Since I was a child, my Egyptian-Greek mom would make a ruby red, refreshing drink in the summers. More tart than sweet, this tall glass of homemade red juice would be my mom’s answer to my constant whine of “I’m thirsty!” I would beg for Sunny D or Hawaiian Punch (Fruit Juicy Red flavor, of course – whatever that meant!). But mom wouldn’t relent. She shoved me her glass of homemade juice and told me to be grateful and to thank God. There were millions of kids in Africa dying of dehydration.
And behold, a glimpse of my childhood: a glass of hibiscus tea with a side of guilt.
Multiple times I asked my mom what I was drinking. Her response without batting an eye: Cranberry Juice. Now, I have never been a fool. I had drunk cranberry juice at friends’ houses. And this was no Ocean’s Spray. Back then, I was far too naive to realize parents actually lied to their kids. Oh I really was blissfully naive!
I eyed her suspiciously, but who would have guessed she was actually making me tea from dried flower leaves she’d smuggled back from our last family trip to Cairo?
Origins of Hibiscus Tea
According to hieroglyphs, hibiscus flowers have been steeped, brewed and drunk for thousands of years. They are indigenous to the warm, fertile lands adjacent to the Nile River. Interestingly, while the hibiscus flower is grown all over the world, not every hibiscus flower can be brewed into an edible drinkable tea. From what I understand, only the dark red hibiscus variety has the properties needed to make this tea. It is indigenous to North Africa, specifically Egypt, Sudan, and Ghana; and across the Caribbean, where people have been drinking hibiscus for hundreds of years.
Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
There are so many, but just to name a few: this calorie-free herbal tea is full of antioxidants. It is a natural, easy diuretic that helps to lower cholesterol, ease digestion, and increase the metabolic speed in which we break down foods in our digestive track. Natural hibiscus tea is rich in Vitamin C and magnesium.
How to make Hibiscus Tea
Gone are the days in which my mom has to smuggle dried hibiscus flowers from the Old World. I can now find them in most international grocers. Look for them in the herbal teas or Middle Eastern foods sections. Hibiscus tea is made just the same way you would make homemade iced tea. The way I make it:
- Take a large pot and fill it with cool water. Bring it to a low boil.
- Immediately remove from heat and throw in about 7 – 8 dried hibiscus flower.
- Cover with lid and allow to steep and soak in all its yummy antioxidant goodness for a few hours. The pot of water will turn deep, dark red and the dried flowers will unfurl into beautiful petals floating in the red bath.
- Remove the flower petals with a slotted spoon and transfer the hibiscus tea to a pitcher. Feel free to sweeten as desired.
Note: hibiscus tea is rather bitter. I sweeten with Organic Stevia and leave in the fridge to enjoy. Many people use all natural cane sugar to sweeten, Spenda (I don’t prefer), honey or drink it straight. It’s all in how you like to sweeten your teas.
Similar to the color of a good Chianti, hibiscus tea was probably the reason I took to red wine so easily. It has the same color, body and structure. Okay, perhaps not structure – but I like both equally the same. The only difference is I prefer a refreshing glass of cold, freshly brewed hibiscus tea on a hot summer day. And I prefer a glass of deep, ruby red wine on a cool winter evening (alongside a steak, preferably).
Quick note: PLEASE avoid it from Starbucks and the rest of the large merchants! It’s laden with sugar! It’s super easy and cheap to make and full of all the flavor, vitamins, minerals from its rich leaves. Brew yourself a batch. You will LOVE it – goddess style!
Have you tried Hibiscus tea yet? What were your thoughts? Too bitter? Did you infuse with mint, lemon or lavender? I’d love to hear your twist on this ancient drink of the pharaohs. If it’s good enough for the Egyptian Queens, it’ll be good enough for us, too.
Discover your inner Aphrodite. . .