Honestly, it's high price and "premium" perception only exist because so few farms are producing it. The tiny premium bottles of cascara you see would be replaced by gallon jugs for $2-3 if more farms started making it.
Arabica coffee is currently 2.962 USD per kilogram, and we pay double that for a cup of coffee using about 8 grams. We're paying 125x more for a cuppa than the cost of the beans. So it's certainly possible someone could come up with a way to make some small profit off the pulp. (Incidentally, tea is 0.0288 USD/kg, but obviously it weighs a lot less and we drink a lot less of it)
That price per kg is also not very reflective of what you pay for ok-good coffee if you are buying green beans from an importer. The current batch I have is sold to me from the importer who buys direct from the farmer.
On coffee methods the standard is 1 gram coffee to 17 grams water, with some flexibility for brew strength preference.
The only places that use tradional ratios are old school Italian influenced shops, which are fewer and farther between.
I found them by chatting to a local coffee roaster and getting the name off them.
It’s often written on the coffee sacks too.
I know it’s a different country but if you wanted advice, a friendly email to them might serve you well. They are a great company.
They sell by the kg to me and have often chatted about how they work. Road trips around various countries with a grinder and espresso machine - sounds fun.
Green microlots from Colombia and Honduras, available in the USA.
I haven't purchased from them and am not sure how the pricing compares to other producers but it's a cool project.
As someone trying to drink more tea I find the retail price for Lipton loose tea is about $21 USD per kilogram and other brands are considerably more expensive.
I advice against Lipton: it's overpriced because it's a familiar brand even to people who aren't tea enthusiasts. I'd recommend going to tea stores where loose leaf tea is sold by the pound.
For packaged black tea, I can highly recommend the following two: at about $9/pound, they are an excellent bang for the buck for high quality loose leaf OPA (many grades above Lipton teabags):
-Ahmad OPA 
-Zarrin OPA 
As a note, $21/kilo really not that much once you convert it to cups of tea. With green teas especially, since one can brew them several times. So the Lipton you're talking about isn't expensive per se, just for the grade you get (dust in teabags, FBOP loose).
Brands maybe irrelevant, as I'm not in North America.
If you don't like pan oxidized Chinese tea at all, try Formosa (Taiwan), Korean or Japanese steam oxidized tea: Sencha, Bancha. Speaking of twigs, there's also a variety of Japanese twig tea which actually tastes very good - it's called Kukicha. Theese tend to have a milder taste.
If you're located anywhere in the EU, I used to buy from Teegschwendner before a Demmers franchise was establised in my country.
Don't be scared going into a tea shop: the point of going there is to try teas before you buy them. A proper tea shop will let you sample the teas.
Start tasting from the cheapest ones, find the kind you like, and then try the more expensive versions of that kind until you no longer can taste the difference.
With loose leaf tea, just brew it to instructions (again, tea shops will provide timing/temperature for multiple infusions) - and you can see and taste the quality with your eyes. I've never experienced anything remotely close to "20% twigs and dust" even in store-bought cheapest loose leaf teas - anything that's not in teabags usually unwraps beautifully.
Of course, get a ceramic teapot if you don't already own one. For temperature control, if you don't want to get a kettle with a thermostat, add a splash of cold water to the kettle before brewing green teas: if the water is colder than necessary, green tea will take longer to brew, but usually will turn out OK, but overly hot water can make it taste badly/bitterly (black teas are brewed with boiling water).
If you know people from China or Taiwan, ask them! Not everyone there is a tea aficionado, but those who are will be a great source of information (..and possibly samples, especially if they get to travel there regularly). And in any case, best way to find out about tea is having tea with someone who knows a bit about it.
To my taste, one can rarely go wrong with a Taiwanese tea (the ones that make it to the US at least). High-mountain oolongs are my favorite kind of tea currently, but it's just one kind.
But the only way to get into tea - just like into anything - is try, try, try. If you need ratings/reviews, there is RateTea - you can go to any Asian store, grab a can, and see if you can find the description (although that website can be a bit snobby at times).
I second the advice others have given (go to any Asian store, grab any middle-priced package). I've found some great tea that way (and if it doesn't taste good - try another one!). Also, I had good luck with using Google Translate / OCR apps to decipher the labels.
Where are you located?
It’s actually comical/criminal how expensive tea by the teabag is vs loose leaf.
There’s also some tea by the pound on Amazon, although not as great quality IMHO.
That's why 3rd world prices are cheaper. They don't have most of that since they usually get the product directly from the producer.
