Home-Brewed Iced Passion Tea
Toward the end of the summer, I began receiving a box of these unfamiliar red buds in my weekly farm share under the name “roselle pods.” My family adopted the routine of preordering a farm share for our weekly produce when the coronavirus pandemic struck; this socially distanced approach to shopping suited us. What we didn’t predict was the joy we would find each week as we learned about new foods grown locally in Houston.
The roselle pods are beautifully deep red, waxy to the touch and firm. Thankfully, the farm provided some instructions, because now they are a fan favorite in my house. Throughout the autumn months, we have enjoyed making our own fresh hibiscus tea. Or as you may also know it: Starbucks Iced Passion Tea.
These calyces can be found at Houston-area farmers markets from September through November. Dried hibiscus is available online yearround, but making the tea from the fresh roselle pod is a special treat we can enjoy in our hibiscus-friendly climate.
On a recent stroll at the Houston Arboretum, I noticed the roselle plant along the trail in several locations in the park. You may even have one in your backyard. When I cut into the buds, a cross-section reveals an interior structure (and sliminess) similar to okra. The viscosity surely helps it thrive throughout our blazing summers, rewarding our summer perseverance come fall with this fruit.
The red buds are the calyx of the roselle plant, which is a hibiscus tree native to Africa and grown around the world. Roselle is also known as red sorrel, Jamaican sorrel or even just “Jamaica.” In Jamaica, sorrel punch is made at Christmastime, and its common steeping partners reflect the holiday season. While you can simply steep these petals in a saucepan of simmering water for a tart and floral flavor, it’s common to add orange peel, warm spices, ginger and sugar. Variations may add rum, orange juice, mint or lime.
I stick with the fruit and spices when making my homemade version of Starbucks Passion Tea. Just as orange offsets the tartness of cranberries, the orange juice and zest serve a perfect complement to the roselle. The spices round out the flavor, and before you know it, you have brewed a delicious autumn beverage.
Whether you pick up the pods from your farmers market, your garden, or order the petals dried online, I hope you’ll raise a glass with me this autumn.
2 cups roselle pods
1 orange or tangerine
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
1/4 cup sugar
Remove petals from stem by slicing around diameter with paring knife. Peel an orange or tangerine and scrape off the pith to avoid bitterness. Add all ingredients to small saucepan with 2 cups water and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain tea and dilute as desired. Garnish with orange slices if desired.
Want more buzz like this? Sign up for our Morning Buzz emails.
To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Or you may post as a guest.