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.
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. 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. Let's get into it!
If you're looking for more recipes for Black History Month, check these out next.
- My Aunt Georgia's Peach Cobbler
- My Aunty Toyin's Jollof Rice
- Soul Food Fusion Power Bowls
- Suya Spiced Brussels Sprouts
- Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits
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!
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.
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.
As far as tools to make this African tea recipe, you will need a cutting board and a sharp knife for the produce. 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. Next, I grab my 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.
Zobo Tea How-to Video
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.
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.
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-imaged 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
West African medicinal drink with floral, earthy, warm, and fruity flavor notes. Also known as hibiscus 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.
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