Saturday, May 16, 2015

Karkadè - The Drink of the Pharaohs

More than a quarter of century ago I had a chance to visit Sudan. Back then the capitol city of Khartoum had only one good hotel. It was The Hilton on the White Nile which accommodated not only the business people and tourists, but also guests of the State.

Khartoum had very few attractions, but the hotel management did its best to provide guests with good food and entertainment. Among the few exotic delicacies that were very popular with foreign visitors was karkadè or hibiscus  tea which was either served hot or chilled. 

Karkadè is also drunk in Egypt where its tradition supposedly goes back to the times of the pharaohs. The tea is made out of dark red calyces that form around the seed pods of flowers collected from a roselle shrub (Hibiscus sabdariffa). The plant is native to West Africa, but it also grows in many other parts of the world including Australia, China, Nepal, Mexico, and the Caribbean. 

The tea has a rather tart taste that is a bit similar to cranberry or tart cherry juice. For this reason it is often served with a lot of sugar. 

In Nigeria (at the Hilton hotel in Abuja, for instance) hibiscus tea is served chilled, with sugar, fresh ginger and black pepper. It is supposed to improve blood circulation and aid digestion. 

Hibiscus tea is known in many cultures where it is greatly appreciated for its health benefits. Hibiscus flowers are rich in the vitamin C and anthocynins that have the capacity to fight free radicals in the body and strengthen the immune system.  

Studies have demonstrated that karkadè may help fight hypertension since it contains compounds that act as the ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors. In fact, the effects of drinking hibiscus tea were similar to the effects of popular anti-hypertensive drugs. The tea also helped reduce the amount of sodium in blood without affecting the levels of potassium. More studies have to be conducted, but one thing is certain, unlike many drugs, hibiscus tea is well tolerated by patients with hypertension. 

To prepare your hibiscus infusion rinse a handful of dried hibiscus calyces in running water and place them in a teapot. Bring four cups of purified water into a boiling point, then allow it to cool a bit. Pour the water into a teapot and steep the flowers for about five minutes. Strain the deep red liquid through a sieve and pour it into glasses. Add a little sugar, honey or liquid stevia and enjoy it warm, or chill it in the fridge. 

By Dominique Allmon

P.S. It is advised not to steep the flowers for more than ten minutes since the infusion will become bitter. 

Dominique Allmon©2015


To learn more Hibiscus Tea and Hypertension please click here and here.

*Information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.