Our first afternoon in Negros Occidental found us at the Negros Museum. The suffocating heat left us feeling dehydrated, our parched mouths and throats led us to the Museum Cafe (or did our host suggest that we go there? I can’t remember…) and we were introduced to a bright crimson drink that we never heard of before — hibiscus juice.
Many of us know hibiscus as gumamela, some of us know that hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia, most know that there are dozens of varieties of hibiscus… but the hibiscus from which the hibiscus juice of the Negros Museum Cafe is made is not the garden gumamela. The drink is made from Hibiscus sabdariffa which is also known as Roselle.
Many countries in the world have been cultivating roselle for many purposes such as food, fuel, fiber, lipids, and decoration, among many others. It is popularly used in making cooling beverages and wines, and in making delicious desserts such as jams, jellies, puddings, cakes, pies and others. When dried, it is processed into a nutritious tea. Its tender leaves and stalks can also be eaten as a vegetable in salads, or as seasoning for various delicacies. In the country, it was found to be used as a souring agent in dishes such as sinigang. The stems are seen as potential raw materials for charcoal making and as sources of bast jute-like fibers. Meanwhile, its seeds are rich in linoleic acid, a fatty acid essential for nutrition, and can be potential sources of vegetable oils.
Many of its parts are also believed to be of medicinal value. In Guinea, its leaves are used as a diuretic and sedative, while the Angolans found it as a useful remedy for coughs. Its seeds are used for debility in Myanmar and as diuretic and laxative in Taiwan. In the Philippines, its bitter root is used as aperitif and tonic. Additionally, the flavonoids contained in roselle can be used to naturally color foods such as yoghurt and rums.
Various studies in many parts of the world have also been conducted which are aimed at studying the plant’s biological activities. Results have showed promising outcomes such that roselle can provide protection from atherosclerosis, and are regarded to possess anticarcinogenic and high antioxidant properties.
Before leaving the Negros Museum Cafe, my friend Lisa and I each bought a pack of dried Hibiscus sabdariffa. A pack, according to the Museum Cafe people, can make as much as five liters of juice.
I opened the pack when I got home, took about eight pieces to make juice for Speedy and myself, and transferred the rest to an airtight jar.
Making hibiscus juice is very simple. Just boil, cool, add sugar, stir, add ice and enjoy.
But what does it taste like? Before adding sugar, the water in which the hibiscus has been boiled is slightly tangy. Like most citrus juices, really, except that the tanginess of hibiscus is milder. So, with the addition of sugar (you can even use honey or coco sugar or whatever sweetener you prefer), the tanginess finds balance in the sweetness and the result is an amazingly refreshing drink that is delicious as it is pretty.
Hibiscus juice, inspired by the Negros Museum Cafe
- 8 to 10 pieces dried hibiscus
- sugar to taste
- Place the dried hibiscus in a pot. Add two cups of water. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Leave to cool and infuse for about 20 minutes.
- Add sugar to taste.
- Pour into glasses. Add ice. Serve.