There’s a little Iranian stall in my neighborhood, and I love browsing through their endless varieties of dried fruit and nuts, and exotic Persian herbs.
The elderly gentleman who sits at the stall barely speaks a few words of English, but with broken dialect and animated gestures, he proudly presents the jewels of his heritage to anyone vaguely interested.
The other day, I stopped by to pick up my weekly dose of zereshk, and found myself fiddling with a small bag of dried petals. They were in the prettiest shades of indigo, violet and purple.
My friend at the stall gave it a name I could not pronounce. ‘Iranian red flower’ he proclaimed, and in a mix of broken Hinglish (a cusp between English and Hindi), he said it brews into a tea that clears the stomach. He used dramatic gestures indicating a swoosh of toxins leaving his stomach.
‘Another cleansing tea!‘ I thought.
He let me taste a petal. It was tart and crisp. A small bag only cost me AED 4, I was sold.
Once home, I did a little research on Google, and soon identified this mystery loot to be Hibiscus Tea!
Hibiscus tea is also known as ‘Flor de Jamaica’ in Mexico, ‘Sorrel’ in the Caribbean, and ‘Roselle’ in many other parts of the world.
It is derived from the calyces of the hibiscus flower, and has been a fundamental part of traditional medicine for centuries.
I put hibiscus flower in every cup of tea I have. It’s sweet, sexy and cleansing – Mario Batali, American Chef & Bestselling Author.
Making a cup was very straightforward. I put a generous pinch of petals into a cup and let it seep in boiling water for a few minutes before it was cool enough to sip.
The brew turns a gorgeous magenta-red, and has a distinct tart flavor that can be likened to cranberry juice.
I love the taste of tart, but for someone with a more delicate palette, a spoonful of sugar might make the tartness more tolerable.
I read this lovely tea can also be drunk cold. I am obsessed with this delicious tart drink, and my laziness made me improvise by making a ready-to-use batch for whenever I had a craving.
I simply seeped half a cup of the petals in boiling water (enough water to cover them completely).
This concentrated mixture turned a lovely deep plum. Mental note to self; I’d love a lippy shade in this color!
I let it seep through for about half an hour, and then put it through a strainer, and stored the thick plumy liquid in the fridge.
Now every time I fancy a glass of cold, tart hibiscus tea, I pour a splash of the liquid into a glass, and top it with ice-cold water voila!
Hibiscus tea is not just another pretty drink. Recent studies have reconfirmed what ancient medicinal practices knew all along. Hibiscus tea is a powerhouse of health, and might soon take over the limelight from the ever-popular green tea.
Just two to three cups a day promises to reduce high blood pressure.
If you are diabetic, hibiscus tea works wonders with cholesterol management by increasing ‘good’ cholesterol HDL, and reducing the bad guys, LDL.
Hibiscus tea is loaded with antioxidants that will keep wrinkles at bay, and help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers.
Hibiscus tea has a cleansing effect (as the man at the stall so amicably demonstrated), and is believed to help with weight management.
Hibiscus tea also happens to be caffeine-free, great news for those who are caffeine-sensitive.
You can brew hibiscus tea like I did and have it hot or cold, or you can sprinkle it into your favorite blend.
If you have more time on your hands, try out this delicious recipe for Agua de Jamacia.
Although hibiscus tea is all-natural and full of health-enhancing goodness, always take precautions and check with your medical provider before taking any form of supplements for medical reasons.
Hibiscus tea contains a high dosage of manganese, and it is therefore not a good idea to overdose on this drink. Around two to three cups a day is a safe bet.
Swap you cup of green tea now and then, and enjoy this tart, ruby-red treasure-trove of healthful benefits. Hibiscus tea, I can’t get over how pretty you make my cup look!