Coffee, one of the most traded high-value agricultural commodities, involves up to 25 million farming families around the world, mostly smallholders. Nepal has also produced Arabica coffee for commercial purposes over the past three decades. According to 2019-2020 data from the National Tea and Coffee Development Board, 26,719 Nepalese smallholder farmers produces 296.5 tonnes of coffee on 2,360 hectares. Kavrepalanchok district dominated production with 34 tonnes, followed by Gulmi and Lalitpur districts with 24 tonnes and 18 tonnes respectively.
According to 2019-20 figures from the development council, Nepal exported 46,893 kg of coffee earning 57.7 million rupees. The highest shipment of 13,002 kg went to Germany, followed by Switzerland and Japan with 9,058 kg and 5,572 kg respectively. During the same period, Nepal imported 266,172 kg of coffee worth Rs 118.8 million. Imports came mainly from India, Italy and Malaysia for a total of 251,915 kg, 5,518 kg and 3,944 kg respectively.
Unused coffee cherry peels
Despite the increase in coffee production and exports to international markets, Nepalese farmers have not been able to get the most out of the coffee cherry peels, sold and consumed as cascara tea in the markets. international. However, the skins of coffee cherries, discarded or used as compost in Nepal, should be offered as cascara tea. In Sindhupalchok, coffee farmers have started preparing cascara products for home consumption. Through an exchange visit to Peru, facilitated by Practical Action, farmers in Sindhupalchok saw, experienced and learned the technology of cascara preparation. The organization engaged coffee growers, pulper operators, the District Coffee Cooperatives Union, Nepal coffee growers associations and other stakeholders to further promote cascara tea.
“It is an environmentally sustainable solution and reduces waste dumped into rivers or other water sources,” said Rudra Basnet, a senior coffee producer from Melamchi, Sindhupalchok. “In addition, it provides additional sources of income for coffee producers by converting waste into cash and increasing employment opportunities. “
Cascara or coffee cherry skins have been used for over 1,000 years in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and for hundreds of years in Kenya, Yemen and Bolivia, writes Joel Jelderks, co-founder and CEO of Caskaï, a company producing drinks made from cascara.
Called cascara in Spanish, coffee pods are sold and consumed as a sultana in Bolivia, hashara in Ethiopia and qishr in Yemen. After removing the coffee beans, the cherry peels are pulped and dried in the sun (not in direct sunlight). They are then packaged and delivered to consumers around the world. In these countries, dried coffee cherries are usually steeped in spices like ginger, nutmeg, honey, and cinnamon. In recent decades, coffee growers in Latin America have brewed cascara tea with coffee.
Cascara tea looks like loose tea, but the leftover cherries are slightly larger. It tastes between coffee and tea. Although it comes from a coffee tree, it does not taste like the coffee bean it grows with. Being less expensive, cascara tea is widely served more than coffee in Yemen. It is also gaining popularity around the world due to its lower caffeine content than coffee. Dark brewed cascara tea has 111.4 mg per liter of caffeine while coffee contains 400-800 mg per liter of caffeine. The quality of the cascara drink is highly dependent on the variety, cleaning, drying, packaging and delivery. Cascara tea can be prepared and drunk according to a person’s needs and interests. It can be served hot or cold with different flavors and additives.
Besides the cascara drink, the dried cascara can be ground into a good quality powder. The powder can be used in various products like cookies, muffins, fruit and nut bars, desserts, bread, chocolates, ice cream, soda and sauces in various proportions. It can be mixed with other types of flour in a proportion of 10 to 25: 100. However, it depends on the taste and preference of consumers. Since it contains so many antioxidants, its shelf life is longer than that of other products.
Cascara contains chlorogenic acid which can help lower blood pressure. Chlorogenic acid is a phenolic compound widely present in certain fruits (apples, pears, blueberries and strawberries) and vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes and sweet potatoes) as well as in coffee and tea. Chlorogenic acid reduces cravings, reduces daily calorie intake, and induces loss of body fat through thermogenesis. The pulp contains high amounts of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and contributes to anti-inflammatory activity in the body. It is believed to be able to control blood sugar levels. In addition to that, it can help with body weight loss and can also help improve mood and cognitive function and prevent bacterial infections.
In 2019-2020, coffee produced in Nepal and Sindhupalchok District amounted to 296.5 tonnes and 15 tonnes respectively. Based on this figure, around 75 tonnes of dry cascara (11 percent moisture) could have been produced in Nepal and 3.8 tonnes in Sindhupalchok alone. The economic value would be Rs 56 to 100 million (estimated from the selling prices of the cascara in Peru, Bolivia and Tokyo and in Indian and European stores where it sells between Rs 1,000 and 1,800 per kg. ). To this day, the cherry skins are thrown away.
The economic, health and environmental benefits of coffee cascara are known to some extent. However, in Nepal it is less well known and less explored. As the consumption of cascara is at an early stage in Nepal, there is much to be done, including research to improve its quality and identify other quality parameters (i.e. variety, altitude, processing methods and preferences. of consumers) in the Nepalese context. If a market is ensured for the cascara and its products, farmers could earn additional income and be motivated to expand the area for coffee. In the long term, this may favor the use of the areas left fallow in the hilly region.