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Agua de Jamaica or Iced Hibiscus Tea

Updated on January 22, 2017
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Ms. Venegas experiments with Mexican foods under the watchful critiques of her husband. The recipes need to pass a "when I was a kid" test.


Hibiscus Tea Recipe or Agua de Jamaica Receta

Iced hibiscus tea or agua de Jamaica is a popular Mexican beverage. Leer esto en español. The ingenuity of the cook south of the American border has always caught my imagination.

Frescas, as they are called in Mexico, come in many flavors and can be made ahead of time and presented in tall barrel shaped glass jars and served with ladles sporting 10 inch handles for dipping deep into the jar.

Many different ingredients are used for the inexpensive and healthy fresca drinks. Make agua de jamaica using hibiscus sabdariffa, misnamed hibiscus flowers by the market place. The petal-like dried "flowers" are really the calyces.

Flavored waters or frescas are a Mexican staple. I will show you the easy way to make hibiscus tea with a simple recipe, cold and refreshing. In Mexico it is agua de Jamaica. Get a list of hibiscus tea's other names from around the world below.

Photo by Christian Frausto Bernal of Nayarit, Mexico

Flor de Jamaica on Flickr.

Hibiscus sabdariffa by wikimedia
Hibiscus sabdariffa by wikimedia

Agua de Jamaica is a Natural Drink

Great alternative to regular iced tea

Flavored waters or agua frescas are the preferred use of over ripened fruit. Nothing goes to waste. Melons, pineapple, watermelon or strawberries are simply blended in a processor, strained and water and sugar added to your liking.

Tepache is a fermented pineapple drink with sugar, cinnamon and cloves. My husband will make it occasionally. He is the only family member that will drink fermented pineapple. The other night he made himself corn silk tea. I did not try it.

Horchata (rice drink) takes some lengthy soaking and it needs blending very fine. Our one try at this drink was a failure.

The jamaica (ha-Mike-uh) drink is very easy to make. I buy the bulk hibiscus sabdariffa at the Latino swap meet Sundays at the Citrus Community College campus. This hibiscus tea recipe is a favorite of mine to prepare for summer time.

Photo right from Wikimedia Commons: hibiscus sabdariffa

Dried Hibiscus to Make Red Tea or Loose Tea - You can drink it hot.

hibiscus tea in bulk
hibiscus tea in bulk | Source

Bulk Dried Hibiscus Tea

Where to Get Flor de Jamaica or Loose Tea

I found a few new facts that my husband did not know about hibiscus tea. The portion of the plant that is steeped 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. The fruit part is removed and the calyces or sepals are dried in the sun for the market. By harvest time the sepals are a very dark red.

We have all 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 by me.

Bulk hibiscus tea is not easy to buy in some areas of the U.S.

1. In Southern California the Mexican food markets are the first source to find hibiscus on bulk bins.

2. Check out the swap meets that have a big Latino presence.

3. Health food stores.

If that fails here are online sites. Ebay and Amazon can also be a source.

Bulk Hibiscus Flowers

Starwest Botanicals

Gourmet Sleuth

Photo at top right by paperfacets.

Dried Hibiscus - Market in Egypt. Hibiscus is called karkade in Egypt

photo by BerniMartin on flickr
photo by BerniMartin on flickr

image by BerniMartin on flickr

Now You Have the Flor de Jamaica on Your Kitchen Counter

My Iced Agua de Jamaica Tea Recipe

2½ cups la flor de jamaica

Rinse quickly in strainer to rid of impurities.

Put in glass or plastic container and cover with

8 cups water

Let soak overnight or for 4 hours in the refrigerator. Can be sun soaked, like sun tea, as well.

After the Soak Period - You have hibiscus tea infusion

Mexican Jamaica Tea
Mexican Jamaica Tea | Source

4 cups

red infusion

Strain into serving pitcher.

4 cups water

Add to serving pitcher. Adjust to your taste of strong or more water.

1/2 cup sugar

Stir into infusion. Adjust sugar for your sweet tooth.

Pour into a glass of ice. Enjoy your iced beverage.

After a couple of infusions, adjust to your own taste. I like enough sugar to leave just a little tartness, but not too much that it is sugary.

In the winter I like to drink it room temperature.

Notice the yellow pitcher on the right. I added a couple cups of fresh water and will have a second drinkable pitcher tomorrow.

Photo: Sherry Venegas

Slightly Tart

hibiscus tea
hibiscus tea | Source

No boiling involved in this method. Like sun tea. There is a hint of cranberry and without suger it is tart. The infusing allows for a thickened drink like coffee. I like the thickened coffee-like version. It is deep red and very satisfying.

Another Pitcher Aqua de Jamaica

A refreshing Iced Tea

Your container with the dried Jamaica will have enough infusion to make another pitcher for serving. Add a couple of cups of water, store in the refrigerator and make another serving pitcher the next day.

Keep the infusion in the refrigerator. Prolonged warm temperature makes it bitter.

What is your experience with hibiscus tea?

I have not tried hibiscus tea. I usually drink...What.....?

I have not tried hibiscus tea. I usually drink...What.....?

Submit a Comment

  • chardonnay1313 3 years ago

    I usually drink lemon ginger tea

Agua de Jamaica image by Paperfacets
Agua de Jamaica image by Paperfacets

World Wide Names for Hibiscus Tea

I learned about hibiscus tea from Mexico, but since then I found out it is a world wide drink with many names. The places it is not so common is the colder climes and the U.S. and China.

all information in box from, Wikipedia except gumamela is from goo2eyes

World Wide Names for Hibiscus Tea

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

Agua de Jamaica

I found that hibiscus tea is a favorite in many countries.

I always enjoyed a tall glass of iced agua de Jamaica when it was very hot. It is a welcomed drink in very hot locales. In Egypt it is called karkade. On the island of Jamaica they call it sorrel. Other Caribbean areas call it red sorrel. West Africa it is bissap. 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 method; I, or my four family members or visitors, have had no ill effects.

Yes or No Agua de Jamaica Iced Tea Poll

Have you tried Hibiscus tea iced cold?

See results


Sayings From the Spanish

Para todos hay, como no arrebaten

There is enough for everyone, so don't grab.


Aranda, Charles. Dichos. Proverbs and Sayings From the Spanish. New Mexico: Sunstone Press, 1977.

Wikipedia. 14 September 2011.

© 2009 Sherry Venegas

Try Agua de Jamaica - A natural hibiscus iced tea.

Submit a Comment

  • goo2eyes lm profile image

    goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

    can you please add GUMAMELA? this is the filipino (philippines) word for hibiscus. originally, i come from the philippines but i live in austria, europe now.

  • flycatcherrr profile image

    flycatcherrr 5 years ago

    Jamaica is one of my favourite beverages - cold in summer and hot tea in winter, it works both ways. Lots of Vitamin C, too, as you've mentioned. Good stuff all round.

  • profile image

    miaponzo 5 years ago

    People drink hibiscus hot and cold in Kuwait and the Middle East as well! Blessed!

  • Othercatt profile image

    Othercatt 5 years ago

    I absolutely love hibiscus tea! I sweeten mine with a bit of cinnamon and honey and then add some orange rings and lemon rings. It's so refreshing and the health benefits are amazing. My mother-in-law has been drinking it daily for the last couple months and it's lowered her blood pressure enough so that her doctor stopped worrying.

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    something new I haven't read about, liked the different photos of before and after too.

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