Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Prices for dried coffee husks are outstripping those for beans (bloomberg.com)
262 points by petethomas on May 22, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments

It's just a momentary trend. The vast amount of coffee waste in coffee producing countries is used for fertilizer. The title should be: In a few select farms that produce cascara, it fetches a 480% premium over coffee.

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.

Just because it's a momentary trend now doesn't mean it's going to stop being a trend. If it proves successful, the farms using it for fertilizer will jump into the market to try to capitalize, which will bring the price down, but still bring in more income than just the coffee beans (and certainly more than feed)

My point is that it's not economically feasible at scale. There are mountains and mountains[0][1][2] of organic coffee pulp, the price would plummet once more farms produce it. The pulp isn't waste either, it's 100% reused as fertilizer.

[0]: https://i.imgur.com/0a306pb.jpg

[1]: https://i.imgur.com/Duar7Uu.jpg

[2]: http://www.elfaroestate.com/img/large/coffeemill16.jpg

Where's the infeasibility exactly? Currently it's used as fertilizer. As long as they can sell it for higher than the price of new fertilizer, they will be making profit. So really the question is, how much are people willing to pay for it, or how can companies convince people they need to pay more for 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)

What kind of brew uses 8 grams? That’s a seriously weak or very small coffee. 20ish is a lot more civilised.

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.

It depends on what he's talking about. A standard single shot of espresso is about 7g[0] for 30 mL. A double espresso takes 14g to 18g of coffee[1] for 60 mL. A latte or cappuccino is just an espresso with some form of milk. A caffe Americano is an espresso in hot water. Traditionally brewed coffee should be 10g per 125 mL of water before brewing[2] which should be 20g to 30g for a basic mug, but 8g can be perfectly reasonable for many types of "civilized" coffee.

0: https://coffeefaq.com/many-ounces-shot-espresso/

1: https://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/learn/videos-home/ask-the-...

2: https://coffeefaq.com/just-how-much-ground-coffee-do-i-need-...

I have never seen a single shot espresso basket used anywhere. They should be called a half shot. This is in New Zealand so milage may vary.

Our coffee culture in NZ is somewhat idiosyncratic, so I dunno

Most specialty shops these days are putting 15-20 grams of coffee in and extracting 25-45 grams of espresso out.

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.


Yeah, I make Americano out of an Aeropress. Because I constantly try different beans and grind sizes, one ratio of coffee-to-water just doesn't work, so I make the shot of coffee and add water to taste. I don't need more than a cup because I drink slowly, and if I really want more I'll make another one. Wastes less, tastes fresher, and it's more adjustable in general.

Who's your importer? I've worked with a couple people to try to set up a direct from farmer import in the United States, and it's difficult for quantities less than a shipping container.


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.


Make it 20g then. 8 is seriously anaemic.

Not the op, but their point is that it can't continue to fetch a premium on coffee for long, not it can't be sold for a profit.

Is that a wholesale price for tea?

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.

>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[3] above Lipton teabags):

-Ahmad OPA [1]

-Zarrin OPA [2]

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).

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Ahmad-Ceylon-OPA-Tea-Carton/dp/B00110...

[2] https://persianbasket.com/zarrin-pure-ceylon-special-opa

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_leaf_grading

Any advice on how to chose loose leaves tea, especially green tea? I'm scared to be taken advantage of going to one of those fancy tea shop; they seem tailored for people who prefer pretty over quality, when I just want basic green tea, not laced with cadmium, and not 20% twigs and dust.

Brands maybe irrelevant, as I'm not in North America.

Tea gets complicated quickly. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a basic green tea. There is basic crappy bagged dust green tea, but you're saying you don't want to buy that. Start here: https://www.artoftea.com/what-is-tea/what-is-green-tea Then google around for some guides of online sellers, such as this one https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/best-tea-where-to-buy.ht... Though to be perfecly honest you can get respectable green tea from the fancy tea shops, or even Wegman's. You can also find decent loose leaf teas in Asian grocery stores, but good luck reading the labels.

The bigger, the better and usually higher quality. You will see that after the leaves open, under hot water. Oolng teas usually have the biggest leaves - they are normally rolled into balls and also quite expensive. If you want something cheaper (under 5 euros/100 g) but still very good, try Gunpowder (also rolled) or Chun Mee. These have a strong taste characteristic to pan oxidized Chinese tea. If you don't like the strong taste, then you're either infusing it too much (infuse for two minutes or less) or should try some of the Yunnan varieties, specifically Mao Feng.


