Hibiscus, a popular flower, is most known as the symbol of tropical vegetation with its signature overgrown bloom in pink or magenta tint gracing many travel brochures neatly tucked behind the ear of a welcoming hostess.
However it also makes for a remarkable cup of tea that not only soothes the mind, but also provides a uniquely sharp flavor note not far off from cranberry.
In this article we will be taking a look at how to brew the tropics into your cup, as well as taking a quick peak at the benefits of hibiscus tea.
Lastly we will also explain how to enhance, disguise or even transform the flavor of this tea with a few herbal or fruit elements that can be incorporated.
How To Make Hibiscus Tea
This warm brew also known as agua de Jamaica in some parts, is made using dried hibiscus flowers. It can be bought as a bagged tea or loose leafed for those who prefer the temper the taste using their own intuition and amount of product.
It can also be served as a cold iced tea that has been sweetened using sugar or a simple syrup reduction for a more refreshing tart kick on a hot day in summer.
It is often asked if hibiscus contains caffeine, but it does not, so much like green tea it makes for a super soothing drink to end the night before bed. Note that some bagged varieties may have caffeine added and it is recommended to read the nutritional information on the box if you are sensitive to caffeine.
What you need for a perfect cup:
- A pot of boiling water (Need a cheap electric kettle? Try one of these.)
- 10ml or about two teaspoons of dried hibiscus flowers, however, more or less can be used according to taste.
- Optional flavors such as fruit or herbs
- Sweetener of your choice such as honey, sugar or a simple syrup reduction
To make the tea, simply add your leaves to a pot of freshly boiled water and leave it for five minutes.
During this time, simply sit back and watch the water change color from clear to a beautiful deep magenta.
Five minutes is the average recommended time, but since all palates are different the time can be adjusted to suit your taste. Changing the temperate and the amount of time that you leave the tea to steep for can have a great impact on the overall flavor that you’re able to achieve. Some people like to really try to dial it in, whereas others don’t pay very close attention and end up with a slightly different brew each time.
Note: In some regions when served as agua de Jamaica it is steeped for up to ten minutes and sweetened with sugar. Some flavors, such as ginger or lime, are added but the recipe varies from region and family to family.
Pump up the flavor with a few added herbal or fruit extracts
Because the tea has such a tart flavor, it makes for a great base when playing around with added flavors from herbs or fruit.
Below we will discuss some popular herbal or fruit flavors that work in complimentary harmony with this tea.
- Orange: When it comes to tempering the tart nature of agua de Jamaica, aside from sugar, a few slices of orange or dried orange peel can create a citrus melody that is simply put, refreshing.
- Blueberry: Most berry flavors pair well with hibiscus, since the sweetness of these fruits play up perfectly against the sour but fruity flowering background found in the tea. When it comes to adding blueberries to the tea, the result is a very deep taste that lifts the delicacy and unique flavor palate of this berry and makes it stand out.
- Cranberry: Known as one of the most commercially available blended bagged teas, cranberry hibiscus tea is a popular choice due its sweetness and delicate flavor
- Raspberry: While it is already a tart taste in its own, when mixed with a flower tea, raspberries turn surprisingly sweet while providing a powerhouse of tang. It is best paired with a few spoons of honey to create a mini cup of raspberry pie in your hands.
- Ginger: This is a wild card, as not everyone is fond of ginger unless it is found in a chai mix. However, adding ginger to a tea made from hibiscus flowers results in a spicy throat soothing drink that really warms the body on a cold day. Save this combination for the heart of winter in front of the fireplace to stave off a cold. Orange can also be added to this mix for a truly decadent medley of flavors.
- Rosehip: Perhaps one of the most popular combinations of flavors on this list, adding this little red fruit derived from the rose plant to a cup of already tart flower tea results in a deliciously sour flavor profile that when sweetened perfectly hits the sweet and sour spot.
- Tropical Fruit: As the prototypical tropical flower, it would make sense that when paired with a variety of tropical fruit hints, this hibiscus drink hits a new flavour high. Try passion fruit for a mix of tart sweetness or play with the acidic tones by adding some pineapple. Feel free to experiment with ingredients from the tropics to create your own hot or cold soothing cuppas.
- Cinnamon: As with ginger, cinnamon takes hibiscus tea in a warmer direction and when combined with faint sweet floral tones hidden under the tartness of hibiscus flowers, it starts to resemble a wintery desert drink.
- Vanilla: This is yet another way to turn your brew into a desert to soothe a sweet tooth. Vanilla is the classic all-rounder for flavor additives, and when combined with this tea it is nothing less than simple and sweet like a bite of vanilla candy.
- Green Tea: Both of these teas are recommended for relaxation, so it makes sense to double up on the zen with a blend. However when it comes to flavour, this mix is like taking a drink of a floral meadow. The grassy notes of green tea mix perfectly with the flowery notes of the hibiscus and together they bring out only the best in each other.
The options for herbal blends paired with hibiscus are nearly endless, as the tea makes such a great base to showcase a variety of flavors. Other blends that can be tried include lemon balm, mint, spearmint and chamomile.
Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
This plant has a long history of medicinal use, specifically for its antioxidant properties and as part of detox cleanses.
One of the more famous health benefits of this tart flower tea is that it is purported to reduce blood pressure.
A study conducted in 2009 by the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts found that that the tea had a noticeable effect on systolic blood pressure levels when compared to a placebo group.
There are also reports that that these sweet hibiscus drinks can increase metabolism rates, and assist with healthy liver functioning.
Additionally due to its high levels of ascorbic acid, the also has marked antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help to keep the immune system healthy.
Note: It is always to consult your doctor before taking anything for medicinal purposes, including herbal teas. This is to avoid any potential side effects. Tea is definitely good for the soul, but it should not be used as medicine unless under a doctor’s advice.