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Kauai Tropical Tea

Hibiscus sabdariffa, commonly known as Thai roselle, is what puts the zing in Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger Tea. ©2015 Daniel Lane
Hibiscus sabdariffa, commonly known as Thai roselle, is what puts the zing in Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger Tea. ©2015 Daniel Lane

Hibiscus sabdariffa, commonly known as Thai roselle, is what puts the zing in Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger Tea. ©2015 Daniel Lane

Last week, I bought roselle buds and local honey at the Kealia farmers market. Instinct and Mother Nature compelled me to combine them with a few things from my garden, which resulted in this Kauai Tropical Tea. The color is so beautiful and the flavor is so delicious, I thought I’d share. I’ve also included another tea recipe at the bottom. 

The insides of purple lilikoi. ©2015 Daniel Lane.

The insides of purple lilikoi. ©2015 Daniel Lane.

Hibiscus sabdariffa, commonly known as Thai roselle, is what puts the zing in Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger Tea. Flowers, borne singly in the leaf axils, are yellow or buff with a rose or maroon eye and turn pink as they wither at the end of the day. At this time, the typically red calyx, consisting of five large sepals with a collar around the base, begins to enlarge, become fleshy, crisp and juicy, and fully encloses the velvety capsule. The calyx, stems and leaves are acidic and closely resemble cranberries in flavor.

After working in my garden on Saturday morning, I snipped bunches of peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm. I also picked 15 ripe passion fruit that were dangling from our gazebo. These are the first of our season in Kapahi and the first fruit from seeds I planted two years ago. Our garage is covered with a vine that produces the yellow variety and I can see the crop will be abundant! 

Roselleikoi Tea made with roselle and lilikoi. ©2015 Daniel Lane

Roselleikoi Tea made with roselle and lilikoi. ©2015 Daniel Lane

There are more than 15 varieties of passion fruit grown in Hawaii, originating from strains of yellow and Australian purple. Passion fruit mature from June through January, with heaviest crops in July, August, October and November. Passion fruit are called lilikoi (pronounced lee lee coy) in Hawaiian and it may be my favorite fruit. It’s definitely a three-way tie between passion fruit, ice cream mangos and sugarloaf pineapple. If you’d like to know how to process lilikoi, read our blog post called “An Abundance of Lilikoi at Kauai Glory Farms.” If you’d like to explore these ingredients and would appreciate a personal introduction to local farmers, join us for our Kauai farmers markets tour. 

Roselleikoi Tea

Both roselle and lilikoi have bright, zesty flavors and beautiful color. When you combine roselle’s intense red and lilikoi’s deep gold, you get a Kauai sunrise-colored tea. After a sip, the tangy flavors of roselle and passion fruit are followed by a whisper of mint. I added thyme because I like the savory flavor as well as the herb’s antiseptic and digestive properties. Makes 16 cups.

  • 8 roselle buds
  • 1 bunch peppermint
  • 1 bunch spearmint
  • 1 bunch lemon balm 
  • 2 sprigs thyme (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Kauai honey, divided
  • 1 cup lilikoi juice, divided (about 15 fruit)

Pour 10 cups of cold water into a pot. Add roselle, peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let cool. Pour 1/4 cup honey and 1/2 cup lilikoi juice into two 1/2 gallon mason jars. Evenly strain tea into both jars, top with cold water and shake to combine. Serve chilled. 

For a little spice, try replacing honey with Hawaiian chili pepper syrup. Combine 1/2 sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add sliced Hawaiian chili peppers and steep for 15 minutes. Strain before using. For mild heat use 5 peppers, for a more pronounced heat, use 10. 

Tip: if you’d like to intensify the taste of mint, pour herbal tea into ice cube trays and freeze. Combine the rest of the tea with lilikoi and honey. Serve with tea ice cubes, which add a pronounced mint flavor as they melt. 

Turn this tea into a cocktail by adding 2-ounces of Koloa Rum‘s Kauai Coconut Rum and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. 

Roselle Ginger Tea

Several years ago, when I was a Govinda Farm CSA member, I received this recipe with my weekly delivery, which included roselle and baby ginger. Roselle has been used in traditional medicine for many centuries, its vivid flowers and calyces often steeped to make a striking red tea. In India, Africa and Mexico, all above-ground parts of the roselle plant are valued in native medicine. Infusions of the leaves or calyces are regarded as diuretic, cholerectic, febrifugal and hypotensive. Makes 6 cups.

  • 6 roselle buds, sliced in half
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed
  • 6 cups water

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add ginger. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Add roselle and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Strain and cool or serve over ice.

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