Thirst Quenchers

Agua de Jamaica

A good friend (Hi Elsa aka Smelsa!) sent me an email with the subject “Blog It” recently. To be honest, I get more than a few emails with this subject every week but most of the emails involve trying to get me to sell some sort of black market prescription meds.

Luckily, Elsa isn’t in the business of slinging meds, but she is in the business of sending me good ideas. Sending me good ideas is a business that I always encourage.

In all honesty though, this is one of my favorite things I’ve made this summer. It’s probably the most refreshing beverage I’ve ever made.  You take a sip and then it’s like, “Screw you, heat.”

The hardest part about this delicious stuff, called Agua de Jamaica, is finding the main ingredient.

Agua de Jamaica

Just a moment please...

Yield
About 6 cups
Prep Time
Total Time

Agua de jamaica, or chilled hibiscus tea, is one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve had. Here is my recipe for this delicious drink, you will love it!

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups dried hibiscus flowers
3 cups water (for steeping)
4 cups water
3/4 cup agave syrup (or 1/2 cup sugar)
Cucumber slices, garnish
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Helpful Equipment

mesh strainer

Directions

1) Add dried hibiscus to a medium pot with three cups of water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for a few minutes. Then kill the heat and let steep for at least two hours.

2) Strain flowers out with a mesh strainer. Pour four cups of fresh water over the flowers to rinse them off.

3) Stir agave syrup (or sugar) into the hibiscus tea.

4) Chill and serve over ice with cucumber slices as a garnish.

Recipe from The Denver Post.

Agua de Jamaica

The Hardest Part: Hibiscus

There are a lot of different refreshing Mexican-style beverages that start with Agua de (water of…).  To be honest, I find most of them to be a bit on the sweet side. I’ve tried watermelon and strawberry and can barely make it through a full glass without feeling like I’m watching myself getting diabetes.

The thing about hibiscus is that it’s naturally pretty bitter so you can add some sweetener to it and the flavors balance really nicely.

The hard part about the recipe is finding dried hibiscus.  It’s almost a guarantee that no mainstream store will carry it. Even the Whole Foods staff stared at me like I was making up an ingredient when I asked for it. They actually recommended that I call a flower shop. I tried to explain to them that it’s an ingredient and not potpourri.

Anyway, some Latin markets will have them which is a good place to start, but also call around to gourmet shops although they will probably overcharge you for them. I eventually found some at Sprouts in the bulk section.  It cost me about $5 for the hibiscus I needed for this Agua de Jamaica recipe.

hibiscus

Weird little things.

This Agua de Jamaica is basically a tea so it’s probably not surprising that step one is steeping the dried flowers.

Just add them all to a medium pot with about three cups of water and bring it to a simmer. Simmer it for a few minutes and the flowers will soften and the tea will turn an awesome red color.

Simmer simmer. Agua de Jamaica

Simmer simmer.

Then kill the heat and let these steep for at least two hours. The original recipe actually recommended four hours or overnight but I did mine for two hours with great results.

It actually thickens a bit as it steeps because the flowers absorb some water. If you happen to be a special effects technician and are looking for a good fake blood base, I highly recommend the hibiscus flower tea. It’s seriously blood red.

After a few hours.

After a few hours.

Finishing the Tea

Once you’ve steeped the tea, strain them through a mesh strainer so you just have the liquid.

Strain it! Agua de Jamaica

Strain it!

You might notice that there are two different amounts of water in the recipe. You need the first amount to steep the flowers and then the second amount to rinse the flowers. There is all kinds of delicious juice stuck to the flowers so rinse them off well with a few cups of fresh water.

Rinse it! Agua de Jamaica

Rinse it!

The Sweetener

If you’ve made it this far, I recommend trying a spoonful of just the tea without any sweetener. It’s intensely bitter but has awesome flavor. Some people might be into it without sweetener, but for me it needed some sweetness for sure.

The original recipe used sugar, but I went with something a bit more subtle: Agave syrup.

The sweetness. Agua de Jamaica

The sweetness.

You can absolutely use sugar, but I find agave to have a more mellow sweetness.  I like it in teas like this.

Once you sweeten it to your tastes, just chill it and serve it over ice.

The fancy cucumber slices are definitely optional.

Agua de Jamaica ~ Macheesmo

So good.

That’s all there is to it. Make this Agua de Jamaica and tell the summer heat to take a hike.

Adult note: If you added a splash of vodka or gin to this drink, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Just sayin’.

27 comments on “Agua de Jamaica

  1. I wonder how this would be it you cold-brewed it. I’ve been doing that lately with coffee and tea, and it really cuts down on the bitterness, so that I don’t feel the need to add sugar at all. I’m due for a Latin-market trip. If I can get my hands on some dried hibiscus I will try cold-brewing it.

  2. Oh my god, i used to drink this all the time at my friends house as a teenager!! So good and refreshing! Damn i miss it!

