Not exactly unknown, and not exactly mainstream, cascara is the inspiration for Up To Good Energy’s caffeinated, carbonated beverage. If you’re not familiar, cascara is the coffee fruit. You may have seen a coffee pod on a plantation. When broken open, the seed inside is what we use as coffee beans. The pulpy fruit surrounding that coveted coffee bean is typically discarded. It’s known as cascara.

Up To Good Energy set out to recycle the otherwise offcast products, knowing cascara offers a caffeine pop as well as antioxidants and other nutrients that are associated with improved brain performance, memory and alertness. 

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“In traditional coffee farming the beans are harvested for roasting, but the surrounding coffee fruit is discarded once it is separated from the beans,” Up To Energy said. “That means billions of pounds are wasted globally every year! This not only contributes to food waste, but negatively impacts the environment by allowing mountains of coffee fruit to decay in landfills and potentially poison water sources.”

Cascara contains around half the caffeine as the more well-known coffee portion of the plant, and can be enhanced with other flavors. One can of Up To Good Energy is equivalent to one cup of coffee. Up To Good Energy comes in three flavors: Cascara Mint, Lemon Ginger and Hibiscus Berry. All of the flavors are plant based and contain no added sugars. They are also gluten-free and ingredients are non-GMO. Up To Good Energy beverages are low calories (unlike soda) and the few (35) calories per can come from naturally occurring fruit sugar. 

The name of the company suggests a higher goal, above and beyond the production of a consumable beverage. That’s because in addition to making a refreshing drink focused on healthy aspects and reducing food waste, the company is also dedicated to fair treatment of humans and the land. 

Up To Good builds relationships with small coffee farmers in Central America to source cascara from sustainably-run farms. The coffee cherries, as they are also known, are grown without herbicides or pesticides, picked by hand and naturally dried and dried on raised beds in the sun before being processed, with attention to water conservation. 

Cascara isn’t a new ingredient. Its presence and use have been around for many generations. In fact, the name cascara comes from the Spanish word for husk or shell. Up until now, however, it wasn’t the focal point of the plant, considering that the coffee bean demanded all the attention. Up To Good has looked beyond the wasteful practice of discarding the cascara, bringing it into a mainstream beverage for the masses. 

Review of Up to Good Energy Beverages

The company sent one of each of the three flavor options to taste. Since I shared with my five family members, the taste was small, yet offered a distinctive experience. In brief, these are refreshing drinks with a unique taste profile. 

I don’t use the word “unique” as some sort of tactful way of disguising a weird flavor. Instead, I use it to describe an experience I haven’t had before. I would not describe it as a soda since it’s not syrupy or overtly sweet. It is, however, sparkling. Yet, it’s nothing like sparkling waters. 

The closest beverage I can compare it to is unsweetened, flavored ice tea… with bubbles. 

With that in mind, the flavors certainly have a black tea flavor at the base. However, each of the flavors puts a spin on that. 

My personal favorite was the Lemon Ginger. It had a bright flavor with just the right combination of flavors. I also really liked the Cascara Mint, however, I must admit my first thought was that it would be good in a mojito. The Hibiscus Berry was a favorite with a few family members. For me, it reflected my experience with hibiscus tea as the taste profile was similar. 

Having tasted all three, I began to separate the flavor of the cascara from the other ingredients and would say cascara has a fruity and slightly sweet taste with notes of dried fruit, cherry and raisin. 

Although cascara is not as widely available as coffee or tea, it can be found in specialty coffee shops, online retailers or through direct sourcing from coffee farms so you may start seeing more of it. If you haven’t had a chance to try a cascara product, Up To Good is the perfect way to give it a shot. 

I also feel compelled to mention the marketing on this product. The box they came in, the included paper flyers and the cans themselves are cheery and focused on sustainable responsibility. They speak of reducing waste, direct trade, water conservation and the message to, “Charge up with positive energy from upcycled coffee fruit so you can get out and do more good.”

+ Up To Good 

Images via Up To Good

Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Up to Good. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.