Sunday, July 6, 2014

Nigerian Hibiscus Tea

Cold-brewed Hibiscus Tea with Ginger Slices in a mason jar
Cold-brewed Hibiscus Tea with Ginger Slices
One of the things that I know for sure is that living outside of Nigeria has made me more Nigerian. I get to appreciate the cultural heritage more because I have access to more information more. I get to appreciate the food more because I miss the distinctively Nigerian way of cooking and eating foods. I also get to discover random things escaped my consciousness while I lived in Nigeria.

A couple of months back, I was on Instagram when I saw this post on Nigerian tiger prawns. It was the first time I ever knew that seafood from Nigeria is a thing. I grew up in Lagos and one of the perks of all that water is that I have pretty much been eating fish my whole life. When I was a child, if I ever got sick or my sister got sick, my mum would make us fresh fish soup. This was considered a delicacy because it used mostly catfish that would be freshly killed. The sad part of this is that I most likely would not have the appetite to enjoy the fish.

Although I grew up aware of the abundance of seafood, I did not realize shrimp/prawns was something that Nigeria exported. So, a little bit of googling later, I discovered that the prawns are actually alien to Nigeria but they have thrived in there. Their beauty lies in their massive size making them suitable to be the centre-piece of a recipe.

My other discovery was this week at the grocery store. I noticed that Republic of Tea has a particular blend of tea that is prominently labeled as Nigerian Hibiscus Tea. I was so excited when I saw this that I had to buy it. I was so excited because I miss Zobo or as it is known in the west Hibiscus tea. Hibiscus tea is something that we made at home all the time in Nigeria. It is usually made to be really full bodied with a sharp sweetness and a gingery kick. Some people also add in garlic. A common component of Hibiscus tea in Nigeria is fruits as well especially pineapple.

Although I grew up hot brewing hibiscus tea, I have recently gotten into cold brewing because it is summer and I don't feel like dealing with heat. Also, cold brewing means you get subtler flavors. Although, if you cold brew for a really long time, you can certainly pull out lots of flavor from the tea with lots of notes (I know I am borderline crazy talking about notes on tea. I am a big tea drinker. I collect tea of all kinds. Some people talk in hushed tones about the finish of wine, I talk in hushed tones about tea notes.) When I do a cold brew, I often use twice the amount of tea I would use for a hot brew.  I put the tea bag into a jar of room temperature water and then I put it in the fridge. My cold brews are usually take about 8 hours to 24 hours in the fridge. You could brew for a shorter period of time. Mine take so long because I like to put it in before going to work or bed and drink the next day or in the evening.

The other thing that changed about the way I brewed my hibiscus tea is the amount of sweetener I use. My palette has changed since I was a kid so I don't like things to be too sweet. I wanted this hibiscus tea to be light and refreshing because I was drinking it to break fast. I did not go for the full bodied brew on this recipe.

The Republic of Tea Hibiscus Heart Healthy Nigerian Blossoms
The Republic of Tea Hibiscus Heart Healthy Nigerian Blossoms

Hibiscus Tea serves 2

2 Pure Hibiscus Leaf Teabags
1/4 Pound of Ginger root sliced
1/4 Cup of Pineapple Syrup

1. The pineapple syrup is actually quite easy to make. Before I peeled my medum-sized pineapple at home, I thoroughly washed the outside of it.  I cut off the head and bottom of the pineapple but saved the rest of the peels. In a big pot, I added in 2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar to the pineapple peels. Simmer for about 30 minutes to infuse the syrup with pineapple flavor. Allow the syrup to cool down with the peel before straining. Chill the resulting syrup.
2. In a jar with 3 cups of water, add in the hibiscus teabags and the ginger slices. Place the jar in a fridge for at least 4 hours. The longer you leave the tea in the fridge to brew, the stronger the flavor and color.
3. Strain the ginger slices out of the tea.
4. Add in the pineapple syrup and stir. Serve.

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