Local couple brews up idea for hibiscus tea

Ali and Meryem Erarac created their hibiscus tea as a healthy alternative to sweet-infused drinks. Ali and Meryem Erarac created their hibiscus tea as a healthy alternative to sweet-infused drinks.

Fourteen years ago, Meryem and Ali Erarac moved from Turkey near the Marmara Coast to Charlottesville so that Ali could earn his MBA at Darden  School of Business. Meryem, a biologist by study and trade, enjoyed the relative quiet and greenery here. Within a few years, Ali graduated, landed a job at General Electric Finance, and Meryem gave birth to their son, Furkan. One day, Meryem brought a tray of homemade baklava, a well-loved dessert from her native country, to Furkan’s school, and an idea was born. The tray was devoured in less than 30 minutes, and people asked Meryem for more. Within the first year, Meryem sold trays of her baklava at Whole Foods and at City Market.

Origins of hibiscus tea

According to hieroglyphs, hibiscus flowers have been steeped, brewed and drunk for thousands of years. They are indigenous to the warm, fertile lands adjacent to the Nile River. Interestingly, while the hibiscus flower is grown all over the world, not every hibiscus flower can be brewed into an edible, drinkable tea—only the dark-red hibiscus variety has the properties needed to make this tea. It is indigenous to North Africa, specifically Egypt, Sudan and Ghana, and across the Caribbean, where people have been drinking hibiscus for hundreds of years.

The idea for hibiscus tea came from then-5-year-old Furkan. On one of those hot, steamy summer Charlottesville days at City Market, Furkan wanted to buy lemonade from a nearby vendor. But the entrepreneurial spirit was in his blood—Furkan wanted to buy and sell his own lemonade. Meryem relented, but the lemonade was far too sweet for her liking. It was about this time a UVA professor and friend introduced Meryem to hibiscus leaves and tea.

Rather than have her son drink artificially flavored lemonade, Meryem began to brew hibiscus tea at home. The result was a thirst-quenching, ruby-red-colored drink that was all natural and delicious. Soon, Meryem and Ali began experimenting with different, all-natural flavors to infuse their tea.

Health benefits of hibiscus tea

There are many health benefits of hibiscus tea. To name a few: This calorie-free herbal tea is full of antioxidants, is a natural diuretic that helps to lower cholesterol, ease digestion and increase the metabolic speed in which we break down foods in our digestive track. It’s also rich in vitamin C and magnesium.


Pure Hibi currently has six flavors to choose from:

• Original

• Mint-infused

• Ginger-infused

• Vanilla-infused

• Cinnamon-infused

• Cinnamon-infused, sugar free

Pure Hibi hibiscus flower tea can be found at Whole Foods, Revolutionary Soup, The Market at Bellair, Nude Food, Sticks Kebob Shop (Preston and Pantops locations), Greenwood Gourmet Grocery in Crozet, Hunt Country Market and Deli in Free Union, Salt Artisan Market and more.

Claudia Hanna earned a bachelor of arts in economics and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and an MBA in corporate finance from Emory University. She was a management consultant for years before trading power suits for flip-flops and beach sarongs for a simpler, healthier life in Cyprus. She now writes her own blog, Live Like a Goddess.com, and is working on her book, Live Like a Goddess: Discover Your Inner Aphrodite.

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