Hibiscus of the Nile
Grown in the oldest known agricultural land in the world, the ancient Nile valley in upper Egypt, it is reputed to have been the preferred drink of the Pharaoh's, who believed in the great health benefits of the flowers. Hibiscus played an important role in several religions and healing ceremonies in the Nile valley, it was known as aka Karkade which translates as the Pharaoh's drink for it's noble colour.
Mentioned in the Ebers papyrus (an ancient Egyptian medical document) showed the flowers medical use, for coughs, colds and sore throats. This would have been due to Hibiscus containing high levels of vitamin C which helps to strenghten the immune system alongside anti-oxidants and many other vitamins and minerals.
Other health benefits in recent studies show reduced Cholesterol levels, due to the high density levels being raised (good Cholesterol).
Hibiscus flowers can be found on every herb and spice stall in souks and markets, when infused they have a beautiful pungent odour with a tart cherry like taste and deep magenta red in colour.
Hibiscus from upper Egypt is still highly prized throughout the world, therefore this is where I source the flowers for my Panther tea. Today Hibiscus tea has become poplular in Mexico, and central America where it is often used in aguas frescas, a chilled drink. In the Caribbean Hibiscus tea is often drunk combined with other herbs to create a delicious chilled beverage. Asian cultures also typically consume this tea cold for its cooling effects in their hot weather. In Jamaica drinking Hibiscus tea is traditional at Christmas time usually served with fruit cake or potato pudding. In Africa this tea is known as the national drink of Senegal. Alternatively tea drinkers in Europe and North America sip Hibiscus tea hot often sweetened with honey or sugar.