Looking for a refreshing and healthy drink to enjoy as the weather gets warmer? You’re going to love our hibiscus lemonade recipe! We’ve blended fresh citrus with our poppy-red Organic Hibiscus Powder for a drink so vibrant it will lift your mood instantly.
Hibiscus: your new favourite ingredient
Come summer, we’re always on the lookout for refreshing drinks to help us cool off. We tend to avoid the sugary cans of soda; not only are they a sugar crash waiting to happen, but the syrupy, artificial flavour doesn’t really appeal. Over the years we’ve experimented with iced tea, mixing in thick slices of lemon, and a dash of maple syrup. One of our ‘forever favourites’ is our Organic Bergamot Juice mixed with sparkling water and a sprig of rosemary (trust us: you’ll never look back). And of course, a mixed fruit juice like our rose and passion fruit elixir is always welcome on a sunny afternoon.We’re always big fans of lemonade - and adding extra healthy twists (see our charcoal lemonade recipe for clear evidence of this!). So imagine our delight when we discovered hibiscus flower; a delicious drink ingredient in its own right, and perfect for an extra-special lemonade.
What is hibiscus
Hibiscus is a flower. Or, to be more precise, it’s a family of flowers. There are a number of varieties, including Hibiscus sabdariffa, Hibiscus syriacus (which is the type we stock at Erbology) and Hibiscus rosa sinensis. Hibiscus flowers can range in colour, but varieties like our Hibiscus syriacus are famous for their vibrant red hue. (Fun fact: another type of hibiscus, called Hibiscus esculentus, has probably appeared in your pantry at some point. It’s the Latin name for okra! The vegetable we know and love is the seed pod of this variety.)Hibiscus has also been a popular ingredient in traditional medicine for eons. Cultures around the world have used it to treat all sorts of ailments, ranging from dry coughs to high blood pressure and skin problems.(1)Opinions vary on where this special flower originated. The name of one variety, rosa sinensis, means ‘rose of China’. But some experts think hibiscus may originally have come from India, Mauritius or Madagascar.
Hibiscus drinks around the world
Much as we’d love to pretend we came up with the idea of using hibiscus flower to make a delicious drink, many cultures got there long before us. In Mexico and other areas of Latin America, agua de Jamaica - iced hibiscus tea - is a popular soft drink. If you’re wondering where Jamaica comes into it, the flower itself is known as flor de Jamaica in Mexican Spanish, probably because the flower arrived via the Caribbean. You can make agua de Jamaica yourself by boiling hibiscus flowers in water, and reducing to create a concentrate. Add plenty of sugar, and use it as you would a cordial, topping up with ice and water. Other Caribbean variations might include flavourings like ginger or even rum and wine.A similar drink to the non-alcoholic agua de Jamaica is made in Nigeria (Zobo) and Ghana (Sobolo). However, people from Congo and Mali know it as bissap. It’s so beloved in Senegal that it has become the Senegalese national drink. While often served simply on its own, it’s also popular to flavour bissap with mint or ginger.
We haven’t been able to find a precise origin for hibiscus lemonade. However, one might hazard a guess that it was born out of the serendipitous meeting of two great traditional drinks. On the one hand, agua de Jamaica, and on the other, a good old-fashioned American lemonade. However it came into being, hibiscus lemonade is a recipe you’ll immediately want to bookmark. Aside from the incredible red colour it imparts, hibiscus flower has a lovely flavour of its own. It’s tart and slightly astringent, while also fruity; many people compare it to cranberry. As such it’s a wonderful addition to lemonade, both in terms of appearance and flavour.
Whole flowers or powder?
If you were to make hibiscus lemonade from scratch with whole dried flowers, you would need to follow the method described above for making agua de Jamaica.First, make your hibiscus concentrate by boiling the flowers in water and reducing down (you can leave adding the sugar til it’s mixed into the lemonade, to give yourself more control over the final flavour). However, if patience isn't your strong point, try using an Organic Hibiscus Powder like ours. We’ve simply taken organic hibiscus flowers, dried and powdered them so they dissolve in water instantly. That means you can stir it straight into your drinks without needing to make a concentrate first. Using a powder also has an extra benefit. Unlike making a concentrate, where you steep the flowers in water but strain them out afterwards, with a powder you will end up consuming the flower itself in your drink. That means you’ll get more of its healthy nutrients than you would from a simple infusion.
How to serve?
We love to make up a big pitcher of hibiscus lemonade to serve to friends and family, especially when it’s warm outside.It’s the perfect soft drink to accompany a barbecue or picnic, offering something a little bit different. You can make it as sweet as you like, depending on the tastes of your guests. Kids will undoubtedly prefer it on the sweeter side. Using honey or maple syrup to provide the sweetness, rather than cane sugar, is a good way to reduce the risk of sudden sugar highs and crashes, but in any case, try to go easy on it!If you would like to use additional flavourings, we recommend adding in a few whole mint leaves or a few slices of chopped ginger, inspired by the African versions of the drink. Any way you serve it, remember to pour over lots of ice, and make plenty; it will surely be in high demand!Beauty