Article by Emily Laurence – May 2021
Recently, I’ve noticed one ingredient in particular popping up in many of my deliveries: hibiscus. I’ve received bouquets of hibiscus-imbued functional wellness drinks, granola, and even ice pops. At last count, I had 10 foods and drinks with hibiscus in my kitchen.
While the flower has long been integrated into food and drinks in the tropical locations where it grows wildly, my mail room is evidence of a recent uptick in interest from wellness brands, which are using the the ingredient in some surprising new ways. Florals for spring isn’t often groundbreaking—but this time, it’s certainly something to buzz about.
Mawa McQueen, a chef and creator of Mawa’s GrainFreeNola, says she grew up enjoying hibiscus as well, in Côte d’Ivoire. “I’ve been using hibiscus my whole life, including at my restaurant Mawa’s Kitchen,” she says. “It’s the main ingredient in bissap, a juice I grew up drinking in Africa that is popular because of all its awesome health benefits.”
McQueen says hibiscus was one of the first ingredients that came to mind when she was formulating her granola line; and, sure enough, the flower plays a starring role in her Tropical Paradise blend ($15). “I wanted to work with healthy ingredients that I was familiar with and knew how to incorporate,” she says. “It was a natural fitting ingredient. It’s special because not only is it healthy and easy to use in a variety of ways, but it has the power to complement anything.” In this case, she paired it with coconut and mango.