I preface my post here by first telling you, I used to be an iced tea (black tea) drinker for many, many years. I drank it all day long. It replaced my Coke/Pepsi addiction, which I had for many, many years before that. I gave up sodas because they just have waaaaay too much sugar in them, plus the carbonation had an adverse effect on my digestive system after I had my kids. Sweet tea took over as my thirst quencher after that, until I decided that the pink stuff I was using to sweeten it wasn’t good for me either. I only used it because sugar rots your teeth. I eventually learned to like unsweet tea, until I discovered agave nectar – but they don’t usually have that at restaurants. Okay, honey then.
After a recent surgery my doctor visited my hospital room and saw my small cup of iced tea on my dining tray. He wagged his finger at me and said, you better lay off that stuff. It’s is very dehydrating. Well darnit! That was the first iced tea I’d had in months. When I started chemo I defaulted to drinking water ONLY. Chemo is very dehydrating, and I worked really really hard to keep myself hydrated through all my treatments, but there were weeks after each treatment when water just didn’t taste good at all. Food didn’t taste good. Nothing tasted good. I switched from drinking my water out of a metal cup, to drinking it out of glass, and that seemed to help, but it was just plain hard some days to choke water down. My doctor suggested flavored pedialyte, so I got some of that, and I drank lots of Pom (pomegranate juice), and watermelon water – the no sugar added brand.
And then I discovered hibiscus tea. What a wonderful little beverage. My dearest neighbor had it at her farmstand one Saturday morning, and her husband mixed me up what he called a “suicide.” Remember those? That’s funny, because that’s exactly what we called them also, when I was a teenager. It’s when you fill your glass with a shot of every soda pop variety in the dispenser. Well the only two things my neighbor had to mix together were the hibiscus tea (which had basil leaves and mint in it) and lemonade with slices of real lemon. It was fantastic. It sure is great to finally have my taste buds back. So I’ve started making my own versions of hibiscus tea, and that’s what I drink now all day every day. It’s how I stay hydrated through these last chemo treatments, and during these HOT summer months.
Our local grocery store sells the dried hibiscus flowers by the bag in the Mexican products section, so I stay stocked up with several bags on hand, and I make about a half-gallon of the stuff every other day. I keep lemons and limes on hand, and I grow my own mint and basil (my sweet neighbor grows balsamic basil and it is the best). I’m trying to grow my own balsamic basil, but until it gets big enough to harvest I just snag it from her at her farmstand on Saturdays.
I start by tossing a couple small handfuls (approximately 1 heaping cup) of the flowers into a short drinking tumbler, cover it with a strainer to hold the flowers in the glass while I run the water into the glass and over the flowers. The strainer also keeps the flowers from escaping while I’m dumping out the water from the glass. I rinse and dump and rinse and dump about 3 times. This gets all the dirt out of the flowers.
Next, I fill a small saucepan a little over half full with filtered water – approximately 2 cups. I actually use hydrogen/alkaline water that I buy locally in 5 gallon containers. Then I bring the water just almost to a boil, to the point where I see the steam rising and small bubbles forming. I dump the rinsed flowers into it, give it a stir, and then turn the heat down to low, and let it simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, until the water has turned a deep dark red color. I then take it off the heat and let it cool completely.
Once cooled, I set up my half-gallon mason jar with a canning funnel and set the strainer inside. The funnel keeps the strainer in place while I pour the simmered tea through the strainer into the jar. I then refil my saucepot with filtered water and let the flowers soak again just a little more, so I get all the last bit of goodie out of them. I pour that second tea water into the jar, catching the flowers in the strainer. I like to toss the spent flowers into my garden. They make great compost. Finally, I fill the jar all the rest of the way full with just plain filtered water.
I like to add my sliced lemon, sliced lime, mint leaves, a sprig of basil, or whatever other fruit (sliced strawberries, orange wedges, watermelon slices, sliced cherries or grapes), to my jar of tea and let it all mingle for several hours overnight before I drink it. If you just like lemon, do that. Or just mint. Or just lime. It’s all good. You could even make ice cubes out of the tea so it doesn’t delute as you’re drinking it. Or freeze grapes and use them in place of ice cubes.
I twist on my lid and place my tea in the refrigerator. And hopefully I’ve made this new batch while I still had a huge glass of the old batch left to tide me over until this new batch is ready the next day.
I like mine sweetened, and over ice. I mostly use agave nectar to sweeten my tea, but I have been known to use maple syrup, date syrup, and honey — raw, unfiltered local honey is the best!!!!!!!!
I only sweeten by the glassful. I do not sweeten the whole half-gallon.
So, there you go. Now it’s your turn to go grab yourself some dried hibiscus flowers, whatever fruit you like, and a sweetener that you prefer, and whip yourself up a batch of this lip-smacking yumminess! Stay hydrated this summer my friends, in the most delicious way!!!!!!! And if you know someone who is going through cancer treatment, be a blessing and take them a nice big jar of this wonderful beverage. If you are feeling especially generous you can include a bag of the dried flowers and a lemon so they can make another batch when they run out. People did so many wonderful things like this for me and each and every one of them were a blessing. May God bless you for all that you do.
“No longer drink water only, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.”
1 Timothy 5:23