Hibiscus tea, or karkade as it's known in Egypt, is a tart-meets-sweet herbal tea made from dried hibiscus flower petals. Skip the soda and cool off with this sweet, bright, and antioxidant-rich refresher instead!

hibiscus iced tea in a glass garnished of mint and lime with two more glasses of hibiscus tea in the background.
Photo Credits: Caitlin Bensel

This hibiscus tea recipe is Egypt's thousand-year-old version of Southern sweet tea, only with less sugar and no caffeine. It’s sweet and tart but not too intense in either direction, and is totally heavenly on a hot day.

Hibiscus tea tastes and looks like cranberry juice only it's much lighter in body and less syrupy. That makes it not only incredibly refreshing but also very pretty—which never hurts! Like my hot lemon ginger tea in the wintertime, I drink hibiscus tea in the summer for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Tweak this hibiscus tea recipe to your liking. Use a sweetener of your choice and adjust the amount according to how sweet or puckery you like things. Like I say in my cookbook, you’re only a splash of tequila away from an Egyptian-style margarita. I’ll let you do what you want with that information! 

Table of Contents
  1. What is Hibiscus Tea?
  2. Is Hibiscus Tea Good For You?
  3. Ingredients for Iced Hibiscus Tea
  4. How to Make Hibiscus Tea
  5. How to Make Hot Hibiscus Tea
  6. What to Serve with Hibiscus Tea
  7. Tasty Non Alcoholic Drink Recipes
  8. The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook
  9. Karkade (Hibiscus Tea) Recipe

What is Hibiscus Tea?

Hibiscus tea is a type of herbal tea made by steeping water with the dried petals of the hibiscus flower–called “hibiscus sabdariffa” or “roselle." Versions are popular around the world, from Agua de Jamaica in Mexico to Bissap in West Africa. 

Where I’m from in Egypt, we call hibiscus tea ”kar-ka-deh." I got my first taste of the deep red elixir on a trip to Old Cairo one sweltering summer with my family. The view of the "karkade man" roaming the narrow streets yelling "Karkade!" and offering people ice-cold glasses from a large carafe strapped to his waist is still as vivid as a photograph in my mind.

I hope you'll try Egypt's version of hibiscus tea, and let me know what you think on Instagram or in the comments below!

Is Hibiscus Tea Good For You?

Said to have been not just the thirst-quencher of pharaohs but also used as herbal medicine, hibiscus tea has been prized for its health benefits for thousands of years.

According to a meta analysis published in the National Library of Medicine, clinical trials have shown, “a significant effect of H. sabdariffa [hibiscus tea] in lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.” It also has a fair amount of minerals, like potassium and magnesium.

Whether you’re looking for an alternative to sugary sodas or just a refreshing beverage for a balmy summer’s day, this hibiscus tea recipe has you covered!

Ingredients for Iced Hibiscus Tea

You likely have most of the ingredients for this hibiscus tea recipe on hand. If not, they’re all easy to find. To get started, you’ll need: 

  • Filtered water: Filtered water ensures the best flavor.   
  • Dried hibiscus flowers: Sometimes labeled “Flor de Jamaica,” you can easily find dried hibiscus flowers online. Or, look for them in the tea section of your grocery store.
  • Sweetener: Hibiscus tea is very tart and slightly earthy on its own, so you need a sweetener to mellow the bite. Use any sweetener of your choosing. I use cane sugar for a classic sweet tea flavor or my favorite Greek honey to add a Mediterranean-style twist. Agave nectar would also work well. 
  • Limes: A squeeze of lime juice adds a fresh brightness and lime wheels make for a colorful garnish. You can use lemons if you prefer. 
  • Fresh mint sprigs: A garnish of fresh mint sprigs gives this iced hibiscus tea an extra refreshing–and pretty–finish. 
close up of hibiscus iced tea in a glass garnished of mint and lime with two more glasses of hibiscus tea in the background.

How to Make Hibiscus Tea

This hibiscus tea recipe is easy to double. If you have a big enough pitcher, you may want to make a big batch to enjoy all week long. Remember to adjust the sugar levels to your liking and give yourself a couple of hours to allow the tea to chill. Here are the steps: 

  • Steep the tea and sweetener. In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups of filtered water to a boil. Stir in ¾ cup of dried hibiscus and ¼ to ½ of the sweetener of your choice. Boil for 3 minutes over high heat, then turn the heat off. Cover the pan and let the hibiscus steep for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Strain. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heat-safe glass pitcher or bowl. Pour the tea through the strainer. Discard the hibiscus flowers and stir in the lime juice.
  • Adjust to taste. Set aside to cool completely, then taste. If the is too concentrated or bitter, dilute it with a little more filtered water and sweetener. Remember not to dilute it too much, especially if you plan to serve it over ice. 
  • Chill and serve. Transfer to the fridge and chill for a few hours. Store, covered in your refrigerator, for up to one week. When you’re ready to serve, ladle over iced-filled glasses. Garnish each glass with a lime wheel and a sprig of fresh mint. Cheers!

