Zobo is the West African predecessor to Caribbean Sorrel and Latin American Agua Jamaica. My warm version delivers the same familiar flavor in a cozy way to be enjoyed year round and across the globe. Originally published January 2022. Last updated February 2023.
Happy Black History Month! One of my favorite things about this time of year is the an increased focus on Black foodways and this Zobo, aka, West African hot hibiscus tea is something you'll want to zoom in on ASAP. I'm contributing it to the Eat the Culture annual Black History Month virtual potluck, which has challenged us to explore Afrofuturism through the lens of food. Let's get into it!
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This is a slight twist on the traditional West African hibiscus tea drink, which is one of the most popular Nigerian drinks, the predecessor to similar beverages in the diaspora, and typically served ice cold.
Today, we're drinking it warm with the thinking that global warming could possibly shift the warm, tropical weather we currently associate with West Africa to chillier temperatures in the future. This also ties to present day in that people descended from The Continent live all over the world in all kinds of climates. Warm brewed zobo is a delicious toast to Afrofuturism.
More Black History Month Recipes
I’m proud to collaborate with more than 30 Black recipe developers as we celebrate Black History Month 2022. This Virtual Potluck explores Black food through the lens of Afrofuturism. Our collaboration of recipes explores the intersection of the Black diaspora via culture, future, geopolitics, imagination, liberation, culture, and technology.
Cook and share the inspiring recipes by checking out the list of participants below. Follow each participant and continue the discussion with us on social media using the hashtag #BHMVP2022!
And here are popular family recipes I've contributed to past virtual potlucks:
Great Great Aunt Georgia's Peach Cobbler
Zobo Tea How-to Video
What is Zobo?
Zobo is a simple tea brewed from dried zobo or hibiscus flowers and water or other liquid. Hibiscus flowers are indigenous to West Africa and have spread around the world via the African diaspora that resulted from the transatlantic slave trade.
The flowers have a deep purple color and bright, floral flavor, both of which are apparent in the tea. Zobo in Nigeria is called Sobolo in Ghana. In Senegal, it's Bissap. Agua de Jamaica in Latin America. Sorrel or Roselle in the Caribbean.
My point of reference is my Nigerian heritage and Nigerians add a variety of superfood ingredients to the tea to make zobo drink but the basic zobo and water combination has strong medicinal properties all by itself. More on that below.
What You'll Need for this Recipe
Making zobo tea is very simple. At minimum, you need dried flowers and water. However, everyone person makes theirs a little different. Fresh pineapple, herbs, and spices are common additions for natural sweetness, flavor, and added nutritional benefits. Here's what I like to add to mine for all the reasons mentioned.
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Clove Buds
- Dried Zobo (Hibiscus) Petals
- Pineapple Juice
Whether you drink zobo cold or hot, the process is rather easy. Combine your ingredients in a saucepan and heat then steep the mixture for deeper flavor. From there you can either pour it over ice like it do when making zobo lemonade or enjoy it warm, which is the idea here.
Tips & Tools for Homemade Zobo Drink
As far as tools to make this African tea recipe, you will need a cutting board and a sharp knife for the produce. Next, grab a small saucepan, which has a built-in strainer on the lid so it's perfect for brewing tea on the stove top. Alternatively, use a slotted spoon or a sieve to separate the tea ingredients from the liquids.
Do I need to peel ginger for tea? Peeling the ginger and turmeric are optional as the skins are technically edible, however I like to expose more of the flavor to the tea so I typically cut them off at least a bit.
What does zobo taste like?
The taste is floral, earthy, warm, and tropical. This drink embodies the familiar flavors of West African hibiscus tea and the Caribbean's sorrel or agua de jamaica. Hibiscus petals give it floral flavor, ginger and turmeric impart earthiness, cinnamon and clove provide the warmth, and pineapple gives it that sweet and juicy tropical touch.
How to serve hibiscus tea?
Whether warm or cold, I like to serve it in clear glasses to showcase the deep purple color. Serving Zobo warm adds a comforting quality to its familiarity such that it can be enjoyed around the globe, in every climate members of the African Diaspora take up space--now and in the future.
