I hope all of you are warm and safe! During early December, it seemed like this winter was going to be a balmy one...but then last week, the polar winds pushed things in the opposite direction. Sparky, of course, was delighted to get time added to his winter vacation, and after lots of exploring knee and thigh-high snowdrifts (and lots of work trying to keep the sidewalks clear!) we were all happy to warm up at indoors with a hot drink. By day three of our snowdrift adventures, though, we were tired of hot cocoa.
I often make herbal teas, or tisanes in the summer as an iced drink: they offer a little variety and some flavor without needing too much sweetener. Up to this point, we'd used brand-name tea blends (notably the ones whose names start with z and rhyme with "stinger") - and there's nothing wrong with those. I'd wanted to try the hibiscus flower pods they were made from, which we find here in Hispanic or Caribbean markets. In the summer, street vendors use it to make the terrific iced Agua de Jamaica. I decided to try to make our own...but this time, we'd try it hot.
We kind of made things up as we went, using flavors we thought would be complimentary to the sour flavor of the hibiscus flowers (they taste kind of like mild cranberries.) I had a beautiful orange in our fruit bowl, so Sparky used a vegetable peeler to carefully remove the orange zest. We then rotated a new vanilla bean into our jar of vanilla sugar and broke up the dried-out one into small chunks. Here's what we wound up with:
About a cup of dried hibiscus
Zest of half an orange (organic)
1 vanilla bean, cut or broken into small pieces
1 tablespoon candied ginger bits
2 sprigs of fresh mint, de-stemmed
Sparky mixed all the ingredients together and poured them into a jar, and set them on the counter to allow the mint and orange peel to dry a bit. We then put a tea infuser in our teapot, dropped in about a tablespoon of the mixture, and poured water we'd heated to a bare simmer over the top, and let it steep for five minutes, until it was a rich ruby red. The scent is fantastic!
Sparky added a spoonful of vanilla sugar to his, but I liked mine fine without - it's a warming, fruity drink. If you're looking for something that's a bit lighter than hot cocoa, this is definitely the way to go! Enjoy!