What is Hibiscus?
Hibiscus Sabdariffa is a tropical flower from which the calyces, the outer leaflike structure which supports the flower bud and petals, are used to make herbal tea (known as tisanes), food, and fibers.
Hibiscus is a member of the mallow family that has been grown and used in Africa and India for thousands of years. The calyx is used as a cooling, demulcent herb, meaning it is moistening and soothing to mucus membranes. These properties are most effectively drawn out using cold water, making it a perfect drink for hot, dry climates – though I enjoy it just as much on muggy days. Hibiscus is full of vitamin C and antioxidants, and has been shown to be beneficial to heart health and reducing hypertension.
How to Make the Best Hibiscus Tea
Hibiscus is best cold brewed to bring out the most flavor without too much tartness taking over. It also brings out those cooling, demulcent properties that are so helpful in the summer.
Sun tea is another great option for brewing, as the water starts off cold then slowly warms with the power of the sun. This would also speed up the infusion, and the magenta-colored water and leaves are mesmerizing swirling in the sun.
However you make your iced tea, if you want to sweeten it, it's best to use an easy-to-make simple syrup or honey dust, which will dissolve into cold water to make the best hibiscus tea.
All this isn’t to say you can’t brew a hot cup of hibiscus tea or a hibiscus blend. Sweetened with a touch of honey or sugar, or left plain, a hot cup would bring out more of a cranberry flavor.
Just don’t add any milk or cream, as the acid in the hibiscus would curdle the dairy (or non-dairy milk) and ruin your cup.
Hibiscus can be enjoyed straight in all its tangy glory, and Plum Deluxe has a Just Hibiscus tea for just that, but it also makes an excellent addition to blends. Rosehips, lemongrass, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lime, lemon, and orange all blend really well with hibiscus. In the summer, I make an iced tea I call Summer Wedding Tea that mixes orange peel, chamomile, lemon verbena, raspberry leaf, and hibiscus. Try playing around with different combinations until you find your very own summer blend.
We also carry a selection of hibiscus blends. If you are looking for a hibiscus-forward blend that can serve as a hot tea, an iced tea, and a cocktail mixer, then give the lime and hibiscus flavor of Happy Hour blend a try. Looking for something a little more subdued to start? The lemongrass, spearmint, and chamomile in Tranquil Dreams blend well with hibiscus, rosehips, and orange to create a smooth herbal tea that works just as well hot as it does iced.
Ways To Use Hibiscus Teas
Hibiscus’ unique flavor and outstanding color lends itself to more creativity than tea alone. My favorite way to use hibiscus is to cold brew a strong iced tea and then mix in some Simply Lemonade, copycatting Starbuck’s unsweetened Passion Tea Lemonade, which I can drink by the gallon. You could also infuse the tea directly into the lemonade.
Grab some Happy Hour blend or Just Hibiscus and break out the cocktail shaker to make tea cocktails. Or make hibiscus tea into an agua fresca by adding plain or flavored soda water.
A ruby-colored hibiscus tea-based fruit syrup would also make a stunning addition to iced tea, cocktails, soda water, or drizzled over ice cream and fruit. When the weather gets hot, move the hibiscus to the freezer and make tea ice pops. On cooler days, hibiscus can be used to make a pink syrup which gets drizzled over vanilla cake to make a lush hibiscus cake.
With all of the possibilities that come with this pretty pink flower, you are sure to find a new summer favorite. Tinker around with some suggestions and find the best hibiscus tea for you!