The first time I tried Egyptian Karkade (Kehr-kih-deh) or Hibiscus Iced Tea, I was staying at a hotel in Egypt. Like many hotels in places with warm climates, the hotel lobby featured complimentary cool beverages. Instead of the usual water or lemonade that a lot of places offer up to their sweltering guests, hotels in Egypt offered Karkade.
Being my usual large and disturbingly overheated self, I sauntered over to the large glass beverage dispenser containing the deep red drink. I poured myself a small glass and sipped at the cool beverage. Considering how hot I was (or always am) any cool liquid would have tasted like heaven. Nonetheless, I immediately noticed the tart herbal, almost cranberry-like flavor that is so uniquely Hibiscus. At first, I pulled back confused because I wasn’t expecting those flavors, but once my senses adjusted, I realized that the drink was pretty delicious. I’ve been hooked on it ever since.
Unfortunately, a lot of the hibiscus beverages offered in America are diluted with sweet, overpowering berry juice flavors or made with low quality hibiscus. You can find dried hibiscus in tea bags, which is fine for making a quick cup of hot hibiscus tea, but the really good stuff comes as dried whole flowers.
You simply can’t match the potency and richness of flavor that comes from quality hibiscus. It doesn’t hurt that the tea is supposedly full of antioxidants (even more than green tea) and allegedly lowers high blood pressure when you drink enough of it although the hard scientific studies about this are a little lacking.
This recipe is very simple and creates a well-balanced iced tea that is sure to please as well as impress your more adventurous guests. Many of my friends who never tried it before really enjoyed it and refilled their glasses more than once.
Makes 8 cups of Karkade (Hibiscus Iced Tea) at 45 calories / cup.
Egyptian Karkade - Hibiscus Iced Tea Recipe
Hibiscus iced tea garnished with fresh mint.
- 10 cups of water
- 1 cup (or roughly 2 oz by weight) of karkade (dried hibiscus flowers)
- 1/2 cup of sugar (360 calories) Note: If you prefer it sweeter, then try 3/4 cup of sugar.
- Large pot
- Large pitcher with lid or plastic wrap
- Cup measurement
- Fine mesh strainer
- Long spoon or ladle
- Optional: Cheesecloth
- Bring 10 cups of water to a boil.
- Pour in 1 cup of dried hibiscus into the water.
- Boil for 2 to 3 minutes and then turn off the heat and move the pot off of the burner.
- Let the hibiscus steep in the water for 15 minutes.
- Carefully pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer into your pitcher. If your dried hibiscus is very fine, you may also want to line the mesh strainer with cheesecloth to keep out any sediment. If you can’t easily manage to pour the tea through a strainer into your pitcher, then just pour it into another container until you can transfer it to your pitcher. Be careful when transferring the hibiscus because it stains almost anything it touches very easily. Try and make sure to use glass and metal for anything that touches the hibiscus. Plastic, wood, or anything porous is not a very good choice. Wipe up any drops on the counter or in the sink quickly too! Discard the used hibiscus flowers.
- Pour in the 1/2 cup of sugar and mix the tea using a long spoon or ladle. Rinse the spoon off immediately after use to avoid potential staining.
- Let the tea cool in the pitcher until you can place your hand against the side without burning yourself. Then place the pitcher, covered, in the refrigerator for a few hours until cool.
- Once cool, taste the tea. If it’s too concentrated for you, then feel free to dilute it a bit with an extra cup of water or to your own taste. Then just mix well and taste again. Remember, that you can always add water, but you can’t really take it away, so start slow if you choose to dilute the tea a little. Also, keep in mind that if you serve the tea over ice and the ice melts, that will also dilute the tea even more.
- Serve plain in a glass or over ice and garnish with fresh mint leaves for a mild, refreshing, accentuating flavor.
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That’s so funny that you wrote this. I tried hibiscus tea for the first time at an Egyptian restaurant here, and it was very very sweet. The next time I tried it somewhere else it was bitter. My mom said it’s supposed to actually be more on the bitter side.. Not that sweet. Interesting
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Hey Natalie! A lot of the time it’s made very sweet. Apparently Egyptians, Nubians, and Jamaicans all make this tea and each have different levels of sweetness. I like it somewhere in the middle. Sweet enough to remove the bitterness, but not so sweet that it removes the tart flavor.
nice…i have this at home given by a friend. dont know how to prepare it until i found your blog…..thanks a lot
Glad I could help, Ronel! Enjoy the hibiscus tea!
Can I use Karkade to lossing my weight and how
Hi, Josephine. I’m not a dietitian, so I really couldn’t say. There have been some studies to suggest that hibiscus / karakade can lower the blood pressure, so some people drink it for that health reason. Personally, I don’t think there is any drink that contains sugar that will help you lose weight, so I wouldn’t drink this for that purpose alone.
Karkade is one of my fondest memories of Egypt.
I was told that hibiscus can be soaked overnight in cool water instead of boil. Do you know the difference between these two methods ?
Kate yes, this is the best method , when you put hot water you loose some of the flavor and the best hibiscus is imported from Sudan and it is organic
Can you use fresh hibiscus flowers or should they be dried first?
This recipe is really just for dried flowers. I’ve never used fresh so I wouldn’t know how much fresh flowers to use or whether the recipe needs to change when using fresh flowers. Sorry I can’t be more help.
I recently returned from Egypt with a huge bag of dried hibiscus. I boiled it and let it steep. Afterwards, I added sugar. I was not happy with the results.
After reading this post, I may try again. Think I’ll try soaking some overnight too. Wish me luck 😉☺️🤗
Hi Jan, it’s too bad that your first try didn’t work out for you. I appreciate you sharing the experience. Some tips for using this recipe: This recipe makes a slightly more concentrated and tart version of the drink. That is so you can adjust it to your liking. If you like it sweet and strong, just add a little more sugar. If you like it light and tart just add a little more water. If you like it lighter and sweeter, just add a little water and sugar. Once you have the taste you like, just jot down the adjustments for next time. If you steep the hibiscus overnight, you will get a milder/smoother taste to start. I hope you enjoy!
I grew up with Egyptian Karkarde we would bring bags and bags of it when we would return from our trip to Egypt. Personally, I think flowers should always be steeped and not boiled since boiling will destroy their medicinal properties. It is high in vitamin C. I steep it in hot water.
I steep it for 12 to 24 hours and I get a good result. For 1 pitcher, 2 heaping tablespoons of hibiscus, I add in 3 tablespoons of sugar, just enough to reduce the bitter/sourness.