TEA SPOTLIGHT: WILD BERRY HIBISCUS
It was years after becoming a barista, far beyond my first forays into creating concoctions with different teas, that my attention was drawn to hibiscus. I’m sure I must have experienced it much sooner. Perhaps as an ingredient in an herbal blend, its deep red sepals adding a bit of color and cranberry like flavor. But I don’t have a lasting memory of it. I can, however, remember vividly the first time I steeped Wild Berry Hibiscus. The dried hibiscus and elderberries had a rich, heady aroma even before I poured the first drop of hot water. With little else to distract from the hibiscus itself, I recall watching it closely as the water first hit. Almost immediately, beautiful dancing red ribbons of color dropped, swirling like smoke, and settling at the bottom of the glass teapot. Over the 5 minute steeping time, I watched as the ribbons of color came together and expanded, filling the pot until it resembled a large ruby on the table. The aroma expanded as well, the entire tea lab was enveloped by the tart and fruity scent.
I also made a new friend at work that day. As he walked by the tea lab the aroma of hibiscus grabbed his attention and pulled him in. He introduced himself and said he was drawn in by the familiar smell of hibiscus. He was originally from Senegal, and he explained that there it is called bissap and is considered the national beverage. At home he would infuse it with fresh ginger. He described some of the great benefits of drinking bissap saying, “It contains a good amount of vitamin C and helps with circulation.” Following that meeting I would always share with him some of my Wild Berry Hibiscus.
Unlike the ornamental hibiscus flowers many people associate with Hawaii, hibiscus sabdariffa is cultivated largely for its calyx, or “fruit”. That’s the part of the plant that protects and supports the flower. It is believed to have originated in Africa, and during the late 16th and early 17 centuries it was traded and transported to the West Indies, Asia, and eventually the Americas and all over the world. Now hibiscus is enjoyed in many different countries and is known by many different names. For instance, in Mexico, it’s one of the most popular aqua frescas known as agua de Jamaica, often steeped with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and sugar. The Jamaican sorrel drink, also steeped with a variety of spices, and served over ice—sometimes with a shot of rum—is a joyful winter holiday tradition.
Mighty Leaf Wild Berry Hibiscus is one of my favorite herbal blends to drink as is. The tart berry flavor is great as a hot or cold drink, sweetened or unsweetened. It's wonderful when made into kombucha during secondary ferment, or incorporated into an endless variety of vibrantly beautiful beverages. I tend to steep a strong brew and sip on it throughout the day. Once cooled I'll often top it off with bubbly water and a squeeze of fresh lime. With little effort I can create an elevated hydrating experience.
The versatility of Wild Berry Hibiscus makes it an excellent addition to any kitchen. Whether infusing it into ice cream for a warm day's refreshment or including it in your nutrient-rich smoothie bowl morning routine, Wild Berry Hibiscus delivers a splash of color and pop or flavor.
-Anni Pattee, Mighty Leaf Tea Specialist