Upcycled Food Ingredient Series
Many of the foods and drinks we love hide undervalued byproducts that contribute to food waste — one of these is the coffee fruit, the the vehicle for the coffee beans that brew the top beverage consumed worldwide.
Beyond coffee beans, the coffee plant’s edible assets are aplenty — they include coffee fruit (otherwise referred to as coffee cherries, berries, or cascara) and coffee leaves (which we will get into more in a later post). The coffee fruit has historically been consumed in Bolivia in a beverage called “sultana” and in parts of Yemen as “qishr.”
What is a coffee fruit?
The coffee fruit serves as a growth vessel for the beans, which are about the size of a grape. During the coffee bean extraction process, 40 percent of the plant is discarded. This is a huge waste – the fruit is rich in many nutrients including caffeine, vitamin B2, magnesium, antioxidants, chlorogenic acid, quinic acid, diterpenes (cafestol and kahweol), and polyphenols. This waste also has an enormously destructive environmental impact. When it begins to decay, it releases methane and harmful mycotoxins into the environment.
Luckily, there are some alternate uses for the coffee fruit. It can be dried and ground for use in beverages and baking. It can currently be found at health stores and pharmacies. Cascara has a lower caffeine content than coffee, lingering at about 25 percent of the standard amount.
How This Could Help Farming Communities
Within the modern coffee industry, roasters make highly disproportionate shares of coffee profits compared to farmers. However, when utilizing more of the coffee plant, greater profits can be reaped for farming communities by opening up more revenue sources from the same plant. This could be a step in the right direction for a more equitable distribution of coffee profits.