Human Flower Project

Get Down with Bissap

Build your verve and calm your nerves with a glass of festivity, gift of the hibiscus.


Brewing bissap from hibiscus flowers over an open fire.

Photo: Janagada

What’s red and healthy and drunk all over?

Hibiscus tea. It goes by many names across the world – karkade in the Sudan, roselle in Thailand, flor de jamaica in Jamaica, and Red Zinger at your favorite hippie restaurant. Since moving to Texas 12 years ago, it’s been our favorite summertime beverage, though only today did we learn that it’s a widely acknowledged “refrigerant,” that like Barton Springs Pool, can actually lower body temperature.

imageThe calyces of Hibiscus sabdariffa make for a tea high in Vitamin C

Photo: Edna Pronat

Pesticide Action Network

This Christmas we had some non-boozer friends over for dinner and, reaching for something festive, brewed up a pitcher of ruby-red hibiscus tea. Turns out it’s a great wintertime drink too; the Panamanians, who call it saril, have been enjoying it around Christmas and the New Year for a long time.

You may not be needing a refrigerant at this time of year, but hibiscus tea has other healthy properties too; it’s been proven to lower blood pressure, something even a snake would find appealing at this highly emotional season.

On the commercial front, we read about enterprises now underway in Senegal to bring back hibiscus production.

Magatte Wade, a native of Senegal who was educated in France and the U.S., returned to Africa several years ago. “I discovered that people were basically abandoning bissap - a red drink made from the hibiscus plant - because for them, if you’ve made it now in this world, you drink the western brands.”

imageHarvesting hibiscus in Senegal

Photo: Edna Pronat

Pesticide Action Network

Wade also found that many Senegalese women, who had subsisted on sale of hibiscus calyces for brewing bissap, left their rural homes for the city. “A lot of them end up on the street and their kids end up begging as well, and - at the same time - the land back home is bought up for nothing by speculators, and then all of a sudden these people find themselves with nothing,” she told the BBC.

Wade, in partnership with others, began Adina World Beat Beverages in 2004, with the goals of returning Senegalese women to a profitable form of farming, reclaiming the land, and promoting this healthful beverage, “the national drink of Senegal.”

Still keyed up as the New Year approaches? Bissap, sweetened with a little local honey, may bring you happily down from the holiday high-wire.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/27 at 05:07 PM


Just sitting here writing after my last sip of a delicious cup of hibiscus tea - waiting for something to happen.  Ha, seriously I think that I like it and it can’t hurt me, so why not.  It sure is red.  Thanks for the tip.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/29 at 12:52 PM

Happy New Year, John! So glad you are enjoying hibiscus tea —takes some sweetening, though doesn’t it! We use big dollops of honey around here.

To your health and happiness in 2012!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/02 at 12:30 PM

The drink is known as Sorrel in Jamaica and it’s oh so refreshing!

Posted by Georgia on 01/06 at 12:31 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.