The first time I tried Egyptian Karkade (Kehr-kih-deh) or Hibiscus Iced Tea, I was staying at a hotel in Egypt. Like many hotels in places with warm climates, the hotel lobby featured complimentary cool beverages. Instead of the usual water or lemonade that a lot of places offer up to their sweltering guests, hotels in Egypt offered Karkade. Being my usual large and disturbingly overheated self, I sauntered over to the large glass beverage dispenser containing the deep red drink. I poured myself a small glass and sipped at the cool beverage. Considering how hot I was (or always am) any cool liquid would have tasted like heaven. Nonetheless, I immediately noticed the tart herbal, almost cranberry-like flavor that is so uniquely Hibiscus. At first, I pulled back confused because I wasn’t expecting those flavors, but once my senses adjusted, I realized that the drink was pretty delicious. I’ve been hooked on it ever since.
Unfortunately, a lot of the hibiscus beverages offered in America are diluted with sweet, overpowering berry juice flavors or made with low quality hibiscus. You can find dried hibiscus in tea bags, which is fine for making a quick cup of hot hibiscus tea, but the really good stuff comes as dried whole flowers. You simply can’t match the potency and richness of flavor that comes from quality hibiscus. It doesn’t hurt that the tea is supposedly full of antioxidants (even more than green tea) and allegedly lowers high blood pressure when you drink enough of it although the hard scientific studies about this are a little lacking.
This recipe is very simple and creates a well-balanced iced tea that is sure to please as well as impress your more adventurous guests. Many of my friends who never tried it before really enjoyed it and refilled their glasses more than once.
Makes 8 cups of Karkade (Hibiscus) Iced Tea at 45 calories per cup.
Egyptian Karkade - Hibiscus Iced Tea Recipe
Hibiscus iced tea garnished with fresh mint.
- 10 cups of water
- 1 cup (or roughly 2 oz by weight) of karkade (dried hibiscus flowers)
- 1/2 cup of sugar (360 calories) Note: If you prefer it sweeter, then try 3/4 cup of sugar.
- Large pot
- Large pitcher with lid or plastic wrap
- Cup measurement
- Fine mesh strainer
- Long spoon or ladle
- Optional: Cheesecloth
- Bring 10 cups of water to a boil.
- Pour in 1 cup of dried hibiscus into the water.
- Boil for 2 to 3 minutes and then turn off the heat and move the pot off of the burner.
- Let the hibiscus steep in the water for 15 minutes.
- Carefully pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer into your pitcher. If your dried hibiscus is very fine, you may also want to line the mesh strainer with cheesecloth to keep out any sediment. If you can’t easily manage to pour the tea through a strainer into your pitcher, then just pour it into another container until you can transfer it to your pitcher. Be careful when transferring the hibiscus because it stains almost anything it touches very easily. Try and make sure to use glass and metal for anything that touches the hibiscus. Plastic, wood, or anything porous is not a very good choice. Wipe up any drops on the counter or in the sink quickly too! Discard the used hibiscus flowers.
- Pour in the 1/2 cup of sugar and mix the tea using a long spoon or ladle. Rinse the spoon off immediately after use to avoid potential staining.
- Let the tea cool in the pitcher until you can place your hand against the side without burning yourself. Then place the pitcher, covered, in the refrigerator for a few hours until cool.
- Once cool, taste the tea. If it’s too concentrated for you, then feel free to dilute it a bit with an extra cup of water or to your own taste. Then just mix well and taste again. Remember, that you can always add water, but you can’t really take it away, so start slow if you choose to dilute the tea a little. Also, keep in mind that if you serve the tea over ice and the ice melts, that will also dilute the tea even more.
- Serve plain in a glass or over ice and garnish with fresh mint leaves for a mild, refreshing, accentuating flavor.
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