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.

I can second the idea of trying to get kukicha for a milder taste. I tried it a while ago and have been buying it since then because I rather enjoyed it.

FYI, Ahmad and Zarrin aren't American brands (I get them in Middle-Eastern stores here).

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[1] - 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?


Well, there is no "basic green tea", there are many different variants which are all quite different. Start by comparing a solid Chinese tea (eg. longjing) with a Japanese one (eg. sencha), brew them exactly as instructed (Japanese tea in particular turns bitter and soupy if you let it steep too long), see which one you like more and go from there. And instead of fancy tea stores, go to an Asian grocery and pick up any random mid-priced package.


If you're trying to drink more tea, I might recommend at least getting Twinings or something. Lipton tea is one of those things I wouldn't really ever choose for myself.

I enjoy finding something fair trade from a local shop. It's generally better quality also, if slightly more expensive per month.

Sure, that's true. Twinings isn't bad and you can get it in your local grocery store, though.

I’ve found a great secret - go to a distributor that also sells retail. Cafe Moto in San Diego sells pretty good tea in bags by the pound for about $13-20 for most of them, with some premium stuff much higher.

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.

Welcome. There are transport/shipping costs, customs fees, taxes, storage fees, workers fees, retailer commission, packaging fees, advertising fees, banking fees, interest, VAT, etc...

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.

It's the world bank commodities trading price. It gets a healthy markup by the time it reaches consumers.

It is a rather drastically simplified picture to talk about "tea" as one big undifferentiated product rather than an entire class of goods with wildly varying qualities and prices (then again I suppose that's also true of coffee to some extent, but I know less about it).

Looks like your price is off by a couple digits, I'm seeing about 2.90 USD per kg on World Bank commodities report.

I think you're right, the website I was looking at was off it seems

The price shouldn’t plummet any lower than the price it sells for fertilizer. Farmers would benefit from having more demand for byproducts.

> more income than just

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.

So I can't sell my coffee grounds for $75 / pound?

The article isn't talking about coffee grounds though, but about the fruit that is produced by coffee plants around the seeds.

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'm sure I've had jam made from it before, but I've never been able to find it again. Nothing useful comes up from searching for "coffee cherry jam" or "cascara jam" (or similar).

There is a theory that this is how coffee originated - someone over cooked the berry brew and roasted the beans.

I often wonder how coffee or chocolate were discovered since there are many steps involved in making each. It's not like someone long ago tasted a bean and thought it was great it's a complicated way to get to the end product.

Add olives to that. The raw fruit is inedible — at least the green fresh olive I once tried was.

I tend to prefer natural process coffees, where the beans are dried without the fruit being removed, which gives the coffee more of a fruit taste.

I wonder how the price of natural process coffee will change due to this.

Yeah, I roast at home and I get the most delicious natural process Ethiopian Sidama beans at like $5/pound. It would really be a bummer if those suddenly skyrocketed in price and became harder to obtain...

Can you recommend a place to order these beans? I'm interested to try roasting at home.

I can recommend Sweet Maria’s, they have quality beans and provide great resources about home roasting techniques.

Others mentioned sweetmarias.com which is great. I typically buy directly from a couple distributors at greencoffeebuyingclub.com. You can also check local roasteries in your area- sometimes they sell greens too (like Third Coast here in Austin).

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!

Have you tried Yergacheffe? It’s even better in my opinion.

Yeah I love Yirgacheffe too, they are on my rotation :-)

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.

> The article isn't talking about coffee grounds though, but about the fruit that is produced by coffee plants around the seeds.

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.

No, but you can put in on my compost pile for free.

Probably shouldn't do that. Caffeine kills plants.

> One of the key functions of caffeine in the plants that produce it is allelopathy – the ability to reduce competition from surrounding species by suppressing their growth.

Wow, makes sense. I never stopped to ask why the plant produced caffeine in the first place.

Well, not only that; caffeine in plants acts as a natural pesticide.

Only if you're dumping fresh grounds directly onto the plants. Used grounds that have been composted are generally regarded as quite beneficial.

Interesting. My grandmother used to dump her coffee grounds on her roses almost every day. She swore it was what made them so big.

