Health food: Egyptian iced tea

Jill Dupleix
Cool contender: Brewtown Newtown's Egyptian iced tea.
Cool contender: Brewtown Newtown's Egyptian iced tea. Photo: Edwina Pickles

What is it?

A ravishingly ruby-red floral infusion made from the dried calyces of Hibiscus Sabdariffa, served over ice as a thirst-quenching summer drink. Loved throughout Egypt, Jamaica (where it is known as flor de Jamaica), Iraq, Iran, the Philippines, and West Africa, its tart and tangy cranberry-like flavour is strangely addictive. Quietly emerging as THE iced tea beverage for the summer of 2015, it also makes a killer base for fruit punches, sorbets and iced tea cocktails.

Where is it?

At Brewtown Newtown, Teacraft's Egyptian Rose blend of dried hibiscus flowers and rose petals is on tap all summer long. Slow-brewed overnight and blended with an almost caramelised rock sugar syrup and carbonated water, it is deeply refreshing, served over ice with bruised mint and lemon. "The slow-brewing takes longer, but results in less tannins, so the tea needs less sugar and is better for you," explains co-owner Charles Cameron.

In Melbourne, iced tea specialists Lauren Davie and Elena Andoniou of Those Girls take their home-made brews to music festivals and the summer night markets at Queen Victoria Market and South Melbourne Market. "We've just launched our own 'hibiscus heart' tea," says Davie. "It's a little bit tarty, so we lightly sweeten it with honey and add a dash of cranberry juice for extra anti-oxidants."

Why do I care?

Because it is claimed to help regulate blood pressure and relieve fluid retention. Because it's high in antioxidants and a rich source of vitamin C. Or just because it tastes like adult Ribena.

Can I do it at home?

You can do it in a flash with hibiscus tea bags, but dried hibiscus flowers give a deeper, darker, more potent brew.

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SOURCING

Look for dried hibiscus flowers at health food stores and online at zensation.com.auherbcottage.com.au and bushtuckershop.com

VIC Those Girls Iced Tea, at various markets and festivals, thosegirls.com.au

NSW Brewtown Newtown, 6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown (02) 9519 2920

Egyptian iced tea

To cold-brew the tea, combine the flowers with cold water and steep overnight, then strain, sweeten and serve over ice.

1 tbsp dried hibiscus flowers

500ml boiling water

1 tbsp honey, agave syrup or sugar syrup

2 sprigs of basil or mint

1. Place the flowers in a jug and add boiling water. Add the honey, agave syrup or sugar syrup, stirring, then taste and adjust the sweetness to your liking. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until required.

2. To serve, strain out the flowers, and pour the tea over plenty of ice in two glasses. Add a sprig of basil or mint - and a dash of soda water for a bit of sparkle if you like – and serve.

Makes 500ml