Cascara is the husk surrounding coffee beans. 

Rarely (read: never) do I look to Starbucks for this column, but when something called cascara made an appearance on the coffee conglomerate’s menu, I was more than a little intrigued.

What Is It?

Cascara is the husk surrounding coffee beans. Although it’s commonly discarded during the roasting process, some enterprising souls realized the husk has value and began roasting and sun-drying it to reveal cascara’s unique flavor profile: A surprising combination of sweet-tart rose hip and currant compounded with more complex, almost smoky burnt sugar and maple notes.

What Do I Do With It?

Adding cascara to cold-brew coffee is a solid idea – recombining cherry and husk makes for a sublime treat. And the muted pow of cascara is perfect for steeping in herbal teas or steamed milk. Too bark-like to use as a solid ingredient, you can make the most of cascara by infusing it into simple syrup for sodas or cocktails – with or without alcohol – or use it to glaze root vegetables as you would use maple syrup or honey. Its sweetness bounces off hot chiles, earthy spices and fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme. I make a big batch of the cascara simple syrup in this recipe to have on hand any time I want to make my black coffee or roasted roots sing.

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Shannon Weber is the creator, author and photographer behind the award-winning, and her work has appeared on websites such as Bon Appétit, Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen.

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