Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cote d'Ivoire: Fun Facts & Recipe for Popular Drink Bissap | World Cup for Kids Project

This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs World Cup for Kids Project. Each time Cote d'Ivoire plays, I will be posting about something you can do with your kids to get to know the Ivorian culture. You can follow along with each country here, and find our introduction and schedule here

With Cote d'Ivoire playing against Japan today, here are a few interesting facts about the country:

Cote d'Ivoire is on the coast of West Africa, and is the home to more than 60 ethnic groups. The official language is french, though there are many indigenous local languages. There is even a trade language spoken throughout by Muslim traders, and in the commercial capital of Abidjan, pidgin French is commonly used. Over half the labor force in Ivory Coast are in commercial agriculture, and many of these farm cocoa as Cote d'Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world.

Ivory Coast had a very profitable trade in ivory during the 17th century, which is how it came about its name. The land in the area was once called the "teeth coast" due to this trade. This trade died out by the beginning of the 18th century because of the serious decline in elephants it brought about.

The most popular sport without a doubt in Cote d'Ivoire is football/soccer. It is played across the country, with a soccer field in almost every town and village, and at least one soccer club in every city. It's also played at the beach, in streets, and at school. There is a match to watch every Sunday in major cities. In fact kids, especially boys, are strongly encouraged to take up the sport from an early age, not just because of the national football fervor, but as a way to build their bodies, increase their stamina and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

After school game of football.
Photo Credit: Nestle
Their national team is nicknamed Les Elephants (The Elephants). This is their third time in the Fifa World Cup. In fact, they are widely regarded as Africa's strongest national team in recent years. Their qualification in 2006 helped bring about a truce during Cote d'Ivoire's first civil war and convinced their president at the time to restart peace talks. It was also a match played by The Elephants in the rebel capital in 2007 that brought bought the government army and rebel forces together peacefully for the first time.

Ivorians commonly snack on fresh fruit, a wide range of which is grown there, such as mangos, bananas, pineapples, passion fruit and coconuts. A popular snack is aloko, which are fried plantains served with onions and chilies, very similar to the recipe for kelewele we tried a few months ago.

Our World Cup posts about Cote d'Ivoire include books kids will enjoy, here, and a craft making Senufo animal art here.

Bissap is another popular, refreshing drink enjoyed throughout West Africa. It's sold by vendors everywhere: bus stations, markets, and streetside. They're most often found sold in plastic baggies, tied very tightly shut. Sometimes the knot is tied around a straw, and sometimes a corner of the bag is snipped to drink from it. It's made from hibiscus flowers, and you can see photos of the flowers being picked and processed for market here. We found dried hibiscus being sold at a tea shop. It's basically sweet hibiscus iced tea with a floral taste, and slightly tangy. Some make it spicy, some with ginger, and some, include mint. It's also commonly enjoyed with tropical fruit in Abidjan.

West African Bissap

Recipe adapted from Globe Grazers
Serves 4-6

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup dried hibiscus petals 
  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch mint, washed well
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

1. Bring the water to a boil. Add the hibiscus, mint and pineapple, and continue boiling for 10 minutes. 

2. Remove from heat, and let cool for a few minutes. Take out the mint sprigs and discard. Take out the pineapple (they will have been died red) and put in a blende with 1/4 cup of tea and puree. 

3. Add sugar to the hibiscus tea and stir until dissolved. Add the pineapple and vanilla, stir and let cool until you can refrigerate it. Refrigerate and chill thoroughly. 

4. Serve with ice, a sprig of mint or a slice of lime.

We only refrigerated for about an hour before serving with ice, and enjoyed a new, West African iced tea!

Don't forget to find out about what other bloggers and families are doing to follow along with the World Cup and learning about different cultures. I've outlined how it works in my introduction and will be featuring other posts on our Facebook page.

You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:


  1. This looks wonderful! And how amazing to see how the sport has helped the country through recent political crises.

    1. The bissap is tasty! I was so fascinated when reading about the impact the soccer team had during the civil war - it's incredible!

  2. Oh, I love your recipes....but where am I going to get Hibiscus flowers??

    1. I was a little worried about finding hibiscus as well, but our city has a couple of shops dedicated to tea which is where we found it. I bet you could find hibiscus tea as boxed herbal tea as well - that was going to be my plan B.

    2. Thanks for the tips. I will try that.

  3. Could you have this drink without the sugar? - Pineapple is quite sweet, is that enough? It sounds glorious though, with or without the sugar!

    1. I think it depends on your idea of sweet - or expectations! I think it would be nice, and am going to try another batch with honey as a sweetener. You can always adjust to taste.

  4. I am busy searching for ingredients for all 3 drinks. I am in love! They have stories behind them: great conversation starters at a party!

    1. I know - I love it when food has a story behind it!


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