Coffee cherries are small and round fruits that appear dark red in color when they are ripe. They resemble red grapes from a distance.
They have smooth and shiny skin, while the flesh is juicy and sweet. And yes, you can eat it!
The coffee cherry fruit is however filled with seeds, and this is the reason why it is not popularly consumed as a fruit. The seed in the coffee cherry fruit is the coffee bean.
It takes about 3-4 years for a freshly grown coffee tree to mature and produce the coffee cherry fruit. It requires average temperatures to grow that is in a semi-tropical climate.
There are two commonly grown coffee plants and these are Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta.
It has its origin in ancient Ethiopia.
The coffee cherry is rich in antioxidants. This means that it helps the body build immunity and fight disease and inflammation. The fruit also has caffeine properties which despite acting as a stimulant, it is a natural pesticide protecting the fruit from harmful insects.
There are two main methods of processing the coffee cherry.
- Natural method
This is the old school method of processing the cherry also known as the Dry method. The ripe coffee cherries are picked then laid out to dry in the sun. The cherries are turned regularly on the drying bed to avoid fermentation or rotting. Once dry, the skin and flesh from the fruit are removed to expose the seeds inside and to prepare them for roasting.
- Washed method
Here all the flesh and skin are separated mechanically from the seed before it is dried. This is called depulping. Then the coffee seeds or beans are put in a water tank for them to ferment and remove any remaining flesh. After the fermentation complete (up to 3 days), the beans are washed again and left to dry as in the natural method on a drying bed.
The different processing methods result in different flavors in the end. The natural method results in a more fermented and wild flavor while the washed method gives a white wine-like flavor. Farmers who do not have enough water prefer the natural method, However, the washed method seems to be more popular because it has less risk of over fermentation and is more stable.
This is a byproduct of coffee. It is the skin or husk that is collected after the cherries have gone through the depulping process. They are dried in the sun before being used. This is a clever way to use the skin removed from the cherry fruit because other farmers dispose of them or use them as fertilizer.
Uses of Cascara
- Cascara can be eaten as dried fruit or can be brewed to make cascara tea. It is described to have a sweet fruity flavor and is rich in antioxidants.
- Cascara can be made into a syrup by mixing the cascara tea and sugar to make a thick syrup. The syrup can be added to drinks for flavor and can be used as toppings for desserts and pancakes.
- Coffee cherries can be used in beauty. Skin experts recommend incorporating coffee cherries in skincare products because of the antioxidant and anti-aging properties they have.
- The fruity smell of the coffee cherries makes them useful as an air freshener. You can dry the cherries, grind them and use them to freshen the air.
Most coffee lovers are surprised to find out that coffee is actually a fruit. The coffee cherry fruit has amazing uses and health benefits.
You can use the dried skin of the coffee cherry as a rich fertilizer for plants, a source of air freshener, make cascara tea and syrup, and include it in your skincare products. So the next time you are sipping your cup of coffee, remember just how much more the coffee plant can be useful to you.