Herbal teas are all the rage and there is a huge variety to choose based on your preference. Today, we want to showcase the versatile and delightful hibiscus tea. This gorgeous tart, fruity, crimson herbal tea with a close flavor profile to cranberry juice is simply amazing. It has been used for hundreds of years in beverages and traditional medicines across Africa. It comes from the hibiscus plant (Hibiscus sabdariffa), commonly known as roselle, and is acknowledged as having some prodigious health benefits. In a nutshell, it has the ability to control hypertension, reduce high blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, and improve liver health. It’s a tea that also helps in improving digestion and treating depression.
In addition to all that, research also indicates that hibiscus tea may speed up metabolism and help in aiding healthy, gradual weight loss. This beautiful tea is rich in vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants and has been used in healing practices for hundreds of years around the globe.
In Africa, hibiscus has been used for centuries to regulate the body temperature, lower blood pressure, support heart health, and alleviate upper respiratory troubles.
Today, modern research supports that and has shown that it may in fact be an effective treatment for high blood pressure.
Caution: Hibiscus tea can affect estrogen levels – this can have an effect on of both pregnancy and fertility. If you are trying to become pregnant or are pregnant, it’s best to probably avoid hibiscus in your diet. Given it can lower blood pressure, it can be harmful if you already suffer from low blood pressure. With anything that has medicinal properties, it’s really important to always check with your doctor before consuming any herbal beverages if you are pregnant or have any ongoing health conditions.
Given all that has been noted, it’s also a very pretty drink. Hibiscus is rich in vitamin C and minerals; it is valued as a mild tonic. Sipping on a steaming cup of hibiscus tea can promote relaxation, ease aches and conditions associated with colds and other illnesses.
While it is has been a much loved beverage in Africa for centuries, today this tea is enjoyed in more than 84 countries. Hibiscus tea has become popular in Mexico and Central America, where it is often used in aguas frescas, a style of chilled drink made from extracts or juices. All across the Caribbean, hibiscus tea is sometimes combined with a variety of other herbs to create a chilled, spiced holiday beverage. Asian cultures also typically consume hibiscus tea as a cold beverage, most notably in Thailand.
In North Africa, hibiscus tea is popular as a hot or cold drink and is usually sweetened with sugar. Hibiscus iced tea, known as karkadé in Egypt, is found all over the streets of Cairo.
In Egypt, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), this tea is also known as bissap, and is a popular beverage sold by street vendors; iced or frozen. In West Africa, bissap is often flavored with fresh mint leaves or ginger. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" from William Shakespeare's popular play, Romeo and Juliet, could be just the tagline for hibiscus tea!
So, the next time (in post Covid times!) when you visit any of these countries, you might see hibiscus tea being sold under very different names and in a variety of styles.
Here are a few to remember:
- In Ghana, it’s called Sobolo
- In St. Kitts and Trinidad & Tobago, it’s called Sorrel juice
- In Nigeria, it’s called Zobo
- In Senegal and Egypt, it’s called bissap or Karkadeh
- In China, it’s called Fu Sang Hua Cha
- In Azerbaijan it’s called itburnu cayi (eetburnu chai)
- In Turkey, it’s called Sorbet
- In Mexico, Central and parts of South America it’s called Agua de Flor de Jamaica or Agua de Jamaica or Te de Jamaica
- In Tanzania, it’s called Rosella
- In Nepal, it’s called Belchanda
- In Paraguay, it’s called Grosella
- In Thailand, it’s called Nam Krajeab
As it will be some time before we can travel and we love to experiment, there are some excellent hibiscus tea recipes to try, but in this post, here is a simple recipe to try some Bissap at home.
Jus de Bissap : Hibiscus Juice/Iced Tea
- 1 cup dried red hibiscus flowers
- 5 liters water
- A few fresh mint leaves (optional)
- 1 cup super-fine sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Rinse the hibiscus flowers and put them in a pot with the water.
- Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the liquid from the heat and add the mint leaves. Let steep for 10 minutes.
- Pour through a strainer into another bowl to separate the flowers and mint from the liquid.
- Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix with a wooden spoon.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and serve cold.
Delicious and refreshing as this herbal elixir may be….here’s another naughtier way to try hibiscus tea. Now, while we are all about the health and wellness benefits of tea, this gorgeous tea is a perfect low-cal option for a kickin, festive cocktail. It is the holidays after all, so there is fun to be had and guilty pleasures to enjoy.
So, if you're looking for a boozy drink with a minor nod to healthy, hibiscus tea is actually a perfect sangria base or an addition to a fabulous cocktail. Or, you can keep it simple – just add it to vodka with a squeeze of lime and honey, and you've got yourself a refreshing adult beverage that you can drink with relish and with no apology!
**Always consult a qualified medical professional before consuming any herbal blends if you are pregnant or suffering from ongoing illnesses or serious medical conditions. These statements or products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases