A Refreshing Drink From an Exotic Plant


DO YOU enjoy a cold drink on a hot day? Many West African families enjoy a refreshing drink that is colorful, delicious, healthful, and economical​—and, it is made from a plant. The drink is called bissap, and the flowering plant that it is derived from is the tropical roselle. This plant can reach a height of six feet [2 m] or more. It is grown in different regions of the world but particularly in drier climates found in countries such as Niger, Mali, and Senegal.

How Bissap Is Prepared

One tablespoon of the plant’s calyxes is placed in approximately one quart of water. The combination is brought to a boil and then allowed to steep for 15 to 20 minutes. The calyxes are strained off, and the tea can be drunk hot or cool, with or without sugar. Today we want to prepare a cold drink that the children will enjoy, so we will add sugar. Some families also prepare the drink with mint or with vanilla flavoring. The cold, bright-red bissap is poured into small, clear plastic bags, which are then knotted at the top. It is now ready to distribute to the eager children! They happily tear off a corner of the bag and enjoy their favorite drink. Of course, some prefer to drink it from a glass.

Besides being delicious, bissap is said to be good for you. It contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A and C, and more! Some say that bissap is also a gentle laxative, a diuretic, and a stimulant for the liver. In any event, how happy we are that besides being beautiful to look at, this plant provides us with a healthful, refreshing drink!

[Picture Credit Line on page 31]

Photo by Kazuo Yamasaki