Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hibiscus Iced Tea

With its crimson, ruby-red hue and herbal fragrance, hibiscus tea is enjoyed in certain parts of the world either hot or cold.  Several prepackaged herbal teas sold at supermarkets include a bit of hibiscus in their mix, not only for the color, but for its inimitable flavor.  Served cold over plenty of ice, hibiscus tea is such a delicious & refreshing beverage to sip on a hot summer day.  I remember encountering agua de Jamaica sold by street vendors while traveling through Mexico on a vacation many years ago.  Its color was captivating to me and its taste was something I will never forget. 

Hibiscus tea is enjoyed throughout Africa, the Middle East, in parts of Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.  Dried calyces from the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower are steeped in hot water until they release their colorful and flavorful essence.  If you source your own dried hibiscus flowers (these can be special ordered or purchased at Latin American markets or in most health food stores), a light tea can be made and enjoyed very easily at home.  Even if you've never tried hibiscus iced tea before, I suggest making some and discovering this delicious drink for yourself.  At my home I make it whenever I crave some and keep it refrigerated in a carafe.  The simple recipe below can also be enjoyed hot if you would rather have it that way.  Make a pitcher of hibiscus iced tea this weekend and sip a glass of it on the porch while reading a good book.  I think you're going to like it.

A delicious & refreshing drink of Hibiscus Iced Tea garnished with some fresh mint.


A single Hibiscus flower in its natural state.

These are the dried calyces of Hibiscus sabdariffa.  Quite dark, almost black in color, they look nothing like the beautiful flowers when they're alive.  Look for bags of them at the health food store.

 Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 4 cups cold water
  • simple syrup to taste
In a medium saucepan bring the water up to a boil.  Drop the flowers into the boiling water & immediately turn off the heat.  Let the flowers steep for 8 minutes.

Strain the tea through a sieve into a heatproof measuring cup or pitcher.  Press the flowers to release as much liquid as possible.  Set the tea aside to cool completely before enjoying.  If you want to speed up the process, place the measuring cup in a bowl of ice water until it comes to room temperature.  Once cool, the tea can be placed into a carafe or pitcher and be refrigerated for several days. 

Let each person sweeten their tea to taste.  I know several individuals who prefer it with no sugar.  Serve each drink with plenty of ice.

Yield: approximately 1 liter, 4 drinks.

The reconstituted calyces reveal their gorgeous color.  Do be careful because this tea can stain surfaces very easily, so keep a kitchen towel handy when pouring. 

Hibiscus Iced Tea.  Enjoy!

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