Looking for something at the local “package store” in the way of a cordial or fruit syrup, I came across this gorgeous Art Deco looking bottle containing a rose pink colored hibiscus flavored tequila, Rosangel, which was between $40 – $50, a little out of my budget as a mixer, but nevertheless, I was intrigued and thought I’d learn a little bit about the use of hibiscus flowers in making drinks.
As it turns out, there are many uses for the hibiscus in holistic pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foods and beverages, but I’ll be focusing only on the use of the hibiscus as beverage!
As it turns out the hibiscus flower is quite well known in Europe, used in tea bags, such as Teekanne Fix Butte Rosehip and Hibiscus Tea (I love the name!), made in Germany. Since it is consumed world-wide, it is known by many names.
In the English-speaking world it is commonly known as the Roselle. In the Americas it is quite popular and known as “flor de Jamaica” in Hispanic cultures, and as “sorrel” in the Caribbean and commonly used as a refreshing drink served chilled with ice “on the rocks” as they say.
In fact in Mexico the brew made from hibiscus is called “agua de Jamaica” but there is also a very popular carbonated drink called Jarritos Jamaica Soda. The Carib Brewery Trinidad Limited in Trinidad and Tobago produces a Shandy Sorrel where sorrel tea is combined with beer.
The dried roselles of the hibiscus contain the flavonoids gossypetin, hibiscetine and sabdaretine. They are also rich in anthocyanins and protocatechuic acid. It’s known to contain many healing properties and its health benefits include:
*aids in weight loss and fat reduction
*contains vitamins A and C, Calcium, Iron and Phosphorus
*helps to eliminate water retention.
*cleanses and heals of urinary tract and bladder infections.
*lowers levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides
*lowers blood pressure
*it is a mild laxative, provides relief for digestive problems
*taken in tea form, it will help alleviate cold and flu symptoms, upper respiratory infections, insomnia, muscle tension, and skin rashes
*detoxifies your system
With all those benefits to consuming the humble hibiscus – naturally, I had to try some! So I went into a Hispanic groceries store and bought a couple of packets around $1.60 each but flor de Jamaica packets can also be found in health food stores and even the Hispanic or Caribbean food section of many grocery store chains or online!
To prepare the brew, just take about a cup of the dry flowers, sugar to taste or Stevia can be added later while the liquid is still warm, and make a strong brew with a quart of water-you can always dilute later with cold water as you pour it on ice for your hibiscus tea. Let the brew come to a full boil and then let it steep covered for another half hour or so. Sorry about the mood lighting, but in one of my pictures you can see the rich deep maroonish red color of the drink that results, flavored here with some Stevia powder, and the deep almost black dried blossoms used, which I put in a jar for storage…
What does it taste like? Very much like tamarind, which is tart, fruity, not very different to pomegranate molasses. Okay, I know that all that is a bit too exotic for many of you…but you know you have to live a little and try different things… Anyway, I hope you try some “flor de jamaica” – it’s worth the try!
Serve it on the rocks — hibiscus — a most refreshing drink! Oh, and I would definitely refrigerate the brew to keep it fresh and nutritious!