Agua de Jamaica, an Agua Fresca, aka Hibiscus Iced Tea

Aguas Frescas are the Mexican answer to iced teas. Agua de jamaica is one of the more popular flavours, a sweet/sour ‘tea’ that refreshes on a hot Mexican afternoon.

Jamaica 'iced tea'

a glass of chilled Agua de Jamaica

The jamaica is a type of hibiscus, but looks very different from a regular hibiscus flower.

the red flowers of the Jamaica plant

the red flowers of the jamaica plant

Dried hibiscus calyxes are called ‘jamaica‘ (hah-MAI-ka) in Spanish.

dried jamaica calyxes

  • In our Mexican cooking class we made ‘Agua de Jamaica‘ by adding 2/3 cup dried flower calyxes to 3 cups water and simmering for 15 minutes.
  • After simmering, the jamaica (hibiscus) infusion was strained and sugar added to taste. It was served in ‘jarros‘ with lots of ice.
served chilled

Serve in ‘jarros‘ with lots of ice

When I make jamaica at home I usually brew it very strong and then put it in a mason jar in the fridge. This way it doesn’t take up very much space, and when I want a drink I just add an inch or two of the concentrated tea to a glass along with ice cubes and club soda.
Agua de Jamaica & Soda Health benefits: according to several people I met in Mexico, jamaica brings down high blood pressure and, like other red drinks such as cranberry juice, detoxifies the blood.

Translation: Jamaica disminishes the pressure and thickness of the blood. Eliminates the retention of liquids and fat in the arteries. Stimulates the intestines and kidneys.
jamaica and health

Even if you can’t find the dried jamaica flowers anywhere you can usually find hibiscus tea. Celestial Seasonings ‘Lemon Zinger’ also has hibiscus in it, and makes a zippy iced tea.

Cultural note: In Jamaica (the country) they call Jamaica (the plant) ‘sorrel’. There they brew it up as above, but instead of sugar they add ginger syrup, and along with the ice cubes a splash of rum!

If you want to practice your Spanish we put up a video about the Jamaica on our Soleducational Youtube site.

To practice your Spanish, and find out more about other ‘aguas frescas’ go to our Spanish course website: http://www.soleducational.com/estudiantes/modulos/modulo_1/m1_aguas_frescas.html

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8 responses to “Agua de Jamaica, an Agua Fresca, aka Hibiscus Iced Tea

  1. We love the hibiscus tea in egypt too! I’m the only one I know who will drink it cold, tho, it’s a hot drink here, and is considered a hospitality drink, offered when someone is not a regular tea drinker. I grow the hibiscus from the seeds at the bottom of the bag when I buy a bag of dried hibiscus from the spice market. Did you ever try that? They germinate easily in the summer! ♥♥♥ ;^)

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  3. Of course I immediately went to your posts about Mexico and straight to food and drinks! It’s funny that I do exactly what you do – make it concentrated and mix with carbonated water. it’s SO tangy and refreshing! Rum is an excellent idea…
    I had never seen the fresh flowers, so I like those photos too!

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