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Commonwealth Joe May Have Scraped Together the Next 'Hot' Drink

Iced cascara is the Colombian-born pick-me-up with sugar and carbonated water

Commonwealth Joe’s new iced cascara drink.
[Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters]
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters in Pentagon City has scraped together what could be the “hot” new drink to order at coffee shops: iced cascara.

The months-old coffee shop, best known for its lineup of nitro-infused java on tap, is experimenting with a Colombian-born pick-me-up fashioned from the dried flesh of the fruit naturally surrounding coffee beans — “cascara” is husk in Spanish — that’s steeped like tea and combined with sugar, carbonated water, and ice.


Integrating cascara into beverages is nothing new.

Recipes exist in coffee-centric cultures ranging from Yemen to Bolivia, though not every bean-producing nation has embraced the phenomenon. In some places it "never caught on," explains Commonwealth Joe’s resident tea expert Tim Enright.

The cascara at Commonwealth Joe is shipped to Arlington in burlap sacks from the family farm of Yolima Taborda Rojas, who imports single-origin Colombian coffee from her homeland. Enright discovered that when re-hydrated and brewed like tea, the husks exhibit flavors of dark brown sugar and maple. “This is closest to an Ethiopian recipe because it’s sweet and not spiced,” Enright said of the find.

Since cascara’s not popular in Columbia, the Rojas family had long considered it “trash.” But Enright and the team at Commonwealth Joe had a different idea for the cast-offs.

“When her parents found out we wanted it they were so excited. It’s something never made money off of and could now be another stream of revenue,” said Commonwealth Joe CEO and co-founder Robert Peck.

Lost Sock Roasters told Eater it settled on its current source for cascara — the Perla Negra estate in Las Lajas, Costa Rica — last December after shopping around for the best possible raw materials. “A poorly processed cascara often times tastes like tobacco,” warned Lost Sock founder Jeff Yerxa, whereas, “The right cherry and the right processing ... yields a fruitiness and sweetness that is quite enjoyable.”

Per Yerxa, failing to extract every last use from the coffee plant is a wasted opportunity. “Aside from being delicious, the real appeal for us is the sustainability aspect of cascara,” he said.


Cascara got its first taste of fame stateside in January when Starbucks unveiled a hot cascara latte.

“We decided it would make a much better cold drink and the fruitiness would come out like in an Italian soda,” said Enright, who’s studying for his masters in paleoethnobotany at George Washington University.

He experimented with cascara, goggles and beakers in tow, pulverizing and stewing the brew down into a syrup. A shot of the finished product is then thrown into sparkling water. “It’s a simple process,” he said, though the ratio is kept secret.

Yerxa said Lost Sock worked out an earlier version of its cascara drink while popping up at Timber Pizza Co. in Petworth. The latest iteration, which features cold-brewed cascara brightened by lemon extract and sparkling water (“works quite well with rum/gin,” Yerxa said), is currently served on weekends at Anxo Cidery & Pintxos Bar until the end of May.

Meanwhile, the Colada Shop in D.C. serves a cascara Old Fashioned, with aged dark rum, cascara syrup, and house-made coffee bitters.

In addition to its versatility, there’s also a health component to cascara. According to Enright, a National Institutes of Health review of antioxidant loads said cascara has a “fantastically high antioxidant capacity” that’s much higher than some of the current “superfoods” (acai, for one).

For now, cascara is a word-of-mouth order at Commonwealth Joe.

“You have to be like, ‘I heard you guys have this cascara drink.’ It’s almost a secret menu item,” Peck said. Should demand skyrocket, Commonwealth Joe could fold the nascent offering into it’s roster of draft-ready beverages.

“We can keg it,” Peck said.

Prefer to take a crack at home-brewing?

Once customers began clamoring for cascara, Yerxa added 5-ounce packages of the stuff to Lost Sock’s online store. He said he now supplies the same to Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont Circle and Killer ESP in Old Town Alexandria.

ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar

300 Florida Avenue Northwest, , DC 20001 (202) 986-3795 Visit Website

Colada Shop - Sterling

21430 Epicerie Plaza, Sterling, VA 20164 (703) 429-1362 Visit Website