There isn't a consensus on where the hibiscus flower originated, but many cultures the world over enjoy the tea made from steeping its dried petals. In parts of Latin America, they make agua fresca with it; in the Caribbean, the beverage is called sorrel and is typically served at Christmastime. In the Philippines, the flower, locally known as gumamela, comes in various colors — red, pink, purple, yellow, orange, and white — and is believed to have medicinal properties.
In West Africa, hibiscus tea is known as bissap, one of two traditional drinks (the other is kola nut tea) that came to the Americas by way of the slave trade. Here at home, hibiscus tea is commonly served at soul food restaurants and is usually part of African American gatherings and celebrations like Juneteenth, where crimson-colored foods and beverages abound as symbols of resilience and strength.
Every year my daughter's Girl Scout troop celebrates World Thinking Day by researching new cultures and foods. Each family is assigned a country and brings a dish from that country to the troop potluck. One year we brought hibiscus tea as a nod to my husband's West African roots. We made four gallons and it went fast. I guess it was everyone's cup of tea!
· 8 cups water
· 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers
· 2 cinnamon sticks
· 1/4 cup granulated sugar (use more or less, according to taste)
· 2 oranges, cut into slices
1. Bring water to a boil, then turn off heat. Stir in hibiscus flowers and cinnamon sticks. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
2. Strain tea into a pitcher; discard flowers and cinnamon sticks. Add sugar, stirring until fully dissolved.
3. Place orange slices in pitcher. Serve over ice.