Pondicherry’s affaire de coeur with the bougainvillea is evident in its many flower-draped walls. But it is the hibiscus—the glorious tropical flower—that has managed to transcend the garden hedges to tables in city homes, cafes and boutiques. We look at the many ways it is being used in the city—from teas to shampoos, and even a grill.
Syrup to go
On a hot summer’s day in Pondicherry, a floral drink goes down a treat. It’s not unusual to see people sipping tall glass of chilled hibiscus syrup diluted with water or soda. Most Auroville cafes serve the ‘power syrup’, made with the Avatar hibiscus juice produced by New School Crafts. Or just pick up a bottle of Auroville-based jam and jelly maker Naturellement’s hand-made hibiscus syrup (sold in supermarkets and boutiques) and sip it in the comfort of your home. Rs 399. Details: auroville.com
Eat’ em, too!
Hibiscus has health benefits that include reducing blood pressure, says chef Manikandan of Spice Route, who has added the flower to the restaurant’s upcoming menu. Already being promoted as a special of the day, the hibiscus-infused grilled king fish (Rs 535) balances the sweetness of the bloom with the citrus notes of lemon. Details: 0413 4304333
Spice Route on Bussy Street has upped the game with their three new mixes, which include the Pink Finzz—a delicate blend of hibiscus and vodka. The frothy Smoked Hibiscus Margarita (Rs 400) gets adventurous with pomegranate and egg white with tequila and Cointreau. And if you prefer something tamer, try the Frozen Hibiscus mocktail (Rs 200), with crushed ice and shredded petals that make
for a sweet sip. Details:
Hibiscus finds a special place in Pondy, thanks to its spiritual connection. It was among the few flowers the Mother (Mirra Alfassa) gave to those who came to meet with her. In her lifetime, she named hundreds of flowers and assigned spiritual significances to them, including over 15 varieties of hibiscus. Godhead, Beauty of Supramental Love and Success of Auroville are some of the names explained in the books available at Sabda, the Ashram bookstore. Details: blossomlikeaflower.com
All things shiny
If you have memories of childhood summers with a shikakai mask in your hair, you know that hibiscus can make your locks happy and shiny. Shampoos with the flower’s extracts can be found in Ashram-run stores like Senteurs. Auroville brand Maroma uses hibiscus extract in eight different hair products, including a hair wash powder, gel, oil and shampoo. Pick up their Bamboo Charcoal conditioner (Rs 550 ) and True Lavender shampoo (Rs 450) to enjoy the benefits. Details: maroma.com
The cheery flower also inspires home décor. A popular choice in lifestyle stores is PondyMania’s hibiscus-patterned designer lamp shades. The brand’s botanical collection features cylindrical table lamps with a single large floral motif. The handcrafted pieces, mounted on painted tripods, are show-stealers.
Rs 2,400 onwards. Details: pondymania.com
Tea and terrace
At My Tibet on Nehru Street, enjoy the happy combo of a cool breeze, a chilled hibiscus tea and Tibetan momos. The homemade iced tea (Rs 70) at the cafe is soothing on a sultry afternoon. Further down on Bharati Street, La Casita offers the Agua Jamaica, a Caribbean-Mexican hibiscus tea. Served cold, this ruby red concoction is sought after for its fresh taste. Details: 0413 2222008
Olympia Shilpa Gerald