The first time I saw hibiscus tea, I was in a small take away restaurant called Super Taqueria in San Jose California. The drink was in one of those big clear plastic containers on the counter where the contents are aerated. I was out of my comfort zone just walking into the place and ordering a super taco with no avocado (the list of things I wouldn’t eat was still pretty long at 19). Most of the signage was in Spanish. I had no idea what jamiaca aguas fresca was, and I certainly wasn’t brave enough to find out. (Super Taqueria is still in business by the way, and if it is still the same as it was 29 years ago, I highly recommend it! Best carne asada tacos anywhere.)
Fast forward a few years, and I’m living in Boulder Colorado, home of Celestial Seasonings teas (this was before the merger with Hain). The teas were available on practically every street corner. As a newly minted “crunchy” girl (I stopped shaving my legs or wearing much makeup about this time, and started to explore the 3 health food stores in town and trying out crazy new ingredients like sweet potatoes and whole wheat – gasp) I was happy to try herbal teas for the first time. Turns out one of the main ingredients in the majority of Celestial’s herbal teas is hibiscus. It’s the red in “Red Zinger”. I still drink a lot of Celestial’s teas to this day.
Fast forward again to last year, on a sweltering day at the local farmers market. As we are packing up our booth, Manny from Grandma’s Kitchen, a little Mexican food booth with some of the best food around, comes over and gives my husband and I big glasses of hibiscus tea. They are packing up and he doesn’t want to take it home, so he’s sharing with the vendors. And it was thirst quenching and tart and sweet and wonderful. And I’m suddenly realizing what I missed in San Jose all those years go.
About this time, a recipe for an alternative to Kool-aid comes across my Facebook feed, and what do you know, the main ingredient is hibiscus (called Jamiaca in Spanish). Because our area has a high Hispanic population, Latino foods are readily available and plentiful. I noticed that I could by Jamiaca in bulk at one of my local grocery stores. It’s very inexpensive. And so we started making our own less sweetened adult Kool-Aid last summer and never looked back.
The most common hibiscus used for tea is Hibiscus sabdoriffa. It’s native to Africa, but has become widespread in tropical climates. It’s related to the beautiful hibiscus that we think of as the “flower of Hawaii” and is in the same plant family as common mallow, a perennial weed you can find EVERYWHERE on our property. There are hundreds of plants in the hibiscus genus, and thousands in the Malvacae plant family. Many have medicinal uses.
Hibiscus sabdoriffa is full of vitamin C and other antioxidants, and has been reported to reduce blood pressure and maybe even lower cholesterol. It’s recommended that if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant that you consult with your physician before drinking hibiscus tea.
Summer Hibiscus Tea Thirst Quencher
- 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers (actually the calyx, but who’s keeping score), often signed as Jamiaca in the Latino section of the store).
- 4 cups boiling water
- 4 cups cold water
- Sweetener to taste (we start with about 1/4 cup sugar or its equivalent)
Bring 4 cups water to a boil and pour over hibiscus flowers. Seep for 20 minutes. Strain. Add 4 additional cups of cold water and sweetener. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Serve over ice.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2014, where the first farmers market of the season is this Saturday. Squeeee!