If stated that way, it true of any nonzero income from these husks, for which it is still feasible to ship them.
What's questionable is whether it will continue to be valued above the bean.
It's certainly not more rare than the bean: each bean produces a husk.
It's artificially rare because the supply chain hasn't fully fired up.
Basically the situation is an impulse response blip at the boundary condition: sudden appearance of a demand without a supply mechanism.
It doesn't seem like it would take much for the coffee producers to save the husks, bag them, and ship them off the same way as beans. Once everyone is doing that, it's unlikely to remain valued above the bean.
Since fertilizer is necesasry, this stuff has to be worth more than whatever fertilizer has to be used to replace it. If not, then it is the fertilizer.
I have tasted it, fresh from coffee plants, and wondered why it was just discarded and not eaten as a fruit, sold, juiced or whatever, because it's juicy and sweet.
I wonder how the price of natural process coffee will change due to this.
Coffee roasting is a really fun hobby that has a surprising amount lore and detail. I highly recommend hanging around: https://www.home-barista.com/home-roasting/
^^ That forum has some really knowledgeable folks and lots of cool DIY projects to read about. Have fun!
Some years are better than others, coffee is a crop like any other that varies in quality. Some roasters stockpile beans from good crop years and are skilled at making a consistent product. When you buy your own greens and roast at home, flavors can vary quite a bit. Personally, I love the variability, and the adventure of trying new flavors and learning to roast different beans.
I know it's not, which is why I responded with "So I can't...".
If you just read the headline, you might assume it's referring to used coffee grounds.
Wow, makes sense. I never stopped to ask why the plant produced caffeine in the first place.
A lot of Starbucks stores will give you grounds for free for use in your garden. I don't know if they recommend composting first or not. My guess is they don't care.
Used, composted grounds are definitely good. Used grounds add biological material to the soil as well and lots of people have good success with that from what I understand.
Compost your grounds, they're great.
So my takeaway is that it's a factor of being new trendy thing right now, and coffee beans themselves are cheaper than normal from oversupply. I imagine the price and especially the premium ratio will balance out.
With that said, I certainly hope the trend of continuing to use the husks continues. Coffee is a wonderful, precious fruit and I'm all for using more of it. Most people don't even realize that coffee "beans" are the seeds of the coffee fruit itself, which is more like a cherry. The vast majority of the fruit is usually discarded and rinsed off the seeds, except on some varietals where some of the pulp is allowed to remain on the seeds before being roasted to give them more of a fruity/citrusy flavor.
The advice I see given out time and again to small farmers is to stay boutique. Try to grow something that not everybody else is. The volumes are low but the prices are higher. However this is always in the context of satisfying a local market. With the exchange rates who knows. And niche produce and vegetables don’t tend to have the shelf life of beans and grains, so you can’t ship them as far.
If I want $2/kg for my beans, I can sell futures and "lock in" that price. If it falls to $1/kg, I'm still able to sell at $2/kg. (Conversely, if it rises to $4/kg, I still only get $2/kg.)
On the buyer/user side, Starbucks/Dunkin could buy futures so they also locked in a known price for the future. Whether the spot (instant market) price is $1 or $4 per kg, they may have locked in buying at $2/kg, essentially the opposite use case as the farmer/producer. (Southwest famously did this for jet fuel during the prior oil runup.)
Similarly, you can hedge weather and natural disasters if so inclined.
Suppose our hypothetical farmer can buy a put option to underpin the sale price. He probably needs to borrow, or put up a large portion of his liquid capital -- having no working capital, or being exposed to a large debt makes buying the option risky, and if the price rises/doesn't fall heavily then he took on that risk with no physical gain. Repaying the debt, or handling other contingencies without sufficient capital could then sink the farmer.
I'll bet those farmers don't have buildings insurance either.
It becomes a gamble if one is subsisting.
That's not to say anything about power dynamics, a lone farmer is going to get a put option from an international buyer that heavily favours the buyer -- otherwise the buyer is acting unreasonably.
It may not be entirely rational but poor people often have no insurance.
Futures and options are different.
Options are the right but not the obligation to buy or sell at a given price and time (and often at any point up until that time). This optionality comes at a high price.
Futures are the right AND the obligation to buy or sell at a given price and time. This construct, because of a better balance between buyers and sellers [of the contract], costs much[, much] less per $1M than options.
> It becomes a gamble if one is subsisting.
Life is a gamble by that measure.
