Bloomsday Review
You Are Reading

A Taste of Senegal


A Taste of Senegal

Bissap Hibiscus Juice Senegal

The Hibiscus flower is a common delicacy in my birth country, Senegal. It is an absolute delicacy and often turned into a drink known as Bissap (“hibiscus juice” in Wolof). The flower is also commonly used for jam, which is great on baguette bread (a common bread found in Senegal). It can also be used as a form of frosting on cakes or as a form of dye. Senegal is located on the coast of West Africa and borders the Atlantic Ocean. The country is uniquely known for its variety of foods and various languages spoken. French and Wolof are some of the most commonly spoken languages, while there are thirty-four other languages spoken by various different ethnic groups.

Flavors of Bissap are very rich and unique in taste as well. It generally tastes extremely tart and most people add sugar or mint because it can taste very bitter without extra ingredients since it’s very rich and sour in taste. Bissap is made in a unique method in Senegal. The hibiscus flower is commonly sold in markets around the country. The drink is commonly served at home and in various restaurants. In terms of the preparation of this drink, flowers are normally aired out in the sun and dried up all before placing them in boiling water.

Adding sugar to Bissap beverage, Senegal
A woman in Senegal adds sugar to Bissap.

Once this procedure is done, the flowers are steeped for at least ten minutes. Bissap is best served with sugar, mint and ice, and refrigerated once everything is mixed together. When visiting a Senegalese person’s house it is often very common for them to have Bissap as a beverage option. Be sure not to wear white when drinking this, because it can definitely leave a stain!

It is very common to see Bissap sold on various roadsides. It can be pretty much be found anywhere. Wer gu varam! (“cheers” in Wolof).

pouring Bissap drink into bottle
Bissap poured into a bottle to sell in Dakar, Senegal.

published on June 27, 2020.
Photos courtesy of Iman J. Sow.

Main Image (top): Bissap in a bowl in Dakar, Senegal.

About Author

Iman J. Sow is a Senegalese/American alumna from UC Irvine who majored in International Studies. She grew up in four different countries abroad and is passionate about advocating for international human rights. She is also fluent in both French and English and enjoys learning about new cultures.