It’s March, and though our weather can’t seem to make up its mind, I know we’re all ready for spring, or better yet, summer. What better way to kickstart those sunny days than by mixing up a beautiful batch of iced tea?
Those of you who visit Heritage Days during the summer may recognize this beverage — it’s a staple of the Egyptian pavilion, though hibiscus tea is popular around the world. Various iterations of it exist, hot or cold, usually sweetened, but always a beautiful deep ruby red. High in vitamin C and containing no caffeine, hibiscus tea is supposed to come with a host of health benefits — ranging from weight loss to lower blood pressure — but as always, it’s best to consult an expert before drinking it solely for those purposes. For us, it’s a tart, tasty alternative to black iced tea!
Dried hibiscus blossoms can be found all around Edmonton. Just be sure that when you buy them, you buy a lot! You can also purchase pre-bagged hibiscus tea straight from the grocery store, but it tends to steep a lot thinner, and so is not as good for brewing iced tea. You could use it in a pinch, just know that you’ll end up going through a lot more bags.
The reason for needing so much tea is twofold: 1) because you pour your steeped tea over ice, it needs to be saturated enough to not become watered down and 2) the more hibiscus blossoms you steep, the closer you come to the same syrupy consistency of the Heritage Day version.
As far as prep goes for this recipe, be sure to have enough ice cubes beforehand, and give yourself time for the steeping to occur. It’s a bit more labour intensive than simply whipping up a batch of powdered iced tea, but it’s so much better, and you can control how much sugar you use!
How you prepare the tea may depend on if you’re the kind of person who has fillable tea bags in the cupboard. If you do, great! If you don’t, instead of steeping in a measuring cup as the directions below say, simply add the hibiscus blossoms to the boiled water in a pot, and strain them before pouring over ice. Either way, this easy recipe is sure to refresh and get you ready for brighter days ahead.
1 litre boiling water
24 ice cubes
1 cup dried hibiscus blossoms (or 30 grams, if weighing)
1 sprig of mint
Liquid honey or sugar to taste
Boil the water and pour into a container for steeping. I use a one-litre measuring cup.
Add the bagged hibiscus blossoms. Steep for 15 minutes, until very dark. The tea should have a consistency slightly more viscous than water.
While waiting, wash and slice the lime. You may add some of the lime juice to the steeped tea, if you like, but hibiscus tends to be quite tart, and adding the lime only makes it more so. If you prefer the complexity of flavour, you can balance it out by adding more sugar.
After the 15 minutes is up, press a spoon against the tea bags before removing to squeeze out as much tea as possible. Set aside — you can continue steeping these blossoms in another two to four cups of boiling water in order to top up your iced tea.
Put your ice cubes into a beverage pitcher. Pour the steeped tea over the ice.
Add the liquid honey or sugar. I recommend 1/4 cup of either, so that the tea is still tart, but not too tart.
Garnish with mint and lime wheels.
If you want to switch it up, try adding some ginger root to the water as it boils, or even steep the blossoms with a cinnamon stick for a festive flavour!