Black Heritage Through Food: Chef Wanda’s Bissap Hibiscus Red Drink Punch

For several years, Wanda Blake has participated in the Rituals + Remembrance Ceremony in Oakland,  California. She cooks the remembrance meal and cooks food for those in attendance. One of her specialties is Bissap or Hibiscus Red Drink, a chilled punch she labors over and makes in huge batches.

“There were so many practical reasons why hibiscus tea would be a choice of enslaved ancestors,” she says. Hibiscus is loaded with Vitamin C, contains no caffeine and is a way to ward off dehydration from working in the sun, and it is said to help with lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It is believed that hibiscus seeds were imported to the United States and Caribbean from Senegal, where Bissap is the national drink.

Chef Wanda Blake offers readers her recipe for the punch, which can be enjoyed all year-round.


WARNING: Hibiscus can easily stain and the stain is hard to remove from fabric or porous surfaces, so be careful.

This recipe makes approximately one gallon.


  • 3-4 quarts of water (think of how weak or strong you’d like your punch to be, it’s best to err on the side of strong, water can be added later to dilute)
  • 2 cups of dried hibiscus buds
  • 2 cups of honey OR 2 cups of superfine sugar
  • ½ cup of lemon zest
  • A small handful of whole cloves


Use a large Dutch oven (nothing made of aluminum or metals) that accommodates the water. Add lemon zest and hibiscus buds to the hot water, cover, and let stand on stove burners for 2 hours or more.

Uncover the Dutch oven or bring the mixture to a boil.

Pour the mixture through a sieve and discard zest, hibiscus leaves, stems and buds.

Slowly stir in your honey or sugar until fully dissolved.

Refrigerate to chill.

Pour into a gallon-sized drink dispenser or into glass pitchers to serve over ice.

Bissap is not supposed to be super sweet, the flavor of the hibiscus should be pronounced, and is the star of the drink.

If you have your grandmother’s tea cake recipe, make a dozen or so to serve with your Red Drink Punch, and enjoy.

You can purchase dried hibiscus at specialty grocery stores or online at Etsy or

Photography by Chantilly Lace Photography

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