea from an herbal tea no matter what we call it.

Pei - teanamu eat.drink.tea said...

I completely agree. Tea has to contain camelia sinensis. In the UK, some people call Rooibos tisane as "Red Tea" thus being grouped together as pu-erh. It is confusing enough for all given the wide arrays of tea names so let's not confuse it even more.

jacobee said...

Great Post: Here is something useful for all.
I came across a site called Matcha Green Tea that I thought was pretty good.