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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Drinking Flowers

Whether it's a Roselle, aqua de Jamaica, Sorrel, Red Sorrel, Bissap,  Arhul Ka phool, or Hibiscus Tea, the sweet tart drink infused with the sun dried magenta colored petals of hibiscus flowers is mystically refreshing. While hibiscus tea (served hot or cold) is common in most tropical climates worldwide, I'm most familiar with the perky chilled Caribbean versions. It's simple to make and even easier to drink. Sure, there are dozens of mass produced pre-processed instant powder products, cute packaged individual teabags, and concentrated extracts available to whip up  batches of hibiscus tea, but taking a few moments to steep the gnarled and strangely beautiful dried flower petals unleashes their pure seductive essence.

After dropping into Selby's Tropical Market to pick up a few pounds of bacalao (salted cod) for a riff on brandade, I was drawn to a small bag of dried hibiscus flowers. I was so taken aback by their absurd exotic oddity that I almost forgot about the salted cod. That's another tale.

Hibiscus Tea.

Using a deep sauce pan, I brought 4 cups water, 3 whole allspice berries, a small peeled knob of ginger, and 1 cup sugar to a boil. When the sugar dissolved, I tumbled 1 cup of dried hibiscus flowers into bubbling water, let it rip for a couple of minutes, removed the pan from the heat, and covered the pan before letting the flowers re-hydrate and steep for 45 minutes.

When the concentrated purple tea cooled, I strained the solids, added 4 cups of water and 1/2  cup fresh lime juice. After pouring the tea into a large glass pitcher, I slid it into the refrigerator to chill.

With hints of spicy ginger and bright lime juice poking through the sassy cranberry-like undertones of the hibiscus, the tea was fantastic simply chilled over ice.

A shot of vodka made it happy.

A heavy handed splash of Veuve Clicquot made it sing.

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