Hibiscus is SO very Egyptian. We call it ‘Karkadeh’ and just ask any Egyptian about it, and they will undoubtedly tell you about the dark ruby-red and sickly sweet tea we make out of it. It is usually served cold, and traditionally consumed in large amounts during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day and break that fast with a big feast at dusk.
Break into ANY Egyptian household at sundown in Ramadan and I guarantee you will find a big-ass bottle/jug of the crimson nectar waiting to be gulped down by hungry family members. (Disclaimer: I am not encouraging breaking into people’s homes. Don’t come pointing fingers you guys).
To tell you the truth, I was never a big fan of Karkadeh prepared like that. It was always WAY too sweet and WAY too strong for my liking, but I always felt obliged to have a few sips of it nonetheless, in the spirit of the festivities. I do however believe that the tart cranberry-like flavour of hibiscus is wonderful, and that I could find many different ways to enjoy it that do not involve so much sugar as to overpower it and diminish its benefits.
Hibiscus tea’s benefits include lowering of blood pressure, decreasing spasms of the stomach, uterus and intestines, acting as an anti-bacterial and having high levels of anti-oxidants as well. Pretty impressive, huh?
I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Nubia in Luxor during our visit to Egypt last January, so I brought back with me some of these incredible local dried Hibiscus flowers that the area is so well known for.
Here, I combine them with regular black tea (omit for a non-caffeinated version) and rose water, and sweeten it just enough with some gorgeous honey for a refreshing and irresistibly floral drink to cool off with in the intense heat of summer days. It is marvelously fragrant and has the most irresistibly vibrant crimson colour, making it perfect for serving when entertaining for that wow-factor.
(…speaking of refreshing and pretty summery drinks, have you seen my Simple Mango Lassi recipe?)
Prepare it the night before, cool in the fridge and simply pour over ice or pair with some sparkling water for added fizz just before serving. A few slices of lemon and a scattering of dried rose petals aren’t necessary, but make for an even more impressive and showstopper of a drink.
- • 1 litre water
- • ¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers or petals/ OR 3 hibiscus teabags
- • 2 black-tea teabags (omit for caffeine-free version)
- • ⅓ cup honey
- • 2 tsp. rosewater
- In a large kettle or heatproof glass bottle, Place the dried hibiscus flowers/teabags and the black tea teabags (if using). Boil the water and pour into the bottle. Let steep for 15 minutes then remove the black tea teabags (if using) and add the honey and taste to adjust sweetness. It should be intense and slightly sweeter than you like because it will be watered down when you serve it over ice or with soda water.
- Let it cool down completely, then add the rosewater. Cover and chill in the fridge until cold. Strain out the hibiscus flowers/petals/teabags, serve over lots of ice or diluted with a little soda water for some added fizz. Add some slices of lemon and/or dried rose petals for added prettiness.