Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea

Nothing says "springtime in Colorado" like a warm, sunny day, followed promptly by a day of plunging temperatures and heavy snow.

Now that more than a week has passed since Denver's most recent snowfall, it's time to celebrate the arrival of summer -- and what better way to welcome summer's return than with a pitcher of hibiscus mint iced tea?

As a child, my best friend and I drank mint tea made with leaves picked fresh from her family's garden. Years later, while taking Spanish classes in Mexico, I drank sweet jamaica tea that my host mom made by boiling dried hibiscus flowers. Making an iced tea from fresh mint and dried hibiscus flowers seemed like a great way to recall both experiences. (The result is less minty than I'd expected, but refreshing nonetheless.)

Dried hibiscus flowers ("flor de jamaica") can be found in Mexican grocery stores. If you've got packaged mint and hibiscus teas on hand, instead of dried hibiscus flowers and fresh mint, you might want to try this recipe.

Hibiscus may help lower cholesterol, and is high in vitamin C.

10 cups water
1/2 cup loosely packed dried hibiscus flowers
5 sprigs mint, washed
1/4 cup agave nectar

Combine water, hibiscus flowers and mint in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
After about 30 minutes, strain the hibiscus and mint from the tea.
Pour into a pitcher.
Sweeten with 1/4 cup agave nectar (or to taste).
Serve over ice.

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