I tend to think that things that reduce overall variance to be hedges and things that increase variance to be gambling. Selling futures against a future crop harvest for me is on the reduce variance/hedge side of the line, by a lot. Buying jet fuel futures as an airline? Same.
Of course for an airline with ready access to capital then the risk is virtually zero in buying futures; it is always going to be a hedge. Cashflow in that situation will be very different though. Capital is king, as they say.
I don't think that's quite the facile truism you're characterising it as.
HN appears to see an impossibility in someone not being able to afford to hedge effectively - so it seems I'm wrong? Perhaps no developing world commodity producer ever fails or suffers privations, because they can all afford to hedge all their risks./s
Today, whether or not the risk is "unfairly" spread or the share of surplus is "disproportionately small" is a matter of opinion.
However, I can't imagine what sort of ignorance leads one to believe, as it appears, there's no unfairness in distribution of profits or risks in comestible (or pretty much any) supply chain.
Then, demand for soybeans tanks. Price drops. Doesn't matter. Somebody has already paid you for that opportunity and locked in their price.
If soybean demand skyrockets, you miss out on the profits since you already sold, but you locked in your expected profits for the year - congrats!
If your crops all die, there's insurance for that but you could also be somewhat creative about call options on September soybeans to make sure you could buy back in at a decent price to still deliver your goods. Anyway, these markets exist specifically to help smooth out price insecurities on commodities for goods producers.
Can you demonstrate that's true in general for producers of commodities in the third world? I don't doubt it's true for middlemen, or companies relying on producers.
If you can, could you also show what proportion of profits are diverted to hedging vs the proportion lost to reduction of risk exposure for a multinational in, let's say, coffee/chocolate or some other comestible.
If you're worried about whether or not you'll have it, that's why I mention hedging weather, disaster, or other things that might affect crop yield.
Crop insurance is a thing. Though I don't know how much it helps.
Shipping might be a little high if you're buying just that, but they do will-call pickup in Oakland too.
It's good - it has a light fruit flavor, and has a bit of coffee tastes without being bitter.
0: Sweet Maria's is a great shop and resource for green coffee and roasting. If you drink even a moderate amount of coffee, roasting your own is pretty easy and pays for itself in a few months. If it sounds up your alley, skip the air popper and get a real roaster, though.
Seeing this just reminded me how often it is that opportunities for little startup's are missed because the founder was unable to commit fully at the time.
Plug for him, here is where he was selling it: http://www.inspiredcoffee.com/
OT: "low-fat cappuccino whose foam and syrup have been spiked with an extract made from a blend of sugar and ground-up dried coffee husk" -- low-fat + loads of sugar is an oxymoron. The sugar industry is killing us all.
Personally, I prefer the taste of low-fat milk.
What! Are sugar cubes oxymorons to you?
Or maybe I'm missing why people get low-fat milk. I find the full fat tastes better.
Soil amendments tend to be pretty cheap, by weight, though...
One example: http://tisano.com/
There was for a while a bit of confusion with independent coffee shops if they could sell it and make drinks with etc. -
I think it's been resolved, but I can't find much online about it.
There’s a market for pesticide free cherries but not the same market for pesticide free beans. So you divide your crop into two piles and one sells into a channel where your extra labor isn’t a differentiator.
Were we quoted the price for organic coffee beans or conventional?
For comparison, fair trade ranges from $1.40 to $1.90 (organic on the higher end). Direct trade starts at $2 or so at the low end, averages around $3.50 or so and can approach double digits for top-end specialty coffee.
Afaik the quality of the cascara is even more sensible to farming and processing conditions that the bean, so I'd expect a large part of the cascara production to come from higher-end farms anyway.
On some quick research, apparently on the extreme high end, lots can go for as high as $600 per lb.
Funny thing is, I've seen cascara drinks advertised by Starbucks but didn't know what it was until now. I think they call it a cascara cold foam something or other so I thought 'cascara' was just a branding term for something to do with the foam or milk; I had no idea it was actually a 'thing'.
I don't frequent small coffee merchants in person (drinking Stumptown Cold Brew on tap at work as I type this!) but I've been to enough Storyville/Ladro/Stumptown type places and never seen it either.
IMO, where the debate really gets interesting is how cascara might shift the balance of direct trade relationships: because so many farmers rely heavily on cooperatives to purchase high-volume dry milling equipment, farmers almost always act cooperatively with their coop. However, because cascara is something that individual farmers can make without expensive machinery, it might start to fracture the thousands of coffee coops that make up lots of the source-level industry.