Jamaica Flower Iced Tea

Jamaica Flower Iced Tea Recipe


When I'm in need of a refreshing stunner of a drink on a hot afternoon, I turn to this Jamaica Flower Iced Tea recipe. It became one of my favorite things to drink on hot afternoons throughout my recent trip to Mexico.

One of the first things you notice as you start browsing local markets in places like Merida or Mexico City is that many of the stalls are punctuated with big, baskets overflowing with the dried maroon petals of the jamaica flower (also known as hibiscus). If nothing else on this trip, I learned how to properly pronounce jamaica - in reference to the flower, not the country. It is ha-MIKE-uh in Spanish. If store clerks are looking at you funny in the states when you ask for it, try asking for dried hibiscus. You can usually find it near the loose teas, or nestled in with bulk herbs and spices in natural food stores. I usually get mine at Rainbow Foods in San Francisco. For those of you who have more limited options in your communities you can always mail order it here or here.

Dried jamaica flowers create one of the most beautiful and delicious infusions you can imagine. In restaurants, people can't help but crane their necks as trays filled with icy tall glasses of Agua de Jamaica make their way towards lucky recipients. In the case of the jamaica flower, the flavor is as engaging as the visual. Well-chilled and served over ice, the jewel-like ruby red juice brims with the tangy sweetness of the dried petals and sugar - add a kiss of lime and you have the perfect late afternoon refresher.

Making this iced tea is easy, easy, easy. It is a must for your next BBQ or pool party - people are always delighted when they get to try anything made with jamaica flowers. Once you find a source for dried petals you are halfway there. Creating the actual tea doesn't take more than ten minutes of active cooking time, after that you are just waiting for the tea to cool.

I am sold on the taste alone, but it is also believed (in many cultures) that jamaica/hibiscus packs a bounty of healthful properties. It is rich in vitamin C, and has been widely used as an herbal method of controlling high blood pressure, tempering fevers, alleviating digestive problems, as well as improving circulatory disorders. So enjoy it on this front as well.

Other ideas: use the petals to infuse granitas, sherbets and sorbets. I've also used the petals to flavor margaritas. Popsicles! I also want to try making it into a jelly at some point.

 
 
 
 

Jamaica Flower Iced Tea Recipe
(Agua de Jamaica)

4 cups water
1/2 cup dried jamaica flowers
1/2 cup sugar (I used natural cane sugar this time around)
Another 3 cups of cold water
More sugar to taste
1 lime, thinly sliced

If you prefer, you can sweeten with any natural sweetener of your choice including honey in place of granulated sugar).

First off, pick out a pot that won't stain. Hibiscus has the potential to stain just about anything it comes in contact with including your countertop, cookware, wooden spoons, favorite jeans, etc. So keep this in mind.

Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove water from heat and add the dried flowers and sugar. Place a lid over the pot and steep for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice along the way to break down the sugar granules.

Pour the infusion through a strainer into a pitcher or jug (this is usually where something gets stained). You are going to want to add about 3 more cups of cold water to the pitcher. Taste and adjust based on your personal preference. You can add a bit more sugar if you think you need it, or more water if you feel like the jamaica is too overpowering. This is usually just about right for my taste. I don't like the sugar to overpower the refreshing natural tartness of the jamaica flower.

Cool completely and serve with plenty of ice in glasses garnished with a slice of lime.

Serves 8.

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Your Comments


Ann
June 6, 2005

I love this drink! It's so easy and beautiful. You can add more sugar until it's just a little too sweet and then freeze it for a refreshing sorbet.

 

Donna
June 6, 2005

I just made Jamaica iced tea last night--must be telepathic. The dried blossoms are sold in bulk at my local Mexican market. I added some peeled and sliced ginger and a few whole cloves to the steeping liquid. Perfectly refreshing...

Take care,
Donna

 

Blair
June 6, 2005

Jamaica is my favorite agua ever... but I have one possibly stupid question...
When you write 1/2 cup dried jamaica flowers do you mean the flowers whole or crushed... I just don't want to make too strong a tea... With the whole flowers I would imagine you get a lot of "air" space in the measuring cup... just a question... sorry to be a hassle.

 

Heidi
June 6, 2005

Blair,

I would say the consistency of my dried jamaica is loosely crushed. There are a few whole flowers here and there, but when I go to measure - I wouldn't describe it as being compacted. I don't smash it all down into the measuring cup. If somehow you end up with a tea that is too strong just keep adding small amounts of water until it is to your liking. -h

 

FaustianBargain
June 7, 2005

Hibiscus drink is called Karkadeeh in Egypt. You can get dried hibiscus petals in packages. They are soaked first so they can rehydrate and then the water is brought to a boil. Strain. Repeat this twice or thrice depending on strength. Sweetened with sugar.

 

chika
June 7, 2005

Hi Heidi,

I didn't know that hibiscus has got another such name! Agreed, iced hibiscus tea IS a lovely summer treat, though I do adore hot one in the wintertime.

 

Renee
June 7, 2005

The hibiscus tea reminds me of our vacation last year to the state of Oaxaca. At one point, we went to a coffee plantation. During our trip, we stopped at the main house where they served us hibiscus tea and cookies. It was a wonderful time.

Your site inspires me to cook so many things and reminds me of the things I already love to cook and eat!

 

Cheri
June 7, 2005

This recipe sounds (and looks) wonderful! I must admit, I'm not a tea fan, so I'm wondering, does it have a flavor similar to tea or more like a juice?

 

valentina jacome
June 7, 2005

wow, that sounds beautiful. I had never heard of it. I live in the UK and I shall ask at my local supplier.Your blog is always a wonderful surprise.

 

amber
June 7, 2005

I'm a tea drinker and am inspired by this recipe. I plan on scouting my local health store tomorrow in search of the jamaica flower leaves. Love your site. Always refreshing and love, love, love your photographs. Who knew a glass of tea could be so beautiful. Do you know what settings you used on your camera to achieve this picture? I'm also an amateur photographer working on honing my skills. Thanks again for sharing.

 

Ed
June 8, 2005

Hi! I read about a similar tea recipe in a NYTimes article written by Matt & Ted Lee a few years ago. The magic addition was steeping the tea with 1/2 of a Habanero pepper. It tastes great!! the tea is refreshing and the touch of heat at the end must get the endorphins going to cool you down. I've been making it every summer for the last few years. Give it a try! Best regards, Ed

 

Diana
June 8, 2005

You mention that you like to flavor margaritas with Hibiscus as well. How do you do that? Just drop in loose dried petals?

 

Heidi
June 8, 2005

Diana,
I did a post that included the recipe for the margaritas a long while back. I also ended up including it in my cookbook. So look in either place.

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/000023.html

 

Amy
June 9, 2005

This looks and sounds absolutely delicious! I have 5 beautiful hibiscus bushes in my yard--your recipe has inspired me to try drying and cooking with my own.

 

Joyce Sattari
June 16, 2005

Iced Tea with Calamansi
In the Philippines we don't drink much hot tea but we prefer iced tea with calamansi ( similar to sour lemon but it is only more or less than an inch in diameter and very green in color . There is also calamansi drink in Phil. So in case you go to Phil you know what drink to order, only found in Philippines.