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What is a Cascara Latte?

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Sandwiched between the venerable White Chocolate Mocha, Creme Brulée Latte, and Caffè Misto on the Starbucks menu, you may have spotted something intriguing: the Cascara Latte. Starbucks rolled out this unusual drink back in 2017, but with so many delicious options, you may not have gotten a chance to try it.

So what exactly is a cascara, and how does it taste in a latte? Most importantly, is it worth ordering — or making at home? Today, we’ll show you everything you need to know about cascara lattes.

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What is cascara?

“Cascara” means skin or shell in Spanish — in this case, the skin or shell of a coffee cherry. Cascara, dried coffee cherries, is a byproduct of the coffee process that roasters historically discarded. Coffee beans are actually seeds found inside the coffee fruit. During processing, the cherries are removed and the beans are left to dry. If you save and dry those cherry shells, you have cascara!

cascara cherry coffee

Cascara is often consumed as a tea, but you can also make it into a syrup. To make cascara syrup, you boil coffee cherry skin with sugar and water. You can add this simple syrup to cocktails, use it in baking, or mix it into lattes.

What does cascara taste like?

Cascara lies somewhere between coffee and tea in terms of flavor. It’s not as strong or rich as coffee, but it does have fruity, slightly floral, and earthy notes. The cascara latte has many other flavors in it — like espresso and sugar — so you may not be able to taste the cascara itself.

What’s in a cascara latte?

A cascara latte is pretty simple: espresso, steamed milk, cascara syrup, and — if you’re ordering it at Starbucks — something called cascara topping, made with sugar and coffee cherry extract. The resulting latte is slightly sweet and floral, with an earthy undertone and plenty of espresso flavor.

caramel latte

Our takeaway? It’s worth ordering once, especially if you’ve already tried cascara tea and know what flavors to look for. But if you’re not familiar with cascara, you may end up missing the delicate flavors that make this latte unique. Worse, you may not like them.

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The Bottom Line

Cascara lattes can be a fun way to sample a new part of the coffee plant. Made with dried coffee cherries, cascara syrup is floral, fruity, and slightly earthy. Mixing it into a latte makes for an interesting experience — though it may not become your regular order.

If you’re interested in learning more about this coffee byproduct-turned-specialty product, we recommend brewing it as a tea. That’s the best way to sample the flavor and determine if you’d like it mixed into your latte.

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Featured image credit: Push Doctor, Shutterstock

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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