Monday, June 4, 2012


Meetings in foreign countries invariably include a drink. In my four years in Egypt I drank a lot of ahwa seder (bitter coffee) as well as yansoon (anise tea), which became my signature beverage. I also grew partial to karkadeh, hibiscus tea, which can be served hot or cold. I don’t much care for the hot version, but the cold beverage is delightfully refreshing, and the dried flowers were available all over Cairo. I used to buy mine from a small spice shop by the Dokki metro, on Tahrir Street, near my office.

For our lunch at G-Lo’s 80th birthday, I toyed with the idea of making an agua fresca—some sort of light and fruity beverage—to accompany the carnitas. Looking for recipes on the Internet, I learned that hibiscus (Jamaica in Spanish) is also widely consumed in Mexico. At a local tienda in Carrboro, I spied what looked like the dried flowers in an unmarked bag among an assortment of dried peppers. Thinking they were what I wanted, but confused as to why they weren’t with the other coffees and teas, I asked the guy sweeping the floor if they were hibiscus. He looked at me uncomprehendingly, and said “Jamaica.” So I knew I had found what I was looking for.
I haven’t tried the recipe in the video below (and I’ve forgotten my Cairo recipe), so I’m not sure how accurate the proportions are. But you just simmer the flowers and sugar for awhile and then strain and cut the tea with cold water. Sweetness is a matter of taste, anyway, so the amount of sugar that suits you may vary. I’ll try it as soon as I’ve finished my pitcher of green tea with mint from the garden (thank you Morocco) and let you know what I think.

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