How to Make Hot Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus tea is also delicious hot. Like lemon ginger tea, its brightness can be very soothing, especially if you have a sore throat. To make hot hibiscus tea for one: 

  • Boil 8 ounces (1 cup) of filtered water. Hibiscus tea should be steeped in water that’s just below boiling (about 200°F). 
  • Steep 1 heaping tablespoon of dried hibiscus flowers for 5 minutes. You can use a tea infuser, or strain through a fine mesh strainer over your teacup afterward. 
  • Adjust to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a small spoon of honey to taste.  
hibiscus iced tea in a glass garnished of mint and lime with another glass of hibiscus tea in the background.

What to Serve with Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus tea is lovely on its own as an afternoon treat, especially to curb a soda craving! If I’m making iced tea to share, I serve it as a back porch sipper situation with savory snacks.

Fried halloumi with warmed honey is a beautiful sweet-and-salty complement to the tea’s tartness. Or, for a more fuss-free approach, make an Italian-style antipasto platter and let your guests serve themselves.

For an easy lunch, serve with big focaccia slab sandwiches to share and some grapes or chips on the side. Or, for more of a party situation, add that splash of tequila and serve with Mediterranean-style fish tacos.

Tasty Non Alcoholic Drink Recipes

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The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook

The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You'll Make on Repeat. In her book, Suzy shares easy-to-find ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes, to make your meals more vibrant, delicious, and a little healthier, too! 

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5 from 8 votes

Karkade (Hibiscus Tea)

Suzy Karadsheh
hibiscus iced tea in a glass garnished of mint and lime with two more glasses of hibiscus tea in the background.
Tart meets sweet, super refreshing, and oh-so-pretty, iced hibiscus tea is the alcohol-free, caffeine-free, and fuss-free elixir we’ll be cooling off with all summer long. Budget 2 hours of chilling time.
Prep – 5 minutes
Cook – 3 minutes
(Chilling Time) 2 hours
Total – 8 minutes
Cuisine:
Egyptian
Serves – 6
Course:
Drinks

Ingredients
  

  • 6 cups filtered water
  • ¾ cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • ¼ to ½ cup sugar, agave nectar or honey
  • 2 large limes, 1 juiced, 1 cut into thin wheels
  • Fresh mint sprigs, for serving

Instructions
 

  • Steep the tea and sweetener. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the hibiscus and sweetener (I usually add ¼ to ½ cup of sugar). Boil for 3 minutes over high heat, then turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let the hibiscus steep for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Strain. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heat-safe glass pitcher or bowl. Pour the tea through the strainer. Discard the hibiscus flowers and stir in the lime juice.
  • Adjust to taste. Set aside to cool completely, then taste. If the is too concentrated or bitter, dilute it with a little more filtered water and sweetener. Remember not to dilute it too much, especially if you plan to serve it over ice.
  • Chill and serve. Transfer to the fridge and chill for a few hours. Serve over ice, with a lime wheel and a sprig of fresh mint in each glass. Cheers!

Notes

  • Be very careful when you’re straining or pouring the tea! Take special care with your clothes, countertops, or any porous surface because it stains easily.
  • You can store this iced tea covered in your refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oilshoneyjams and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 38.8kcalCarbohydrates: 10.6gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.01gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 13.5mgPotassium: 28.9mgFiber: 0.6gSugar: 8.7gVitamin A: 98.7IUVitamin C: 6.5mgCalcium: 16.9mgIron: 0.2mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Wow finally! I have been trying to find a recipe for hibiscus tea since I spent time in Alexandria and Cairo. Can't wait to try it. Thanks.

  2. 5 stars
    I tried the hibiscus tea and it is just heavenly!

    Might even try it in the winter warmed up!
    Thank you!

    Was a bit difficult to fibd hibiscus petals though.

  3. 5 stars
    I once heard about hibiscus but not in this way now l know it best as a tea and most beneficial👑

    1. Hi, Sal. We haven't made this with tea bags before, so I'm not really sure. I would just use the amount recommend on the box of the brand you choose.