Goodness in Red: ‘Sobolo’ Revealed in All Its Glory


You know that dark-red/purple, minty, gingery, pineapple-flavored, serve-chilled beverage that delights many a taste bud?

Yes, that one!

Everyone — young and old, rich and poor — loves it, from the Ghanaian coast to the fringes of the North and even across the continent.

Sobolo — or bissap — as this refreshing mix is known, has the flowers of hibiscus (also called Flor de Jamaica) as the basic ingredient. To add flavor and nutrition, slices of pineapple, ginger, cloves, oranges and a few drops of mint are added to the preparation to make the drink truly delightful. The secondary ingredients included are dictated by preference, and you’ll never go wrong getting creative with it — so long as the tummy consents.

It’s a priceless, jolly feeling to treat yourself — and friends — to a dripping glass of this palate-pleasing beverage on a hot afternoon. Sobolo works well as a solo sip, but also collaborates nicely with a variety of accompaniments – bread, cakes, biscuits, pies, etc.

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Hibiscus is a flowering plant with many species, but that with bright red petals — Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) — is used for sobolo. In fact, as a preparation from a broth of boiled flowers — and maybe fruits, if you so fancy — sobolo could rightly be called tea. The beverage, aside serving a good flavor, has some very interesting health benefits to its vivid relish.

A regular oral dose (do pardon the medical reference) is known to check cholesterol levels, enhance fluid retention, ease colds, whet waning appetites, and irritating stomachs, etc. It also comes packed with antioxidants, boosting liver health, bolstering defences against bacteria, and — as a red knight armed with powerful compounds — fighting cancers.

With all that’s been said, you’d probably not think there are side effects to ingesting sobolo but, well, there are a few worth consideration. For one, sobolo drastically strips blood sugar and pressure levels (not a desired effect during or immediately after surgery) and could upset some stomachs; for another, its consumption is also not recommended during pregnancy, as it tends to mess up with important hormones of the female reproductive system crucial at this period, potentially causing miscarriages.

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Still, thirst for the flavorful sweet-red knows no restraint nor quenching — certainly not for dry palates of commuters stranded in an afternoon jam that could use the refreshment, bottled and sold chilled by hawkers along the route. Way better – and healthier, needless to say – without preservatives (I did say that with a soft whisper and a wink, you know), the beverage does, indeed, make a superb dessert (‘sweet after-meals’, they say), though it could just as well be enjoyed anytime of the day.

So the next time you wolf down lunch, dinner or some snack — breakfast/brunch may be too early but, hey, who’s judging? — remember to swap the syrupy bottle or small carton of juice with sobolo to refresh and to heal.

Down the hatch, mate!

Mathy Adortsu — Daily Mail GH

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