Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Walk into practically any taqueria in California and you’ll likely find super-sized containers of agua frescas, right next to the soda dispenser.

The usual flavors are horchata (a sweet rice drink), tamarindo (from tamarind, and agua de jamaica (pronounced hah-MY-kah), an infusion of dried red hibiscus flowers.

I almost always go for the ruby red jamaica, I think just because I love the color. The taste is slightly tart and refreshing.

If you’ve ever had red zinger tea from Celestial Seasonings, it’s a little like that. Or a little like cranberry juice. With a squeeze or two of lime juice it becomes almost punch-like.

Agua de Jamaica Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus tea (an infusion actually) is popular all around the world. The hibiscus flower grows in tropical and semi-tropical climates. I remember hibiscus trees all over Los Angeles where I grew up.

You can find the dried hibiscus flowers at almost any Mexican market (look for “flor de jamaica”), or you can order them online.

By the way, the tea is a natural diuretic and has lots of Vitamin C. There’s also at least one government study that shows that hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure.

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea) Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 quarts


  • 2 quarts water
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you would like it to be)
  • 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • A few thin slices ginger (optional)
  • Allspice berries (optional)
  • Lime juice (optional)
  • Orange or lime slices for garnish


1 Put 4 cups of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Add cinnamon, ginger slices, and/or a few allspice berries if you would like. Heat until boiling and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the dried hibiscus flowers.

2 Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into a pitcher and discard the used hibiscus flowers, ginger, cinnamon, and/or allspice berries.

(At this point you can store ahead the concentrate, chilled, until ready to make the drink.)

3 Add remaining 4 cups of water (or if you want to chill the drink quickly, ice and water) to the concentrate, and chill. Alternatively you can add ice and chilled soda water for a bubbly version. Add a little lime juice for a more punch-like flavor.

Serve over ice with a slice of orange or lime.

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Jamaica Flower Iced Tea from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks

Showing 4 of 23 Comments

  • Carl Stoeckel

    Here in Southern Arizona, I make a sun tea version, dispensing with the simmering. The midsummer sun does that for me. Once strained, the infusion is hot enough to add the sweetener of choice. I generally add the citrus just before serving a chilled glass. A bit of carbonation, I agree, adds to the refreshing quality of this, one of my favorite authentic SW drinks. The blossoms become handy mulch, and the desert tortoise who resides here has been known to chew them down, too. Thanks for your post.

  • Marcus Phelps-Munson

    I serve this to my garden club members, it’s always a hit and extra special because it’s made of flowers.

  • MJennaC

    I also enjoy adding a bit of lavender to my recipe. A great drink after a long day! I like to use local raw honey in mine instead of sugar, when I have it.

  • Commenter

    Good idea. But how do you dry your own hibiscus.

  • Tom Foudy.

    Greetings Elise, I”ve started drinking Jamaica in Mexico where I live in retirement’
    When I was told to give up soft drinks, to eliminate sugar I switched totally to “Jamaica”
    and I love the taste and flavor;I use splenda for sweetener and have lost 10 lbs.

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