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 grounds != fresh grounds. :)

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.

whoops that's what I've been doing past few weeks...

Used grounds are probably fine if that's what you've been doing. Actual fresh grounds that have not been used to brew coffee are not a great idea.

Caffeine in a warm, moist, bacteria-rich environment, has a half-life comparable to that in the human body.

Compost your grounds, they're great.

Coffee grounds are also very acidic, so you could be killing the microorganisms in your compost.

Compost your egg shells also!

Works great for growing mushrooms though...

> Thanks to demand from these chains, the coffee husk now often fetches a higher price than the bean itself does. Batlle says she gets $7 for a pound of cascara, while the average price for coffee hovers around $1.20, the lowest in about two years, because of an oversupply of arabica beans.

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.

Farmers are screwed because they produce a commodity, and because there is a couple year lag between supply and demand (you can’t count on a bumper crop the first time you try).

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.

This is precisely why futures markets exist- to hedge this risk for farmers. They’re definitely not screwed here though I agree for more elastic, longer lag products this could be a problem.

Can the farmers actually afford to gamble on the markets. I'd imagine it was third parties up the chain that were able to afford to hedge their profiting from the farmers labour.

If you have a genuine product and want to secure a steady price for it, that's hedging not gambling.

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.

Yes, indeed, I hesitated to use that word. However, unless it's a zero cost perfect hedge is a gamble in one way or another.

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.

> Suppose our hypothetical farmer can buy a put option to underpin the sale price.

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.

There's a gamble in selling a future too - if your crop fails and you have to buy yourself out of your obligation. The upstream supplier can afford to do so, especially if they can buy on a different continent if a widespread famine/drought happens.

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.

Yes, I think you're observing that there is no way to guarantee a risk-free profit in business against all possible outcomes.

Ok, I think it's more nuanced than that. Loosely my hypothesis is - the ability to hedge risks is curtailed for those at the leading edge of commodity production in developing nations because of the tiny margins; whilst those further up the chain who're relying on the labour of the poorest are able to hedge because they have access to ready capital and aren't subsisting. The risk is unfairly loaded on those receiving a disproportionately small share of the profit from their production.

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

Crop failure has been a risk for farmers for over 10,000 years. This is not a capitalist introduction; the penalties for crop failure used to be far more dire.

Today, whether or not the risk is "unfairly" spread or the share of surplus is "disproportionately small" is a matter of opinion.

Seriously? No one suggested it was an imposition of any financial culture - just that mitigation of risk is costly.

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.

In fact hedging can be regarded as the polar opposite of gambling.

But that was my point. I don't actually have the product until the end of the year.

Right. You buy a future that says "I will provide 30,000 units of soybeans in St. Louis in September, at 300/unit" or whatever. You were planning on growing 325 or something, and you hedged the majority of your crop. Somebody buys your futures contract.

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.

>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 will have it and just don't have it now, that's exactly what hedging using futures was originally created for.

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.

>Can the farmers actually afford to gamble on the markets.

Crop insurance is a thing. Though I don't know how much it helps.

Hedging is the opposite of gambling. You reduce risk, but potentially also reduce your payout.

Keeping the pulp on the seed isn't really a varietal specific thing but just a processing method used before drying. This method is called natural processing and any coffee can be processed this way just lots aren't because washed usually yields a higher grade on the market.

If you want to try cascara straight up yourself as a tea, Sweet Maria's[0] sells it:


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.

A few years ago a friend of mine started importing this stuff. He got a sample of a syrup made, and then started selling it. It was a slow start because he was just one guy and had other interests, but then I remember when he told me that Starbucks was starting to make a seasonal cascara drink.

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/

And if you live in Michigan, his syrup is used in this Bloom kombucha sold at Meijer.

Does anyone other than Starbucks sell it? I'd like to try it but am skeptical of Yet Another fad.

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.

Fat is fat, sugar is a carb. They are different macro nutrients, so I don't know why you think low fat and high sugar is an oxymoron.

I think the idea is that people generally say "low fat" to mean healthy (even though that's not true). The "+ sugar" just makes it doubly more unhealthy. The drink itself is the oxymoron.

Ah, so it makes sense as long as we assume the words being used don't mean what they actually mean. Ok.


It's true but probably misleading to the people who the advertisement line is directed to. Of course, that's definitely the intention. It seems odd that anyone would want to have a low-fat diet voluntarily.

