If you’ve travelled the roads of West Africa, you’ve no doubt seen the vendors streetside, at bus stations and at the markets, all selling little tied-shut plastic baggies full of deep-red-purple juice. In Burkina Faso, it’s called bissap, and it’s delicious.
If you bought a baggie of cool, refreshing bissap from a vendor, you know what it tastes like. Sweet, with an amazing floral taste that’s slightly tart and tangy. It’s a little bit grapey, and a little bit like cranberry juice. When made with mint, it’s even more cool and refreshing.
If you’ve never tried bissap, you may have tried sorrel, a similar drink that can be found pre-bottled at shops that carry Caribbean imports. If you find an import shop that carries bottled sorrel drink, chances are good they also carry the flowers necessary to make your own bissap. For more info about the beverage, check out this Wikipedia page for Hibiscus Tea.
- 2 L (about 2 quarts) water (plus 500 mL/2 cups)
- 60 grams (about 2 oz) sorrel flowers (also known as hibiscus flowers; look for them at stores that carry African and Caribbean import products)
- 6 large sprigs of fresh mint
- freshly sliced ginger, optional, to taste
- 375 mL (1 1/2 cups) sugar, or to taste
- Fill medium-large pot with 2 L water. Add sorrel flowers and the sprigs of fresh mint. If you’re using fresh ginger, add it now. (I like my bissap without ginger, but others like some spicy ginger twang.)
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Cut heat, and let stand for several hours until cooled down. Once the pot cools down, you can let it steep in the refrigerator overnight or proceed to the next step right away.
- Remove (and set aside in a separate bowl) the mint and as many flowers as you can. Pour the remaining liquid through a sieve into another large pot to catch any stray flowers.
- Add another 500 mL (2 cups) water to the bowl with the mint and flowers, and squeeze out any extra flavour. Discard the flowers and mint, and pour the newly tinted water through the sieve into the pot with the rest of the liquid.
- Stir in the sugar, a little at a time, until it dissolves.
- Pour the finished bissap into a pitcher and chill it in the fridge. Serve over ice. If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a few mint leaves.