Why I Started A Hibiscus Water Company...

Why I Started A Hibiscus Water Company...

Why hibiscus water? It's an understandable question - one that potentially keeps me up at night 😂  but it's worth asking.

Hibiscus solved a problem for me. That might sound simple, but problems are all around us and they aren't always so easy to solve. Ever since I was a little kid I've had a voracious sweet tooth. It wasn't an issue as a young'n, I just... you know... ate a ton of sweets. Yes, it made me super hyper, and I was overweight, but it wasn't anything crazy.

But as I entered the cusp of my thirties - a cusp I've since fallen over and into - I noticed that I was beginning to experience sugar crashes and sugar anxiety. The sugar crashes were manageable, though no fun, but the sugar anxiety became worrying - if I didn't have something sweet to finish a meal, I would begin to panic. I felt real anxiety, which is so crazy to say, but it's true. This feeling wouldn't subside until I had something sweet, whether a piece of chocolate or, you know, an entire cheesecake.  So I began to research natural remedies to sugar cravings.

I tried the usual suspects: brushing my teeth after a meal, or eating a mint, eating an apple instead of junk food (this then became two apples, then two apples and almond butter, then an entire cheesecake), dried fruit, yada yada yada. But hibiscus kept coming up as a great alternative. Initially I wrote it off because, well, eating and drinking? One of these things is not like the other. But after another failed attempt, I figured, why not give this one a go... I bought some commercial teabags at the grocery story. Brewed them up and... oh my god... it... it...

It tasted like absolute garbage.

So I ate an entire cheesecake. I kid (it was half). But there was something about the hibiscus that I couldn't shake. The tartness. It... haunted me...

Photo by Emma Swanson

Tart is an underserved flavor profile for our palettes. Often mistaken as sour, tart is lighter and has a hint of sweetness. That sweetness manifested as a light pomegranate or dried cherry-like flavor in the hibiscus.

I started researching the flower, which dates back 1,000+ years. From the start it was a global flower, indigenous to Hawaii, Fiji, Mauritius, Madagascar, China and India, though back then there were eight strains of the plant, today there are hundreds spread all around the planet, everywhere from Florida, to Thailand, to Mexico to Malaysia to Burkina Faso to California to... you get it. Aside from the strains there are different ways that the flower could be prepared and used for beverage (powderized, cut and sifted, whole flower heads, etc.). The commercial teabags I had started with are pretty much all artificial flavor with some food dye. So, being the weird obsessive that I am, I began to contact global suppliers and test them all.

Ruby then, and now is made using hibiscus sabdariffa. We source ours from an ethical farm in Burkina Faso. This strain is specific to East and West Africa (as well as South East Asia) and it's amazing. The first time I made a batch it bowled me over, it was a wave of flavor. First there was the tartness, but then it opened up into a light fruitiness like dark berries, and finally had a finish that left my palette completely clean. So... uh... yeah... I became super obsessed. I began making it by the gallon, and then drinking said gallon within a day or two.

And... that could have been it. I wasn't making hibiscus water* because I knew it would be a commercial endeavor one day, I was making it because I loved it, and I found that it was satisfying my cravings for sugar.

*editor's note: what's the difference between hibiscus water and hibiscus tea? Nothing. Though the process Ruby uses to brew hibiscus gives it a lighter flavor that removes some of the "acridity" of common teas, so it tastes more like a functional water than a tea. Hibiscus beverages have a million different beautiful names and recipes, ours is most similar to hibiscus iced tea / water.

So what made me go all-in on Ruby? A few things...


While I was researching the various strains of hibiscus, it's many other health benefits began to pop up. Hibiscus has 2x more antioxidants than pomegranate juice or green tea. Its effects as a natural remedy to hypertension have been studied extensively. It has electrolytes and is a natural diuretic. 


I began to do research on sugar consumption in the country. I wasn't surprised to find that Americans are addicted to sugar, but I was surprised to find that sugary beverages are the key driver of over consumption of added sugar in our daily diets.


There are amazing beverages on shelves that cure every modern day malady. I've drank and enjoyed them all. But I also began to take a closer look at nutrition panels, and was surprised by how much added sugar or natural sugar was in these beverages. What's more, there didn't seem to be an organic water alternative with zero sugar, zero calories, and zero additives that didn't compromise on flavor.

These three validators, along with the fact that my friends seemed to like it 🙃, told me that this could be a really exciting opportunity and adventure. So... I began building... during a global pandemic... and, well, quite sincerely that's a story for another day! All I can do now is say thank you so much for reading and that I really hope you love Ruby. It's been an absolute blast bringing it to life, and building the strange universe (Rubyverse) that surrounds it, and again, I will get into that another day.