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.
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.
Try These Other Refreshing Summer Drinks!
Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)
2 quarts water, divided
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you would like it to be)
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1/2 stick cinnamon stick (optional)
A few thin slices ginger (optional)
Allspice berries (optional)
Lime juice (optional)
Orange or lime slices for garnish
Boil the 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.
Steep with the dried hibiscus flowers:
Remove from heat. Stir in the dried hibiscus flowers using a spatula. 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.)
Add the 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.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 22g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||2%|
|Total Sugars 21g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||46%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|