By Navdeep Kaur
This week we spoke to Monty about the hibiscus flower and the popularity of hibiscus iced tea in Mexico and Southern California where she grew up.
Needless to say, the hibiscus flower is one of those classic tropical blooms that makes us peruse about sunsets, cool breeze, beaches and fruity drinks. It is also not surprising that the fragrant flower, with its strong zesty flavour, is widely used in cooking savoury and sweet dishes alike, in various parts of the world. The flower is readily available as it grows in abundance in the southern parts of America and the nature of it is such that while it only lasts for one day on the stem, if the petals are dried and stored properly, they present umpteen culinary possibilities. The dried petals make for a refreshing beverage popularly known as Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea).
Monty fondly narrates her mother’s making of the drink, “my mom would buy dried hibiscus from a local grocer and boil it in a pot with either sugar, honey or molasses and maybe add some cinnamon or cardamom, let it cool and serve it as iced tea. She loves to make it and used to do it pretty often when I was growing up.” The beverage is also well liked in family gatherings on her mother’s side and Monty believes that every family probably has their own secret ingredient to add to the drink to jazz it up!
Monty says that she is a coffee drinker, however for her, it is only a drink for the morning. She emphasizes on the calming and meditative side of tea making and drinking, “the days that I do make tea, it's because I want to relax with it. Hibiscus tea is what I like to make on a day off, when I'm just engaged in the process of making it, watching a movie while drinking it or going up to my apartment’s roof with it.” It is in this ritual of preparing and consuming a refreshing Agua de Jamaica, that Monty finds solace.
This bold, ruby-colored iced tea can turn out to be remarkably refreshing on a warm day, especially with some added fennel, lemon, mint or ginger. Moreover, it makes for a healthier, delectable and cheaper substitute for sodas. Taking ideas from our dear Monty, make a big batch for yourself and refrigerate it for a rejuvenating drink everyday!