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What is a Coffee Cherry? Everything You Need to Know

coffee cherry

If you’re a long-term coffee lover, you’re probably very familiar with roasted coffee beans. You might even be familiar with the step before that, raw green coffee beans. But do you know what a coffee cherry is?

We’ve put together this guide to tell you everything you need to know about coffee cherries. Can you eat them, should you try them, and what do they taste like? Scroll down to find out!

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What is a Coffee Cherry?

Coffee bean cherry inside

Unlike money, coffee actually does grow on trees! The coffee cherry is the fruit of the coffee plant. It’s made up of skin (called chaff), flesh, and the coffee bean, which is actually a seed. The typical coffee processing method involves removing the cherry skin and flesh, leaving only the coffee bean to be washed, roasted and brewed.

SEE ALSO: How to Grow a Coffee Plant at Home


Can You Eat Coffee Cherries?

coffee cherries caffeine

Coffee cherries are fruits, and yes, you can eat them. They even have a nice sweet flavor. But before you rush out to try them, there are good reasons these aren’t a popular fruit. Unlike regular cherries and other fruits, coffee cherries haven’t been grown to optimize the fruit flavor. They have very little flesh and tough, leathery skins. Like an avocado with a huge pit, these cherries are mostly seed and very little tasty fruit.

If you do want to taste a coffee cherry, you probably won’t find them for sale at your local grocery store. The best way to try a coffee cherry is to visit a coffee farm — or grow a coffee plant!


Isn’t There an Animal that Eats Coffee Cherries?

Kopi Luwak civet coffee
Image: AKKHARAT JARUSILAWONG, Shutterstock

Yes! You may have heard of kopi luwak, a coffee made with beans eaten by wild cats. And there are other strange coffees around the world, eaten by bats, elephants, and other animals. The theory behind these gross coffees is that wild animals will only eat the ripest, tastiest coffee cherries. Essentially, they’re handpicking the best fruits!


What is Cherry Coffee?

cascara cherry coffee

There is a specialty drink made out of the coffee cherry. Cascara, also called coffee cherry tea, is a drink made with dried coffee cherry skin. The name comes from the Spanish word cáscara, meaning shell or husk. If you’re curious to try a coffee cherry, this could be a good option. It’s much more like tea than coffee and has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of black tea.

Cascara is a little controversial, though. Some suggest that this dried fruit could grow excessive amounts of mold. Because it hasn’t been thoroughly tested or studied, cascara is even largely banned in the European Union.

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The Bottom Line

So what’s the bottom line? Coffee cherries are the fruit of the coffee tree, made up of skin, flesh, and coffee beans. These small fruits are edible, though you may not actually enjoy eating them. And if you want a taste, you can try cascara, a tea made from dried coffee cherry skin!

We hope this guide has answered all of your burning questions about the fruit behind your favorite morning drink. Search out a coffee cherry if you’re curious, but we’d say that you’re better off sticking with roasted coffee beans.

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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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