In the heavy oppressive summer heat, a cool beverage is always welcome. In the Caribbean, the months of June through September are ones of long sunny days and extremely high temperatures. Although we have sunshine all year around, these months are particularly hot ones which means that everyone is looking for ways to keep their bodies cool and hydrated throughout the day and long into the evening. I love tea in all forms, so I make all types of melanges all year around. However, once the summer months roll around, I often opt for making more iced teas which are great thirst quenchers and are so much more appropriate in the summer than warm teas.
This recipe is one which I particularly enjoy as it mixes the tartness of Sorrel, Roselle or Hibiscus flowers with black tea and spices. Growing up in Guyana, sorrel was synonymous with the Christmas season. Pitchers of bright red sorrel drink were made in large quantities in my home when the flower buds were fresh. Now, dried sorrel is readily available from West Indian and Asian markets and as such, it can be enjoyed all year around instead of merely during the months of December and January.
Sorrel is originally native to West Africa though it is now found in many areas around the world. It is loaded with antioxidants and is purported to help lower blood pressure, fight bacteria and aid in digestion. Not to be confused with the beautiful hibiscus flower varieties which are so synonymous with the tropics, the hibiscus sepals used in this tea are the Sorrel or Roselle variety. Hibiscus tea bags can be found in the tea aisle at your supermarket.
Fresh sorrel also known as red hibiscus or roselle
Although I have made iced tea with the tea bags before, I prefer the outcome using the dried sepals instead of teabags; as the flavor much more agreeable and less medicinal. If you can procure fresh sorrel, by all means use them instead; though the proportions listed below will be different. I find that the dried sorrel or hibiscus flowers are far more potent than the fresh buds. The natural flavor is quite sour with a flavor similar to cranberry. The addition of the the black tea mellows out the tartness level quite a bit; while the orange juice freshens the beverage and makes it more summery in flavor. The cinnamon, cloves and ginger are an important flavor booster. I also use this trio of spices for their antioxidants, anti inflammatory and anti fungal properties. You may sweeten this drink with agave, honey or sugar as per your personal preference. Pour over a tall glass of ice and enjoy. I am sure that this will fast become a favorite.
Hibiscus Orange Ice Tea
1 cup dried hibiscus sepals (sorrel or Roselle)
3 black tea bags
2 cinnamon sticks around 2” in length
2 slices fresh ginger root
6 cups water
1 cup orange juice
1 cup agave nectar, honey or sugar to taste.
Dried ingredients and spices for red hibiscus and orange ice tea.
In a pot add water, ginger and dried spices. Bring to a boil.
Add the dried hibiscus or sorrel flowers and tea bags.
Red hibiscus or dried sorrel infusing with spices.
Cover and remover from heat. Allow tea to steep and cool for about 20 minutes.
Strain the tea into a large pitcher, pressing down on the sepals and tea bags to remove all liquid.
Add the orange juice and sweeten tea to your preference. If the tea is too strong, add additional water to taste.
Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate. Serve over ice.
The perfect summertime thirst quenching ice tea.
NB: The red hibiscus varieties pictured above are not used for making this tea, they are just used to enhance my photo. The wispy dangling red hibiscus are used in a tea preparation for colds and flu. I will do another post sometime on this medicinal tea.