Friday, 21 September 2012

Hibiscus Tea (Galca) and Karkanji Recipe

A two-part review today, first the actual hibiscus tea (well, tisane) itself, and then a recipe for a traditional iced tea from Chad called karkanji.

Hibiscus Tea (Galca)

I live in a heavily Ukrainian neighbourhood, which has lots of neat Ukrainian and Eastern European grocery stores, which include generous tea sections. I had run all around town looking for whole dried hibiscus flowers for the karkanji recipe, but all I could find were tea bags in my local Ukrainian market - it's pure hibiscus flowers anyways! I'd still like to do a mini-review of the tea alone.

According to Galca's website, these flowers originally come from Sudan. The liquor is a glorious beet red, a deep royal purple that I don't think my camera can even pick up. There's a tart apple-y aroma. The tea itself is not as tart as I expected (though it definitely is tart). The taste of straight hibiscus is somewhere between apples and sour cherries with an almost minty aftertaste. I can't get over the colour, though, it's gorgeous.

Hibiscus Tea at Galca

Karkanji Recipe

Karkanji is a spiced hibiscus tea popular in the Sahel, especially in Chad (interesting etymological note - the romanization of the Ukrainian word for hibiscus was 'karkade'). The recipe I'm using is a modified version of the one that Sarah of What's Cooking in Your World? used. I highly recommend her blog - she's cooking a meal a week from every country! I've switched the measurements into metric, scaled it down a bit, and omitted the sugar completely - I really don't like sweet things and I wanted to get more of the tart hibiscus flavour.

  • 7 bags of hibiscus tea (or a handful of dried hibiscus flowers)
  • 2 litres of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves
  • 5 cm squared nubbin of peeled ginger
Put all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes. Strain and serve chilled.

The smell of the karkanji on the stove was glorious, my whole place smelled of spices. Karkanji is deep, opaque purple with an aroma of cloves. It tastes a lot like mulled wine, but fruity instead of tannic, you definitely taste the cinnamon and cloves at the end - it's very tart and refreshing.


  1. This sounds incredible. I'm making it as I type this, I'll probably blog the results.