The Trendiest New Coffee Drink Isn't Actually Coffee at All

Meet cascara, coffee's fruity-flavored cousin.

Let's be honest: the market is *drowning* in cool-but-confusing functional beverages right now. Between cold brew, alkaline water, kombucha, drinking vinegars, sparkling water, matcha, and yerba mate; my head is spinning! I'll take tap. And we haven't even touched cocktails, beer, or wine.

Which brings us to our favorite new beverage: cascara. You may have seen it at your local bougie coffee shop or heard your foodie friend raving about its sweet tea-like taste.

To learn more about cascara and what it's made from, we went directly to Brent Wolczynski, head brewer at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. When it comes to questions about coffee trends, there's no one more buzzed with intel.

So what is cascara, exactly?

Cascara is the husk that surrounds the coffee fruit, often referred to as the "cherry". The seeds inside the cherry are roasted and become coffee beans; the outside pulp and skin are the cascara. "The whole bean coffee that we grind and brew to make a traditional cup of coffee is actually a seed that was removed from a fruit," explains Wolczynski. "That fruit is typically composted or discarded, but with Strange Magic (Stumptown's sparkling cascara drink), we've developed a naturally caffeinated plant-based soda made with the cherry."

Why you should start drinking cascara.

First of all, it's delicious. Cascara's profile is closer to tea than coffee: its fruity, floral flavor resembles hibiscus, cherry, mango, and rose hip. Strange Magic, for instance, is fizzy, subtly sweet, and has complex flavors reminiscent of cola, lemon, black tea, and Fruit Loops.

"I personally love it because we're utilizing the coffee plant in a completely different way that—aside from being naturally caffeinated—yields a product totally unlike traditional roasted coffee and is extremely versatile," says Wolczynski. The flavor profile of cascara on its own can be slightly heavy with notes of black tea and dried fruit, so carbonation really helps provide balance and create a refreshing and satisfying drink. (P.S. According to Wolczynski, "cascara with vodka is really something special.") We also love it on ice with a wedge of lime.

Is cascara caffeinated?

Yes! Although it's not as caffeinated as cold brew. Strange Magic, for instance, has about 80 milligrams of caffeine.

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