    FYI: They’re senegalese and it’s a widely popular drink in africa and they call it “Bissap” there..

  3. I had an awesome hibiscus popsicle the other day. Birmingham has this great place called Steel City Pops, and they make all natural, Mexican style pops. They have some amazing flavors (hello buttermilk (tastes kinda cheesecake-y) and bourbon maple bacon!) and they only use real, whole ingredients. If you go to the original store, you can watch them prepping all the fruit to go in it. I bet you could freeze this (probably without the additional water?) with similar results!

  4. I looked EVERYWHERE last year for hibiscus flowers to make the same dang drink and never found them. Now I must make it my mission ’cause you’re really sellin’ it. :)

  5. I love Agua de Jamaica! I first purchased dried hibiscus at Germack’s Coffee & Tea in Detroit. I paid an arm and a leg! I got hip and went to my local Latin grocery store, and it was way cheaper! I like to add ginger and lime when steeping :)

  6. I was wondering about sourcing the hibiscus leaves around here when I first read that.

    BTW, do you know where I can get some cheap prescription drugs online? ;)

  7. i bought dried hibiscus at trader joe’s a few years ago. not sure if they still carry it, though!

  8. is there a specific type of material to use for the container you will steep in? I only ask because I woudnt want to dye anything a blood red I couldnt wash out. I imagine ceramin or porcelain might get permanently dyed. I could use stainless stell, but would that give a weird flavor to the tea?

    1. Hey Matt, I just used the ceramic little pot that I heated the water in. I think a glass container would be best though. I definitely wouldn’t use plastic (staining) or metal (weird flavors).

  9. In Mexico we like agua de jamaica and usually I drink it. Other options are: first boil water with cinammon and a couple of cloves, then add the flowers, the flavor is absolutly delicious!!! During the summer with ice , in the winter I drink it hot. With agave sirup or stevia. Other way is adding a few pieces of ginger when the flowers are boiling. Usually the grocery store or “mercados” sell jamaica flowers. A new and clean option is a box with big bags with jamaica flowers. the product name is Jamaicol. Perhaps you find it in foreign products at the grocery store.

  10. I tried this recipe (with Voka; it was awesome!) and actually had a really easy time finding the main ingedient. I just went to the little natural foods store in town. They have racks of dried herbs, spices, and tea ingedients, and it was right there! I found it just by calling around to likely shops and asking if they sold ingredients for tea by weight.

  11. I am only familiar with hibiscus as a flower so the Agua de Jamaica sounds new and interesting to me. It is a good thing that you have found the ideal ingredient for this recipe since many people think it as potpourri. It seems nice that the hibiscus drink is somewhat bitter because I am not comfortable with too much sweetness

  12. Here in TX where Mexican foods are plentiful, you can buy Hibiscus Tea bags, They come with all sorts of delicious additions like spices, citrus peels and other dried flowers like chamomile. They are super easy to find, often marketed as Hibiscus Tea but are easily steeped to become Jamaica. At our local HEB store, I counted six brands! So perhaps it will be easier to find in the Herbal Tea sections of some larger supermarkets.

  13. Hibiscus flowers are not at all hard to find unless you have never opened up to the possibility of shopping in a Caribbean food market. It is as normal a purchase as tomatoes. It is sold as dried flowers in a plastic bag, usually sold in more than one size. This is a Caribbean and African drink, thus it is sold where it would be purchased. #globalworld

  14. Jamaica Granita
    ingredients

    1 ½ cup. mineral water
    ½ cup. Flor de Jamaica
    1 tbsp. Orange zest
    1/2 tbsp. Lemon zest
    1 tbsp. fresh Ginger
    4 tbsp. sugar
    2 tbsp. Lemon juice
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 tza. water
    preparation

    Boil the water add the orange and lemon zest, cinnamon, sugar and warm Jamaican flower for 10 minutes over low heat.
    Remove the cinnamon and blend preparation and cool.
    Mix with mineral water and lemon juice.
    Placed in a glass container, allowing the liquid is further extended.
    Freeze for about an hour, remove and separate cooling with a fork to form the granita. Return to the freezer for another hour and repeat the process.

  15. For a second I was so confused because this looked so familiar. I did some digging around and realised that this is actually a drink we call “Sorrel” in the Caribbean/West Indies. It’s usually most commonly used around Christmas and New Year’s, and I figure that it’s probably because that’s when everyone has more to devote to cooking. (Alot of the dishes we make for those seasons tend to require more than one day of preparation and cooking). In the versions I’m accustomed to drinking we usually add spices like clove, ginger and cinnamon. It gives the beverage a really good flavour that’s strong enough to tickle the tongue, but not so strong that you become sick of it.

      1. Some people do drink it with alcohol. And as with most naturally made beverages, a few days out of the refrigerator tends to ferment the sweetened beverage, so I presume there are a few who have ended up with alcoholic sorrel juice unintentionally ;-)

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