The journey to bring you Cascara (coffee cherry tea) began a couple of years ago in Papua New Guinea. Having tasted cascara from other coffee origins we noticed on successive trips to PNG that the pulped coffee cherry skin was either being used as compost on coffee farms, or in some places, left to rot. One of the primary purposes for us visiting origin is to share knowledge and empower the coffee producers we work with, and we saw cascara production as an opportunity to add value to their existing coffee trade.
In May 2017 we attended a Fairtrade initiated coffee producer education summit, which consisted of on-farm visits to discuss best-practice plant husbandry, and class-room style tuition on coffee roasting and evaluation. You can read about the trip here and here.
On this trip we saved and dried some cherries harvested from the Neknasi cooperative farms during the education and training days, and then presented it to the assembled coffee farmers in Lae. We made them a hot-tea version and a cold carbonated cascara (and we even gave it some very professional Kōkako packaging).
Although there was some interest from the coffee farmers, none of the cooperatives seemed that interested in considering the product. To be honest, they thought we were a bit crazy – they saw cascara as a waste by-product not a beverage! There was one person on the trip that did take an interest, and her name was Debbrah Yassah. Debbrah works for the PNG government run Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) as an extension officer.
We provided Debbrah with all of our notes, brew guides and methodologies for harvesting and solar-drying the coffee cherry to create cascara, and made sure we kept in touch. Debbrah gave us some enthusiastic feedback in 2017 that she had been selling cascara at local markets in the city of Lae, and had received positive encouragement from her superiors.
She has now engaged some of the women farmers from the Sikilan Village of the Neknasi Coffee Cooperative in Morobe Province to collect, sun-dry and bag the coffee pulp and then get this to Lae. We met her again in August 2018 and confirmed our initial order - it’s taken about 18 months to just obtain 18kg of cascara, and its involved a lot of people.
Without the women farmers of Sikilan Village, Debbrah (and her entrepreneurial tenacity), and local exporter Anton Goonetilleke this would never have happened.
We’ve rationed what little cascara we have from this latest shipment and we hope to be able to source more in 2019 – we need to prove to Debbrah that we have a willing market for it here in New Zealand, so thanks (in advance!) for your support!
We need to show Debbrah and the Neknasi Coffee Cooperative that we can sell lots more of their product; this will give everyone in the supply chain the confidence to go through the certification process – which at the moment is just not financially feasible for the producers. By starting this process with Deborrah and Neknasi we hope to provide them with the possibility to increase supply and provide some income diversification in a country that needs more alternative revenue streams for coffee farmers.
Our Brew Guide: 1 cup = 15g Cascara - 250 grams water at 95 degrees. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Best enjoyed after 3-5 minutes of cooling to enhance sweetness. Ratio can be adjusted up or down to suit strength preference. *Note that the dried cascara will increase in size during steeping, so make sure your diffuser is big enough!