Tea and sympathy: they go together like bread and butter. A fresh pot of tea represents comfort for many people. It manages to be common-place and yet luxurious at the same time. It feels most refreshing and special if you can pick and infuse your own fresh leaves. It’s not always possible to do this of course, but to get the best rewards in terms of flavour and pleasure, at least try to buy whole leaves.
This year, I picked and dried my own nettle, mint, rosemary, and sage leaves. Over the summer, I adored peppermint; it was undoubtedly my first choice brew. Now that the weather has turned colder, I find myself choosing instead the flambuoyant, ruby-coloured, cranberry flavoured hibiscus flower. I wouldn’t hestitate to put the shrub on my growing list next year, except it prefers to grow in warm, temperate climates. I doubt it would take well to my exposed and windy hill-side.
Hibiscus is also known as rosemallow, and it’s a flowering plant belonging to the same family as cocoa and cotton. The petals of the blossom are dried, and you only need to steep it in hot water to make a tea that will lift you by its vibrant jewel colour alone. Many herbalists claim hibiscus boosts your general immunity, protecting you against flu and cold symptoms. It is also frequently touted as an aid for managing high blood pressure.
You can drink hibiscus tea straight, hot or chilled. It can be used also as a base for a seasonal cocktail (add some prosecco). As a tea, it marries well with rosehip, cinnamon, or orange slices. I invariably make up a mixture which includes 1/2 tsp ground cardamon pods, and 1/2 tsp rosemary spikes. This recipe was given to me by the good people of Happily Raw. When I asked them why they referred to it as ‘happiness tea’, the answer wasn’t very clear. After a little research, I discovered hibiscus tea can, in some people, produce a hallucinogenic effect or can cause a sensation similar to intoxication. I can’t say it’s had such a noticeable effect on me – but it never fails to cheer me up, mid-morning or afternoon. If you are susceptible to the uplifting scent of rosemary, and the citrusy aroma of green cardamons, this brew could well suit you.
Precautions: If you have never tried hibiscus tea before, do not try it for the first time in situations where you may need to stay alert. Drink in moderation too, if you have low blood pressure, hormonal issues, or if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Otherwise, enjoy this gorgeous cuppa!