Herbal teas, or tisanes, are unique beverages made by steeping herbs, spices, fresh or dried flowers, seeds, stems, fruit, bark, and roots in hot water. Made from caffeine-free edible plant parts, they are believed to be beneficial for maintaining overall health. Like traditional teas, which are made by steeping leaves and buds from the Camellia sinensis, there are many different varieties available.
Hibiscus tea is one of the most famous herbal teas around today. Best known for its bold, brilliant color and tart flavor, it is consumed in many places including the U.S, Mexico, Egypt, Nigeria, Europe, and Jamaica. Interestingly, it can be appreciated both on its own or blended with other herbal tea ingredients to make a complex-tasting brew.
Origins & Looks
The beautiful flowering plant that is used to make this herbal tea is called roselle or Hibiscus sabdariffa. Native to Africa, the plant was brought to Asia and the West Indies in the 16th century. Today, it thrives in tropical and subtropical climates and flourishes in many hot and humid areas around the world.
The dried calyces of this flowering plant are used when brewing hibiscus tea. The calyx, a term referring to the outermost part of the flower, helps encapsulate the growing flower and protects it while it develops. The small leaves that are in charge of this are called sepals. A bunch of sepals all working together make up the calyx.
On the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant, the calyces are a bold magenta color. When fully matured, the flowers can be three to four inches in diameter and it takes about six months before they turn from white to crimson. Before they are ready to be used to brew this unique tisane, the flowers are dried.
Only mature flowers are picked and utilized for hibiscus tea. Unlike other types of herbal teas, the stems are left behind. The stamen in the center of the flower is also removed, leaving just the petals and sepals to be prepared. These are then dried in the sun for three to four days before being ready to brew or store away.
This herbal tea, which has been enjoyed for over four centuries, is now available both loose and in tea bags. Brewing this tisane, whether to be enjoyed hot or cold, is relatively easy and only requires a few items.
To make a batch of hibiscus tea, you will need a large bowl or pitcher, a strainer, and a cup to drink out of. For this recipe, it is recommended that you use 8 cups of water and 1 cup of dried hibiscus flowers (no stems). Sugar is also an optional ingredient, calling for up to 1 cup depending on your desired taste and sweetness level.
- Once you have all your ingredients and tools ready, place the water and the flowers into the large bowl or pitcher. Allow the flowers to steep for a day or two. You will know it is ready when the color has drained from the flowers.
- When the tea has adequately steeped, strain out the flowers and throw them away.
- Add in the desired amount of sugar (or alternate sweetener) during this time and mix until it is fully dissolved. (This step is optional as you can drink this tea without any sweetener if want.)
- At this time, you can either enjoy this tea in a glass with some ice or heat up a small portion on the stove or in the microwave for a hot beverage.
Appearance, Aroma, & Taste
The colorful flowers of the roselle plant make this tisane a brilliant ruby color. Also often described as being a deep crimson, it is dazzling to look at. Complementing its beauty is its floral and subtly sweet scent. When brewed, it has been described as tasting fruity, tart, and slightly sweet. By some, its taste has also been compared to that of cranberries.
Although hibiscus tea can be enjoyed all by itself, dried hibiscus flowers are also sometimes blended with other herbal ingredients to make a complex-flavored tisane. Some of these blends include:
- Plum Spice- a blend of hibiscus, coconut, apples, cranberries, ginger, and cinnamon
- Atoqua Herbal- a mixture of hibiscus, cranberries, orange peel, and lemon peel
- Prickly Pear Herbal- a combination of hibiscus and prickly pear cactus fruit
- Garden of Mariposa- incorporates hibiscus, spices, citrus, rose petals, lavender, turmeric, cloves, and a stevia leaf
Values in the Cup
In one 8 fl oz serving of hibiscus tea, there are zero calories, proteins, fats, carbs, and sugars. As with most herbal teas, this tisane is caffeine-free. This makes it a great option for those with caffeine sensitivities.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, many herbalists believe that hibiscus tea can be beneficial in some ways. Being full of vitamin C and antioxidants, some of the issues this tisane is believed to help with include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Liver damage
A Popular Tisane
Hibiscus tea is extremely popular in North America, Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Easily distinguishable due to its deep ruby color, floral scent, and tart cranberry-like flavor, hibiscus tea can be enjoyed both hot and served cold over ice.
This flavor is popular and, as a result, hibiscus flowers have been utilized for their taste in other herbal blends. Naturally caffeine-free and with a low nutritional value, this tisane is an excellent beverage for those with caffeine sensitivities or people who prefer low-calorie drinks.
If you are looking for a unique herbal tea to tickle your tastebuds, hibiscus tea is for you. It can be enjoyed any time of day, with or without sweeteners or additives, and during any season. Whether you are drinking it for the tart taste or for its potential benefits, it’s easy to brew and definitely lives up to the hype.