Lots of diets are odd. Plus it's just a coffee beverage, not soylent; it's not supposed to be your whole diet.

Personally, I prefer the taste of low-fat milk.

I prefer skim milk in coffee because fat doesn't mix well. I also don't like sugar in my coffee, but that's an independent matter.

>low-fat + loads of sugar is an oxymoron

What! Are sugar cubes oxymorons to you?

I read like this "low-fat" == "I-care-about-my-health" ... but I don't care about sugar.

Or maybe I'm missing why people get low-fat milk. I find the full fat tastes better.

Some people prefer skim milk because they grew up on a farm, and the milk was always skimmed in order to produce cream/butter.

Low-fat is the actual name used for the type of milk used in this particular cap, it’s not an advertising trick or anything.

I dislike starbucks but tried it there anyways. Actually really nice as a foam on top of a nitro cold brew. Won't be getting it again but I'd say it is worth having one time.

Not an oxymoron, but perhaps "moronic" to do for health reasons.

You are right. Not an oxymoron in the literal sense, but a contraction (unless there's good reason to avoid the trivial amount of fat in full-fat milk).

I have gotten a coffee based hot drink and been repelled by the oily blobs floating on it, because nothing emulsifies them. There are generally multiple reasons for any given preference.

If nothing emulsified milkfat in milk the milk would separate.

Yes, that's what I'm saying appears to happen.

Well, no, you're saying it separates in coffee, which is a different thing. It's the acidity of the coffee.

That was the context of my original remark.

Strictly speaking it's not true that nothing is emulsifying them; just not enough to withstand the acidic mix they're in.

See my other comment, a friend of mine sells it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17126881

I thought this was going to be referring to coffee grounds: they make a great compostable or soil amendment, and somewhat acidic so can be used to balance soil pH for crops like blueberries.

Soil amendments tend to be pretty cheap, by weight, though...

Chocolate husk tea is also a tasty switch up. You can have it hot without milk or sugar and it won't be bitter. It has a nice flavor and a little of the theobromine kick.

One example: http://tisano.com/

I experimented once with trying to brew a drink by running hot water through ground cacao beans. It produced a red liquid that looked kind of like tea, and had a very pronounced unsweetened chocolate flavor. The main difficulty was that cacao beans have much more fat (I guess) in them than coffee beans, so tend to clog up your filter.

I first heard about cascara last year and wanted to try some. However I live in the UK and it was withdrawn from sale due to some confusion around "Novel Foods". The EU defines this as “food that has not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU prior to 1997”.

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.

Well that's one way of saying farmers don't get paid much for coffee beans.

i've heard that coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in production today. do these coffee husks, or cherries, have significant amounts of pesticide residue?

Cascara is produced from coffee that isn't sprayed.

Aha. There’s your price premium.

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.

What are the units those prices are for? The green beans I buy are in the range of $7-14US per Kg.

USD per lb of green beans in bulk. According to one finva I visited at some point.

On some quick research, apparently on the extreme high end, lots can go for as high as $600 per lb.


This seems similar to how slaughterhouses make more money off the rendered fat and other "byproducts" than the meat.

If you're measuring both on a per-pound level, kinda makes sense. One coffee bean produces a lot more bean than husk.

Off topic but I went to a coffee farm in Antigua and it was EXTREMELY interesting. I recommend it for all coffee lovers.

what was most surprising about your visit?

That the process basically hasn't changed since the farm opened in the 1800s.

If you like that sort of thing with a legacy/history in the process, then you'll also enjoy touring old wineries and distilleries.

As a side note, coffee chaff makes excellent mulch. It gets wet and then forms a thick mat that keeps the water i.

i remember stumptown selling cascara a full 6 years ago. it was crazy expensive then too. i think this article is framing the thing wrong by overemphasing starbucks

Eh, the quote says it all; they're great at taking something and introducing it to the masses.

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.

What's funny about how SB is going about this is as another flavor syrup to add to lattés. That way, the flavor is about as masked as any hazlenut cream they dump into a frappuchino. It's too bad, because cafes that sell exclusively cascara-based drinks can actually churn out some really decent stuff, but SB's "cascara foam" is more like a fancy way to brand some flavored sugar.

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.

Yeah, I thought the same - "look another branding exercise, I'll pass".

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact