Hibiscus Citrus Tea
2012, James T. Farmer III and Maggie Yelton from "Sip and Savor" by James T. Farmer III, reprinted with permission by Gibbs Smith
A few weeks ago, I got a gorgeous Tropic Escape hibiscus from Costa Farms. My two-year-old son calls it his "hi-biscuits" and I considered quitting my job so I can spend all day staring into its massive, seven-inch blooms.
Since that doesn't seem to be a realistic option, I'm looking for new ways to drink in its beauty, starting with Hibiscus Citrus Tea, my new favorite recipe from lifestyle expert James Farmer's book Sip and Savor.
"I think a drink—or any food for that matter—must conjure up some wonderful memories to be great," Farmer says. "When I think of hibiscus, I think of tropical islands. The hibiscus is the quintessential tropical flower and grows so well in so many garden zones. The flowers make a deep, red tea with a distinctly refreshing flavor."
Farmer uses hibiscus outside the glass as well. "They look great as a centerpiece or in a large container with other plants," he says. "Plus you can use the big blossoms as a garnish for salads and decorating dishes."
When the tropical flowers aren't in bloom, Farmer forages for other flowers and herbs to spice up his trademark tea. "Honeysuckle blossoms, rosemary and lavender blend well in tea, and mint, lemon balm, verbena and chamomile make great drinks or garnishes," Farmer says. "Check to make sure that what you're using isn't poisonous first. Just because it smells great doesn't mean you can eat it!"
Delicious served hot or cold, this tea can still be made if you're not flanked by beautiful blooms. "It's perfectly fine to use dried hibiscus or hibiscus tea bags," Farmer says. "A happy hibiscus will make a happy gardener—and a tasty tea."
Hibiscus Citrus Tea
12 cups water
½ inch freshly grated or chopped ginger
1 ½ cups dried hibiscus flowers (or 8 hibiscus tea bags)
1 to 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, freshly squeezed
Combine water and ginger in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in dried flowers or tea bags and sugar. Let steep 10 minutes and give stir to make sure sugar dissolves.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large, heat-resistant bowl or pot. Set aside to cool. Stir in lemon or lime juice and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve over ice.