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Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Agua de Jamaica (aka Hibiscus Iced Tea) is an infusion of dried hibiscus flowers. Popular at Mexican taquerias, this agua fresca is loaded with Vitamin C and can even lower blood pressure!

Agua de Jamaica, Hibiscus Tea
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).

What Is Agua de Jamaica?

What is this agua de Jamiaca? It's hibiscus tea made from an infusion of hibiscus flowers.

I almost always go for the ruby red Jamaica, I think just because I love the color. The taste of this hibiscus tea 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
Elise Bauer

Finding Hibiscus Flowers for Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus tea (an infusion, actually) is popular all around the world. The hibiscus sabdariffa flower grows in tropical and semi-tropical climates. This variety of hibiscus is different from the flowers I grew up with in Los Angeles; it's also called "Roselle".

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.

Try These Other Refreshing Summer Drinks!

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Yield 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. Boil water with sugar and spices:

    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.

  2. Steep with dried hibiscus flowers:

    Remove from heat. Stir in the dried hibiscus flowers. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.

  3. Strain:

    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.)

  4. Add water:

    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

Agua de Jamaica, Hibiscus Tea
Elise Bauer