Kishr brings Yemeni coffee cherry tisane to the Midwest

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coffee

The new package design for Kishr, which will be rolling out this year.
The new package design for Kishr, which will be rolling out this year.
Amid the coffee craze, many companies are coming up with different ways to use the often thrown away flesh and pulp from the coffee cherry. Chicago-based Rowida Assalimy is building awareness to a coffee cherry beverage dating a millennium ago with her brand Kishr.

Kishr tea​ is based on a traditional wellness beverage from Yemen that I grew up drinking because that’s where my parents are from,” ​Assalimy told FoodNavigator-USA.

Rarely drank in coffee-drinking countries, a variety of coffee cherry beverages can be found in many coffee-growing countries. In Bolivia it is called Sultana. In Yemen, the drink is brewed with ginger and sometimes cinnamon. The Arabic word for the drink, qishr​ (قشر), is also the word for peel or husk. It is widely drank in Yemen, even more than coffee, as well as wherever the small Yemeni diaspora goes (in Ethiopia, for example, where it is called buno).

“I’ve always loved the beverage and I would often ask my parents to bring it back for me on their trips to Yemen,” ​Assalimy said.  “Eventually, I decided to bring it to market myself using my mom’s recipe as our original blend, which is also the traditional Yemeni preparation.”

Coffee cherry products gain momentum

Assalimy found it isn’t common knowledge yet that coffee beans are the seed of a cherry, but products deriving from it have gained momentum​ in recent years. Not just as beverages, but in other uses such as flour​.

Kishr’s format is sachets of dehydrated granules, and a box goes for $6.99 to $7.99. As of now, the product can be found in Midwestern stores of Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Fresh Thyme, Shaw’s, and jewel-Osco, and it has nationwide reach through

It comes in four flavors: Spiced Chai, Turmeric Peach, Chocolate Cardamom, and Blueberry Hibiscus. “We wanted to create decadent flavors that people will love and enjoy as a guilt-free treat that is actually good for you,”​ Assalimy said. “We enlisted the help of a culinary expert to create these blends.”

“Most people are surprised to find that the coffee fruit doesn’t taste like the roasted coffee bean at all. When steeped, it is light in color like a tea and it has a subtle, mild taste that lends itself to blending with various ingredients to create many flavorful combinations,”​ she added. “The coffee fruit is so versatile that it creates a great base that allows the other flavors to shine through.”

Functional positioning

The fruit’s many antioxidant-related benefits are more commonly known, Assalimy said, and she thought it would be a key selling point. Other products on the market, like Kona Red’s Coffeeberry Juice​ for example, market​ the cherry’s antioxidants and energy-providing gifts.

But she found out that there is more: “Components of coffee fruit have been reported to stimulate a key neuroprotein that supports mood, memory, and brain function. I learned of this when we partnered with our coffee fruit supplier who has done extensive research on this powerful fruit,” ​she said.

“The benefits related to antioxidant activity is something I was aware of when I started the company, and I thought it was the key selling point until I learned of the cognitive benefits,”​ she added.

With the phrase 'For Clarity, Focus & Energy' featured prominently on the package, there’s more of a functional beverage feel to the tea than how teas and tisanes are traditionally marketed, a move that reflects the increasing demand for functional beverages​.

“Chances are if you live a healthy lifestyle and you like tea, you will love Kishr tea,”​ Assalimy said.

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