These delicate glass mugs are perfect for warm zobo and the matching pitcher is heat safe, too! If you're serving guests, garnish with cinnamon sticks and a wheel of lime.
More Hibiscus Recipes
Sparkling Hibiscus Rose Mocktail
Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
Hibiscus, as it's known here in the west, is full of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which give it it's deep purple-red color. Consuming it as a tea provides immunity support. Zobo is also known to protect kidney function and promote a healthy liver. To me, zobo tea seemed like a natural Afrofuturism recipe because many descendants of the continent are exploring the healing value of our ancestral foods; this is truly food for the culture.
Is zobo drink good for PCOS? Yes, actually. Hibiscus tea influences estrogen production and is believed to induce menstruation. It has also been shown in studies to positively impact cholesterol and insulin markers, both of which often need to be managed for women with PCOS.
Can I add alcohol to this tea? A spiked zobo drink is not outside the realm of reason since sorrel is sometimes complemented with rum. So this would basically be like hot sorrel with a kick. If you're of drinking age, feel free.
I hope you'll enjoy this re-imagined Nigerian tea recipe during Black History Month and beyond. Check out more recipes from our virtual potluck just below the recipe card. And sharing is caring so be sure to pin this hot zobo recipe and follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Zobo Tropical Tea Recipe
Warm Zobo Tea
- 1 cup dried zobo petals
- 3 cups pineapple juice
- 3 cups water
- 1 two-inch knob of ginger
- 1 two-inch knob of turmeric
- ½ teaspoon clove buds
- 2 cinnamon sticks plus more for garnish
- Add zobo petals, pineapple juice, water, ginger, turmeric, clove buds, and cinnamon sticks to a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring mixture to a boil then remove from heat and steep as long as desired. The tea will be tasty and fine to drink without steeping but the flavor will deepen even further as you let it steep.
- Serve tea warm and add cinnamon stick for garnish, if desired.
Dee Moore says
I'm a lover lover and when I saw this recipe, I was so excited to give it a try! All the ingredients in this warm Zobo Tropical Tea drink were absolutely tasty and perfect, I will be for sure be making this a few times during this winter season.
I've always made agua de jamaica as an iced tea, but this warm zobo was so soothing on a chilly day in Texas. The ginger and turmeric really added zing and warmth to the zobo. This is a recipe that will be made frequently in my house.
This drink warmed me right up! I've been having this obsession with sorrel lately so this was perfect!
Marcus Avery says
I'm an avid tea lover, but I had never heard of zobo before trying this recipe. I throughly enjoyed this drink! It was warm and fruity with a hint of spice – perfect for the winter months! Thank you for this recipe.
I have enjoyed hibiscus tea since I was a kid, but Zobo takes my old favorite to an entirely new level! The next time I make it I plan on adding a dash of something stronger.
This tea was right on time! Flavor profile was spot on with the description from the blog post. Floral, earthy and warm and I specifically loved how simple it was to make and the historical feature behind this rich hibiscus tea. Will absolutely be making again!
My zoo drink turned out amazing! The pineapple juice really added a wonderful flavour dimension. I can’t wait to make it again.
Britney Brown-Chamberlain says
This was such a perfectly balanced drink - slightly spiced, fruity from the pineapple juice, and the zobo petals add such a beautiful floral flavor. This was such a crowd pleaser at my get together last week!
This was such a perfect warming treat on a rainy day! I love the sweetness from the pineapple!
I have heard a lot of good things about zobo but have never tried it myself. My sister picked up a pack of petals last week so I used your recipe and it was so delicious! I definitely get what all the hype is about now.
As a tea person, this was right up my alley! Thanks for sharing this I loved it so so much!
I made this over the weekend for brunch with the girls. I wasn't sure how they would react, but it was a rainy day and this warm brew turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to Sunday comfort food and chit chats. The aroma alone set a delicious tone for the day in.
This was my first time making Zobo and it turned out perfect, thanks to your recipe! I love the flavors. This has been my go-to drink each morning this week.