You can find bissap juice (see its different names here) across the continent, from Senegal to Sudan. It is best drunk cold.
In Senegal, bissap juice is served sweetened to a syrup, frozen into small thin plastic bags and sold to school children in the late afternoons, who try not to arrive home with red stains and sticky sugar on their hands. You can also order it at any self-respecting restaurant or cafe, where it will come similarly sugared.
To make bissap juice properly is to experience its equisite sourness without the heaviness of over-sweetening: the round pucker, the gradual clenching of the muscles in the mouth, the rolling of the tongue at is recoils and then relaxes at the finish.
Lucky for all, it is not difficult, once you find the bissap. In African capitals, it can be found in most markets depending on where you are. Sometimes the medicine sellers have it, sometimes the spice sellers, and sometimes it ends up with the dried peas and beans. In Senegal, where local juice is a national institution, you can buy bottled bissap at supermarkets and gas stations at a fabulous mark-up, next to tamarind, maad and even ditakh.
We suggest making your bissap juice strong so you can keep the concentrate in a glass bottle in the fridge for a few days, making yourself a fresh glass whenever you want to. Local cruelty-free honey is our favorite sweetener, so be sure to add some with a little room-temperature filtered water to your pitcher or glass and dissolve the honey before you add the chilled bissap. Otherwise, you’ll end up with strands of chilled honey and the required tempering of the bissap’s raging sour will take its toll.
Careful when making, pouring and serving hibiscus juice. Like pomegranate, it stains.
Homemade Hibiscus Juice / Jus de Bissap
2 cups dried red hibiscus flowers
2 liters of filtered water
1. Rinse the bissap flowers if they’re dusty, and put them in a large pot with the water.
2. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer, allowing the bissap flowers to boil for 15 to 20 minutes
3. Remove from the heat and let the juice cool down before you strain it into glass bottles, chill and serve.
- Hibiscus juice is delicious mixed half-and-half with iced green tea.
- Hibiscus juice can be poured carefully into the same glass with baobab juice for a striking and delicious non-alcoholic cocktail.
- Hibiscus is a diuretic, so drink plenty when you have a urinary-tract infection.