Two glasses of hibiscus-based drinks with lemon
The Importance Of Hibiscus Drinks Throughout African History
A symbol of survival and strength during the grueling centuries of slavery, hibiscus has become an iconic representation of the African roots of the Caribbean.
During the nearly 300 years when Africans were forcibly relocated to the Americas, plants and animals migrated with them. Hibiscus was one such plant.
Hibiscus is believed to have originated in West Africa where it was the key ingredient in drinks like the Ghanaian sobolo, Nigerian zobo, and the Senegalese bissap.
Ancient Africans also used hibiscus medicinally to treat measles, high blood pressure, and liver disease. It was also used in rituals meant to manifest love in divination rites.
As hibiscus traveled out of Africa, it kept much of its symbolism and medicinal importance. It gave African slaves a piece of home in a violent and unwelcoming new world.
Today, African-inspired hibiscus drinks come in a wide variety of styles. Some, like the Mexican drink Agua de Jamaica, even nod to the merging of African and Caribbean cultures.