Q: I was given a plant called a “jelly bean” plant. It has a three-lobed leaf and flowers like a hibiscus. I found a nursery in Louisiana that said it was a ‘Red Zinger’ hibiscus. I don’t know if this is the one used in the delicious Red Zinger tea. It would be nice if it was, since I love the tea!
A: It is indeed a hibiscus that give Red Zinger tea its zing. Specifically, your plant is Hibiscus sabdariffa. Common names include roselle, red sorrel and Florida cranberry.
It is the seedpod of the plant that is used to brew tea. They are collected, dried and added to jellies and other foods and drinks, imparting a tart but aromatic taste. Coastal gardeners have grown it as an ornamental for years. You must grow it from seed each year because it will not tolerate an Atlanta winter. Seeds are available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed