Hibiscus Iced Tea

Bissap/Zobo/Sobolo

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes about

    16

    servings

Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

Dried hibiscus flowers make a lovely deep red, refreshing tea popular in Ghana and other parts of West Africa. The smooth, sweet-tangy combination tends to draw rave reviews. Dried hibiscus flowers pair well with other flavorings, like pineapple and mango juices, as well as some alcohol, like rum. Recently, hibiscus has been touted in the West as an “African superfood.” It is also claimed to help lower blood pressure. This means the dried flowers are becoming much more widely available. This is the first version I learned at Flair in Ghana, and still make most often. Enjoy! But be forewarned, bissap is addictive—not literally, but because it tastes so wonderful.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried hibiscus flowers (bissap or roselle)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh lemongrass (optional)
  • 1 to 2 cups sugar (to taste)
  • 1 cup pineapple or mango juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Special equipment

  • Cheesecloth

Method

Directions

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. While it heats, put the dried hibiscus flowers in a metal strainer in the sink and rinse them lightly with water to remove any sand or grit they might contain (the dried flowers bleed immediately, so keep the strainer in the sink).
  2. Put the rinsed flowers and lemongrass, if using, into a large stainless steel, ceramic, or other nonreactive bowl, and pour the boiling water over all. Cover the bowl (I use a cheesecloth) and let it steep for at least 4 hours.
  3. After 4 hours, bring another 2 cups of water to a boil.
  4. Place a strainer over a second large bowl. Empty the hibiscus mixture into it to drain. Return the hibiscus solids to the original bowl and pour the just-boiled water over them. Stir the mixture well, and let it sit 10 minutes this time.
  5. Line the strainer with a folded cheesecloth. Pour the hibiscus mixture through the strainer again to add to the previously strained liquid. Pick up the cheesecloth by the ends and twist it tightly to remove as much liquid as possible, being careful not to burn yourself. Discard the solids. (Immediately rinse the cheesecloth out well with cold water or it will stain.)
  6. Stir in the sugar to taste and the mango or pineapple juice, lemon or lime juice, if using, and vanilla. After all of the sugar has dissolved, carefully pour the liquid into a pitcher or jar, leaving any sediment behind in the bowl. (A funnel works well to fill empty water or soda bottles, if desired.) Cover or cap and chill the bissap in the refrigerator.

To serve

Pour into a glass with ice and/or sparkling water, as desired. Garnish with fresh mint leaves, fruit slices, or sugarcane swizzle sticks.

Variations

  • Omit the fruit juice and add additional water to replace it.
  • Use rum flavoring or a little fresh ginger instead of vanilla.
  • Substitute other sweetener of choice.