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Agua de Jamaica or Iced Hibiscus Tea
Pronounced hah-Mike-huh, iced hibiscus tea is a popular Mexican beverage. The ingenuity of the cook south of the American border has always caught my imagination. Flavored waters are a Mexican staple.
Frescas displayed in tall barrel shaped glass jars and served with long handled ladles is a quick thirst quencher and an excellent use of over ripen fruit.
Many different fruits make the inexpensive and healthy fresca drinks. Jamaica uses hibiscus sabdariffa, misnamed hibiscus flowers by the market place. The petal-like dried "flowers" are the calyces, the growth after the flower dies.
We all have learned about the benefits of the dark fruits and vegetables. No exception with hibiscus. High in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and is a mild diuretic. There have been studies that it lowers systolic blood pressure. Move over bottled grape juice. This is cheaper and made in your kitchen. Here is an easy way to make the drink using the infusion method.
Where to Get Dried Hibiscus
A few interesting facts about hibiscus tea. The part of the plant used for the drink is the calyx, the cover around the fruit of the hibiscus sabdariffa.
The flower will last a good part of the summer and after it fades the calyx gets fleshy creating a sort of fruit. By harvest time the sepals covering the fruit are a very dark red. Farmers remove the fruit and spread the calyces on drying racks in the sun for the market.
Bulk hibiscus tea is not easy to buy in some areas of the U.S.
1. Mexican food markets are the first source to find bulk bin hibiscus.
2. Check out the swap meets that have a big Latino presence.
3. Health food stores.
Fruits Develop After Flower Drops
Have you tried Hibiscus tea iced cold?
Dried Hibiscus Sabdariffa
- 2 1/2 cups dried hibiscus, lightly rinsed
- 1/2 cup sugar, adjust for taste
- 8 cups water
- Rinse quickly in strainer to rid of impurities.
- Put in container and cover with water.
- Let soak overnight or for 4 hours in the refrigerator. Can be sun soaked, like sun tea, as well.
- After the soaking period strain half into a serving pitcher. Adjust for taste by adding fresh water.
- Add sugar to taste.
After the Soak Period
The advantage to making your own Jamaica is you control the sugar. All commercial establishments make it too sweet. Adjust sugar to leave just a little tartness, and not too much that it is sugary.
In the winter drink it room temperature.
In the photo above notice the yellow soaker pitcher on the right. Add a couple cups of fresh water after your first pour, continue the soak in refrigerator, and have a second drinkable pitcher the next day.
As in sun tea there is no boiling with this method. The infusing allows for a thickened drink like coffee.There is a hint of cranberry and without sugar it is tart. It is deep red and very satisfying.
Keep the infusion in the refrigerator. Prolonged warm temperature makes it bitter.
World Wide Names for Hibiscus Tea
I learned about hibiscus tea through Mexico, but later found out it is a world wide drink with many names. The areas where it is not common is the colder climes and the U.S. and China.
flor de Jamaica or agua de Jamaica -- Mexico
wonjo -- West Africa
bissap -- National drink of Senegal
sorrel -- Tobago
carcade -- Italy
zobo or tsobo -- Nigeria
dabileni -- Mali
wanjo -- Gambia
saril -- Panama
red sorrel -- the Caribbean
chai kujarat -- Iraq
karkade -- Egypt
gumamela -- Philippines
omutete -- Namibia
Market in Egypt
Hibiscus tea is a favorite in many countries. Enjoy a tall glass over ice when it is very hot. It is a welcomed drink in every hot locale in the world. On the island of Jamaica they call it sorrel. Other Caribbean areas call it red sorrel. Each country makes it the same way. Either boil it or soak it.
If you soak it in a glass container in hot sun, as in sun tea, you achieve natural pasteurization. The temperature needs to reach at least 113 degrees and you are done.
Of all the years I have made Jamaica with the infusion soaking method, no one has had any ill effects.
© 2009 Sherry Venegas