Coffee Cherry and Tea
A coffee cherry is the fruit, or berry of the coffee tree, growing in clusters along the plant's short stems.
Description of a Coffee Cherry
A coffee cherry typically measures about 6/10-inch (1.5 cm) long and begins as a light green, unripe berry that gradually ripens to yellow and then takes on an orange/crimson color before turning dark cherry-red/reddish-black, at which time the fruit is ready to be harvested for the prized coffee beans.
Determining When the Coffee is Ripe
The whole ripening process of the coffee cherry takes about seven to eight months, and the ripeness is determined largely by color.
A more precise method of determining optimum ripeness involves gently squeezing the fruit to see if the seed (coffee bean) will easily fall out. Typically this happens just before the fruit is completely red (monochromatic).
Some coffee plant varietals (e.g. botanical varieties) have cherry (fruits) that turn yellow rather than red when they are ripe.
Anatomy of a Coffee Cherry
Beneath the coffee cherry's outer skin (the exocarp) is the fruity pulp (the mesocarp), and then the silverskin (endocarp), a fine, extremely thin layer of skin that surrounds and adheres tightly to the coffee bean.
Coffee Cherry Tea
Coffee cherry tea is an herbal tea made from the dried berries (or "cherries") of the coffee plant. It is also known as cascara, from the Spanish cáscara, meaning "husk". Please note that this is different from cascara sagrada tea, a powerful plant-based laxative.
Coffee cherry tea is rarely produced for export, but is commonly drunk in some coffee-growing nations, notably Bolivia and, as the variant Qishr, in Yemen.
It is commonly consumed in Bolivia, where it is referred to as Sultana, and is made of sun-dried and lightly toasted coffee cherries. It may also be mixed with sticks of cinnamon. It is also called "the poor man's coffee", and "the coffee of the Army".
Coffee cherries contain caffeine, as does the tea, though while the tea is popularly understood to have a high level of caffeine, it actually only has about a quarter the caffeine levels of coffee.
The taste of coffee cherry tea is different from coffee, and has been described as somewhat sweet and cherry flavored, surprisingly pleasant.