©2022 Michael Raven
inspired memories hibiscus tea w/a dash of cardamom & cinnamon, each over-steeped even unsweetened i can close my eyes & see suzannah dancing for tips & wry crooked smile baked kibbeh uneaten lost in her kohled almond eyes
I have taken to drinking herbal tea in the evenings again and digging through the cabinet for herbal teas that have mostly been forgotten by one family member or another, With one exception, we all drink tea to some degree: one likes her chai I make with a blend of spices from a store that pretty much only sells spices, another likes the more fruity lemon, apple blossom, white teas — some with green tea blends, others without, and one thinks tea tastes like dish water and won’t touch the stuff. Me? I trend towards green and oolongs, but I like a good, nutty assam. I use to drink a lot of herbal teas “back in the day”, but have only started drinking tisanes again in the evening recently.
I stumbled onto a forgotten package of hibiscus tea that I probably had originally intended to use in a reconstructed memory of a beverage I drank whenever I had the chance: rania (spelling might be faulty). As far as I know this recipe was an exclusive specialty of a family chain of middle eastern restaurants in town, all called “Java” (and now, sadly defunct).
Best I can recall, rania was hibiscus tea, sweetened with tamarind molasses or syrup, and heavily spiced with cinnamon, cardamon, and probably some cloves. The beverage was blood-red and slightly viscous and to die for iced on 100-degree days in August. Alternately, it was to die for warmed up in the middle of sub-arctic January (when you can hear the trees pop and occasionally explode in the middle of the night due to the subzero temps). In fact, it was just to die for.
So I had this high-quality loose hibiscus tea sitting around and I saw it on the shelf. I don’t have the syrups, but I make sure to stock the other spices. I decided, WTF… I brewed up a mugful, tossed in some cardamon and cinnamon and let it steep too long to get my girls to bed. Came back and… instant recall of sitting at the Java, the belly-dancer flirting with everyone at the table for tips, while I sipped at some mulled rania on a cold winter evening.