Its hot, dusty work in the fields around Fatick, a small agricultural town in the Senegalese interior. Theres nothing better, locals say, than a sweet, soothing drink of bissap, a beverage made from hibiscus blossoms that is renowned for its ability to cool the head and fortify the body. That’s not just folklore: bissap is rich in antioxidants and studies have shown it can lower blood pressure.
For years, however, what is sometimes called the national drink of Senegal was difficult to find even in here, where it has been crafted and consumed from time immemorial. Bissap was expensive, difficult to store, and had been all but replaced by sugary carbonated sodas. That began to change in 2002 with the establishment of Sine Zenith. The cooperative has 25 members in the local community and has since opened the tap on bissap, doing brisk sales of concentrated syrup and sachets of juice.
Sine Zenith still uses artisanal methods, but new techniques developed in partnership with Dakars Institut de Technologie Alimentaire allow them to produce syrup that is pure and can be stored without refrigeration for up to a year. The recipe is simple (there’s nothing in the mix but water, sugar and the distillate of hibiscus blossoms), and production all takes place in the small, bright red store in downtown Fatick.
One liter of bissap syrup requires a kilogram of hibiscus flowers, which amounts to a veritable mountain of paper-light blossoms. Sine Zenith hopes to soon acquire enough farmland to supply their own hibiscus crop and enable them to one day produce enough of their soothing elixir for export markets in Europe, Japan and around the world.