Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Walk in to practically any taqueria in California and you’ll likely find supersized 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.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

Links:

Jamaica Flower Iced Tea from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks

28 Comments

  1. Christina

    Interesting! My mother-in-law got me a huge (ish?) bag of dried hibiscus to make this with. I didn’t ask for it, and I wasn’t thrilled with the just-add-suger-and-water recipe I found online. Maybe this recipe will spruce the other half of the tea up!

  2. Kathy - Panini Happy

    Oh, awesome – I always pick the jamaica too. I’m sure it has something to do with its punch-like appearance evoking some kind of childhood nostalgia craving on my part. :-) I’ll keep my eye out for the hibiscus flowers, this would be fun to make.

  3. Lily

    Where can I get dried hibiscus flowers?

    At a market catering to Latin Americans, or online. There are links in the post above. ~Elise

  4. KEW

    Dear Elise,
    I love your site, so much inspiration and I’ve had great results with your recipes…especially
    when I follow them.

    I must make note on this wonderful recipe because not only is it delicious, but an incredible health tonic.
    First of all, you can’t just take the calyxes off your ornamental bushes. You could make tea, but not the same. What you need are Hibiscus sabdariffa calyxes, which turn into these large succulent red fruits that can be used fresh but are usually dried.
    Several clinical studies have shown that this infusion has lowered high blood pressure in people who have hypertension or type 2 diabetes by as much as 22 points in two weeks! I’m not making this up! Do a search. You’ll see what I mean.
    I have to wonder if the reason we all find it so refreshing is not only the cold, full bodied tanginess but the fact that it’s lowering our blood pressure as we drink it!

  5. Shibi

    Thank you for this recipe! I have a large bag of dried jamaica but no good instructions on making agua de jamaica. I can’t wait for the sun to break through our summer-time fog here in San Francisco — I’ll be making big batches of this very soon. Thanks so much!

  6. Karla

    I had the most delicious snow cone made with homemade lemon hibiscus syrup at a local market. I’ve been wondering how to make it myself. This post helps. Thanks!

  7. Terri

    Where can I get allspice berries? Can I substitute ground allspice?

    You may be able to find allspice berries in the spice section of your grocery store. You can use any spices you want, but ground spices will muddy the drink, as they will not be able to be strained out after seeping. ~Elise

  8. Elvie

    thanks for the recipe. I grew up drinking agua de jamaica and i can never figure out the recipe to my liking and my mom doesn’t do recipes….so this is a great help! this drink also makes great popsicles.

  9. Jamie

    By far the best Recipe site I have found bar none – just love the format, information and recipes.

    I am from Jamaica and this is traditionally a Christmas drink but is taken all year round. It is called Sorrel and your recipe is dead on minus the lime juice and oranges (garnish with hibiscus flower instead)… and of course from Jamaica it would not be festive without the rum.

  10. Sophie

    The ginger and cinnamon is a great add, i usually make it with just water and sugar.
    I would just like to add that this is a very popular drink in Egypt and there it is called “Karkadeh”.

  11. Breanna Klein

    This is so cool! I have been looking around for a tea recipe, especially for the end of summer. I am looking forward to getting some allspice berries and some dried hibiscus flowers for the first time! I think that it would easily last a week in the fridge, so that’s perfect. I have a tropical fruit punch drink made by Minute Maid that I love. I might experiment with that in place of the lime juice and then make another jug with the lime juice to see what tastes better. Thanks for the recipe!

  12. JJ

    Wow, this looks great! Mother Earth News just had an article about hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure and then I saw this recipe! I will have to try it.

  13. Terri

    Hello. Please excuse me for asking another question. My daughter has a weird preference of excluding ANY spice. I’m trying to broaden her taste being our culture that uses spices (Asian). Can you recommend me any combination that would taste interesting that they would want a refill? Thank you very much.

    Just skip the spices, the agua de jamaica will be fine without them. ~Elise

  14. Maria del Rosario Soria-Valenzuela

    Hi Elise: I have had some Jamaica in my pantry and tried a few times to make it like my Mami used to make it for us as children, and it never turned out quite like hers. I was boiling the Jamaica along with the sugar and then straining it. I guess i should have paid more attention to when she made it, huh? I will try it your way and put it in to let it seep after the water and sugar has boiled. That should give me the results I have been looking for. Thanks so much for this recipe.
    And, by the way, the comment about Jamaica lowering your blood pressure is true. I heard that from a nutritionist also.

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